Monday, August 17, 2009

Governors: George Henry Dern

The Utah State Capitol’s first floor will see changes in the upcoming weeks with the addition of biography plaques in the Hall of Governors. A biography plaque will hang next to each portrait of our Utah’s governors. We will be posting an example of what will be on the plaque every day. Stay tuned to read about your favorite Governor!


George Henry Dern was born in Nebraska in 1872 and came to Utah at age 22. He co-invented the Holt-Dern ore roasting process and worked for the Mercur Gold Mining and Milling Company and other local mining companies. Despite being a non-Mormon and a Democrat, Dern was successful in politics. He was elected to the state Senate in 1914, and his election as governor in 1924 made him the only Democrat elected to a statewide office.

Governor Dern was a progressive politician, with accomplishments including requiring teachers to have a teaching certificate and revising tax laws so that they favored middle and lower-income groups. He also secured federal funds for road construction and other programs. Dern declined to run for a third term in 1932 and promoted Henry Blood as his successor.

Dern became the first Utahn to hold a position in a presidential cabinet when President Franklin D. Roosevelt named him Secretary of War, despite Dern’s lack of military experience. He oversaw the enlarging and motorizing of the nation’s military in its preparation for World War II and the creating of the Civil Conservation Corps.


John Willard “Will” Clawson (1858–1936) was a nationally known portrait painter. He studied locally with George Ottinger and in Europe with Impressionist masters Edouard Manet and Claude Monet. Clawson painted the portraits of many society figures of his day, including a portrait of his grandfather Brigham Young and three other Utah governors: Wells, Cutler, and Bamberger.

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