Thursday, September 10, 2009

Governors: Joseph Bracken Lee

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!

Joseph Bracken Lee was born in Price, Utah in 1899. He served in the army during World War I and owned successful insurance businesses and real estate. He began his political career as the mayor of Price, an office he held for 12 years. After Lee made several unsuccessful bids for Congress and governor, he was elected governor in 1948.

Lee gained national attention for his battle against federal income tax and his ideas regarding reform in state government. He made deep cuts in many state agency budgets, despite Utah’s $9 million surplus in the budget. He reorganized the welfare, highway, and education departments and created a state motor pool. A controversial governor, Lee often stated his low opinion of teachers and school administrators, which eventually united the entire educational establishment against him. Despite having some political enemies, Lee’s popularity as governor remained intact enough for him to win a second term.

After losing a bid for a third term, running on the Independent ticket, Lee continued to run for other public offices including senator and mayor. In 1959 he became the mayor of Salt Lake City and served for 12 years. When he retired at age 73, Lee had served an impressive 32 years in elective office for the state of Utah.


C.J. Fox is a mystery to the Capitol Preservation Board. No records remain as to when Governor Lee’s portrait was painted or even what Fox’s first name was.

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