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Front Page » November 2, 2010 » Carbon County News » 1940: J. Bracken Lee begins quest for governor's office
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1940: J. Bracken Lee begins quest for governor's office


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

Editors Note: This is one of a series of articles about the history of the Sun Advocate and the county it covers as a newspaper. These articles are being prepared as the 120th anniversary of the newspapers birth approaches in 2011.

As the storm clouds of war gathered over the world, Carbon County residents began to see the effects of the battle that was raging in Europe within events that took place during 1940 in the local area.

This was the year that the selective service began picking young men to go in the military, placing America on a war footing, although most people weren't sure what was going to happen.

It was also the year that the government began registering aliens, because it was felt some posed a threat to the nation.

Locally the year began on a tragic note as a young Carbon mother lost her life, when she froze to death in the Boulder Mountains.

The event happened right around New Year's as Philo Alvey, 28, of Price and his wife Asenith Alvey, 17, along with their four month old baby drove his father's new truck to a holiday gathering in Escalante. They were unprepared for what they would find however. After stopping in Lyman in Wayne County to visit Alvey's brother, they headed into the mountains to get to Escalante for a holiday reunion with Mrs. Alvey's relatives. However they got stuck and spent a night in the truck. The next morning they tried to walk out toward Escalante, but only a mile from the truck Mrs. Alvey said she could go no farther. Alvey bundled up the mother and baby, and left them behind thinking that it wasn't that much farther to Escalante. However it was another 17 miles. He made it through and returned with another brother and two of the woman's brothers. They drove 10 miles in a car and then had to walk the rest of the way. It was then that they came upon the frozen body of Mrs. Alvey, covering her baby. The baby, however, was fine and untouched by the cold because the mother had huddled over it.

The year would also become the first time any local person had run for the governor's office. In March Price Mayor J. Bracken Lee announced his candidacy, wishing to become the Republican Party's nominee for that office. Lee, who had become known around the state for his fighting with the central government, particularly over liquor laws and gambling, said the state needed fixing and that he would not load up his campaign with planks of a platform that were "strange and profound" and that were only were to be used to "trap votes." Instead he put forth a simple four plant platform that included:

•Stamping out political racketeering.

•Reducing taxes by eliminating waste in state government.

•Building Utah with actions, not just words.

•Dismantling the political machine which he said, "beyond question, rules this state."

He went on to call the state's political system as bad as Tammany Hall. He said it was time that the people of the that were sacking the state.

At the time Lee was in his third term as mayor, having been easily reelected each time. However the going for governor did not come as easily. Despite the fact that he had strong backing from many quarters, he lost in the primary runoff that was held that summer to Don B. Colton and Reed Stevens. Lee got 9,114 votes compared to his competitors 14,693 and 13,235 respectively.

In the end Herbert Maw maintained Democratic control of the governor's office with a narrow victory over Colton 128,519 to 117,713 votes in the final election. During those days the Democrats had control of almost all state government and federal offices as well, having a 44-16 seat majority in the state house and 19-4 majority in the state senate.

Lee wasn't the only local to be running for an office outside the county. Val Cowles, who was at the time part owner of the Sun Advocate, along with Hal MacKnight, ran for congress that year as well. Cowles also lost in the runoff coming in last in a field of four candidates with a total of 4,627 votes.

The year was only a little over half over at that point, but despite the political scene remaining much the same, the country was rapidly changing as it watched the British holding out against Nazi Germany and the threat in the Pacific from Imperial Japan. Even without war, soon those events would shape the lives of thousands of Carbon young men, as the draft, gearing up for war would begin in the fall.

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November 2, 2010
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