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Front Page » January 3, 2006 » Local News » CEU Honors Peacock for Fighting 1953 Proposal to Close Pr...
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CEU Honors Peacock for Fighting 1953 Proposal to Close Price College

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When the College of Eastern Utah's original Reeves building was torn down in 2003, the Gomer P. Peacock Room fell in the ruins.

The room served as a tribute to one of the men who helped save the college in 1953.

The new Reeves building was dedicated in September 2004 without an official Peacock room.

But in November 2005, Peacock family members gathered in Price to dedicate an electronic-conference room in his memory.

It was the intention of the administration to have a Gomer Peacock room in the Reeves building, noted CEU officials.

Peacock, a local businessman, led the fight to keep the college open and lend support to insure its survival and growth for the future.

Gov. J. Bracken Lee, former mayor of Price who helped secure the property the college is built on, reportedly decided that Utahns were paying too many taxes and wanted to cut the state budget, pointed out the CEU officials.

According to newspaper reports, Lee wanted to give Snow, Dixie and Weber back to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and close Carbon College.

The governor contacted LDS leaders of the church several times and the church subsequently agreed to take back the three schools.

In a special December 1953 legislative session, the governor and former Price mayor proposed closing Carbon College and selling the school's property on the campus in Price.

The former governor and Price mayor convinced the Utah Legislature to support the recommendations, noted the CEU officials.

Addressing the matter, the Sun Advocate printed an editorial on the newspaper's front page titled "In Memoriam."

The editorial included the following statements:

"It is the reluctant duty of this newspaper to record the passing of Carbon Junior College, an institution established 16 years ago for the educational and cultural improvement of the people of southeastern Utah by the authority of the Utah State Legislature.

"The junior college was eliminated by the same authority ... and the action was initiated ... in personal prejudice rather than as a necessary part of any economy program.

"[The state] had done a memorable job in destroying our pride in a college, impairing the educational opportunities of the young people of this area: eliminating the only state institution in Southeastern Utah, centralizing educational advantages into the vast state capital city, and saving the taxpayers an infinitesimal amount, if any, in the process."

Almost immediately, newspaper articles highlighted the efforts started by Carbon County residents in an attempt to save the college in Price by forcing a popular vote to reverse the actions of the Utah Legislature.

Peacock was selected to head up the local effort to obtain the signatures needed to put the measure to save Carbon, Snow, Dixie and Weber colleges.

The campaign included placing the matter on the November 1953 ballot, developing supporting materials to send out to voters, raising money to collect signatures and mail materials and convince a majority of Utah voters to reject the recommendations of Governor Lee and the Utah Legislature.

Peacock led a committee of Carbon County citizens in an unprecedented united effort to save the college, explained the CEU officials.

The "Save Carbon" group opened an office in the Crown Theatre building on Main Street in downtown Price to coordinate the collection of signatures, develop materials and raise funds to support the effort.

Many Carbon College students traveled throughout the state to gather signatures.

The students turned into the governor's office more than double the amount of signatures needed to force a ballot to save the three colleges during the November general election, indicated the CEU officials.

In one of the largest election turnouts, Utahns voted overwhelmingly to reverse the closure 176,650 to 50,533.

Carbon, Weber and Salt Lake counties had the highest number of votes to save the four colleges.

Sanpete and Washington counties' voters were almost split 50-50 at the election polls. But the voters rejected the closure of Carbon and turning Snow, Dixie and Weber back to LDS Church ownership, concluded CEU officials.

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