Young J. Bracken Lee before he won Price mayoral election.
(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 newspaper's birth approaches in 2011).
The mid-1930s began changes in the area that would have large repercussions for many years to come, even into the present. And the Sun Advocate, from January of 1935 on, was locally owned and operated for the first time since the merger of the News-Advocate and The Sun newspapers in the early part of the decade.
One of the first major stories that broke during the few months of local ownership by Val Cowles and Hal MacKnight was the beginning of formal support to put a state college in the town of Price.
At a meeting of the Civic Clubs of Southern Utah, then a strong organization that gathered membership from various kinds of service and fraternal organizations in the area, the idea of Carbon County applying to the state to place a junior college in its boundaries found considerable support.
"State Senator George M. Miller of Price explained the need for a junior college, stating that a school of this kind would probably have an enrollment of 300, which is more than that of other junior colleges in the state," wrote the paper on May 30, 1935. "He also brought up the fact that Carbon payes approximately $100,000 more into the state school fund than is needed to educate the children of the county."
While other inklings of starting a college in the area had been heard in the past, this was the first front page story touting the idea. From there until 1937, the lobbying to bring such an institution into the area began in earnest and finally into fruition in 1937.
Interestingly enough, another event later in the year would within two decades have a large effect on that same institution. It was the election of the mayor of Price in November.
That year the political rhetoric and interest was high. At the time neither party ticket aligned itself with the major political parties, but instead created their own tickets - the Taxpayers' Party Ticket and the Progressive Party Ticket. At the top of the Taxpayers' ticket was B.W. Dalton, the incumbent mayor of four years, and a challenger insurance man named J. Bracken Lee.
Lee had already run for mayor in 1931 and was defeated so he threw his hat in the ring again in 1935. Interestingly enough, while this race for mayor was to be a classic battle that came down to the wire, the recorder's position in the city was assured for William Grogan and a four year councilman's seat was also a sure thing for John W. Holden, who both were actually running on each ticket as the only candidate for those offices.
On Nov. 5, 1935 voters went to the polls. When the smoked cleared that night at 10:30 p.m., Lee had defeated Dalton 740-738.
"The swing of the temporary majority switched from one candidate to the other as the count continued, neither aspirant attaining a marked advantage at any time," reported the Sun Advocate in the Nov. 7 issue. "In fact, probably no more than 20 votes difference ever separated them from the start of the count. The contest for leadership reminded one much of a football contest being waged by two evenly matched teams with all of the play in midfield."
But the drama wasn't over. On Nov. 14, it was reported by the paper that votes from the northeast precinct of Price were being discounted by the city council because of some voting irregularities in the area. The Price City Council had reportedly voted to not accept those votes in the final canvas because of "the failure of officials in the (area) to properly sign the poll books and tally sheets of their district for the required official report to the city recorder..."
The northeast precinct had been the last district to come in and be counted. It affected no race that was run, except one - the mayors race. Because of the rejection, it now appeared that Dalton had won by eight votes. During the session, City Attorney Arther S. Horsley maintained that the votes did not count, even though precinct officials had offered to sign the papers in question to verify their legitimacy.
It was the beginning of a activity-filled week as council members began to reevaluate their positions despite the city attorney's advice. By the time council meeting came around again on Nov. 19, the city legislative body decided to reverse their action and accept the ballots. Lee was victorious by two votes, and Dalton, who recused himself other than to issue a statement to the council before the vote, was out.
It was the beginning of an era, when the home-grown Lee would run the city and eventually be elected to the governor's house in Salt Lake.
It was then, during part of his governorship, in 1957, when these two stories from 20 years before would converge in a battle of wills and public power.