BYU, History, Politics, Presidents, Provo History

How many presidents have visited Provo?

Click to see original imageVice President Hubert H. Humphrey’s Oct. 21 visit prompts these questions:

How many United States presidents have visited in Provo and Utah County? How many vice presidents?

We’re not so sure about the vice presidents. Richard Nixon was here for a speech at Brigham Young University Oct. 17, 1958 while he was vice president to Pres. Dwight Eisenhower. But we have no other records at our immediate disposal on vice presidential visits.

As for presidents, at least four have been here — and one made two visits while president and two others earlier in his career. Can you name the four?

For the record on the first three presidents to come here we had the help of the late A. Will Jones, unofficial Provo historian who kept scrapbooks on such things. His clippings showed that:

-President Benjamin Harrison was in Provo and spoke from a railroad platform May 9, 1891.

-President William Howard Taft spoke to a capacity crowd at the Provo Tabernacle Sept. 24, 1909.

-President-Elect Herbert Hoover made a railroad platform appearance here Nov. 4, 1928. You notice that we referred to Hoover as president-elect. His Provo speech came just two days before he was elected president.

All three of these presidents were Republican. The fourth to come here tried hard to even the score party-wise. For Democratic President Harry S. Truman made two visits as president and two prior to the events that catapulted him into the president’s chair.inflatable climb wall

HST first came to Utah County when the Geneva Steel Plant was under construction and he inspected Geneva again after it was completed. He came as chairman of the Senate “watchdog” committee investigating national defense  expenditures.

Later Truman was elected vice president to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and FDR’s death early in his fourth term put the man from Missouri in the White House.

Truman finished off the term and was campaigning for a four-year term in his own right when he made railroad platform stops in Springville, Provo and American Fork Sept. 21, 1948. Both his wife Belle and daughter Margaret were with him. On the platform during his speeches were Gov. Herbert B. Maw and Reva Beck Bosone.(The latter introduced him at Provo.) Mrs. Norma Giles, county Democratic Party vice president, presented the president with a flower-bedecked key to the county and the Downtown Coaches gave him an ash tray from Geneva’s “first cast” of steel.

The Democratic president’s second Provo appearance came Oct. 6. 1952 when he delivered a “gloves off” policy speech “to the youth of the nation” before 12,000 persons at the old BYU Stadium.

On the stand that day were, among others, Rep. Walter Granger, Demo nominee for U. S. Senator; President David O. McKay of the LDS Church; Mayor Earl J. Glade of Salt Lake City, Democratic nominee for governor; Dr. Ernest L. Wilkinson, BYU president who introduced the speaker; and Ernest Dean, county Democratic chairman.

A Herald reporter tried to get an Interview with Margaret Truman but the president’s daughter refused gently but firmly with a simple statement, “No interviews, please.”

Nixon, who at least can be referred to as the first vice president to visit Provo “in modern times,” spoke before a hanging-from-the-rafters audience of 13,000 people at the BYU Fieldhouse in his 1958 visit. Speaking on foreign policy he declared that ”a firm policy means peace; a weak diplomacy means war.” With Nixon were his wife Pat, Sen. A. V. Watkins (R-Utah), Gov. George D. Clyde, and others.

Dr. Wilkinson introduced the Republican vice president, a function he had performed earlier for a Democratic president.