Of course each governor of Utah has taken an oath to perform his office properly. Gov. Gary Herbert will do this in the capitol rotunda today at noon. But an official inauguration — with pomp and circumstance — may find its beginning in Utah with the last territorial governor of Utah, Gov. Caleb W. West.
An editorial in the May 9, 1893, Deseret News talked about West's appointment: "Tonight, with some little ceremony and solemnity," the article announced, "Governor Caleb W. West will be formally inducted into office. Such a thing as an 'inauguration' is a new thing under Utah skies, but why not? It adds somewhat to the impressiveness of the situation and conveys to the rising generation something of a sense of what the people's position is relative to that of the executive."
Photo historian Ron Fox — who is somewhat of an expert on Utah's governors as well — culled some photographs from the Deseret News archives to celebrate the inauguration of Utah's 17th governor and look back at the inaugurations of his predecessors.
When Utah was declared a state in 1896, the Deseret News reported that it would be "a very proper thing" for the Chief Justice of Utah Territory to administer the oath to the first official Utah state officer, the new and first governor, Heber M. Wells. The sentiment was to connect "the old and the new regimes with the link of a formal ceremony."
The people who attended Gov. John Christopher Cutler's 1905 swearing in ceremony were welcomed by many American flags and a large picture of Brigham Young. The Deseret News said "the ceremonies were of an imposing character" and Gov. Cutler's inaugural speech was frequently interrupted by "hearty applause."
Governor William Spry's inauguration Jan. 4, 1909, was declared by the Deseret News to be a "ceremony devoid of pomp" except for the four guns of the Utah National Guard's field artillery that at noon gave the gubernatorial salute of 17 guns. Governor Simon Bamberger had a huge crowd in the newly finished Utah State Capitol for his inauguration on New Year's day in 1917. Governor Charles R. Mabey repeated his oath of office in "a clear, firm voice" in 1921.
Each new governor's inauguration is also a time to say goodbye. When Gov. Henry H. Blood took the oath in 1933, the media's attention was mainly on the outgoing Governor, George Dern: "The vast assemblage witnessing the ceremonies at the capitol stood hushed and deeply moved as the man who has directed the destinies of the state for the past eight years bade his official adieu," the Deseret News reported.
Gov. Herbert B. Maw was described as a "47-year-old Salt Lake lawyer, educator, Church man and legislator" when he took the "simple, but impressive oath of office" in 1941.
When Gov. J. Bracken Lee became the first Republican governor of Utah in almost a quarter of a century, he pled for bi-partisan cooperation from the Democratic majorities that controlled both houses of Utah's legislature: "I offer my sincere cooperation to my Democratic colleagues, and solicit their reciprocal aid in serving the best interests of the people," he said at his inauguration on Jan. 3, 1949. His salute from the National Guard was 19 guns.
Gov. George Dewey Clyde's inauguration had a television crew broadcasting the event that included jets roaring over the Capitol.
Gov. Calvin L. Rampton brought the Democrats back into the governor's office for three terms beginning in 1965, followed by fellow Democrat Gov. Scott M. Matheson's two terms beginning in 1977. Gov. Norman H. Bangerter's first term inaugurated more than 25 years of Republican domination in the Governor's office with Gov. Mike Leavitt in 1993, Gov. Olene S. Walker in 2003, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. in 2005 and Gov. Gary Herbert in 2009.
Today at noon, as Herbert takes the oath for the second time in his administration, he continues the ongoing tradition of Utah governors by promising to "support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this State, and that I will discharge the duties of my office with fidelity."
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