Two former Utah congressional representatives will be honored Friday in separate ceremonies naming government buildings after them.
The Orem Post Office, 222 W. Center St., will be named for the late Arthur V. Watkins in a brief ceremony at the post office at 1 p.m. Watkins was a Republican U.S. senator from 1946 to 1958.Provo's federal office building at 88 W. 100 North will be named the J. Will Robinson Building in a 2:30 p.m. ceremony. Robinson served Utah in the House of Representatives from 1932 to 1946. He died in 1964.
Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah, initiated the legislation to change the names of the buildings. "I thought it would be a good thing to honor these outstanding public servants," Nielson said in a press release. "Both men proved to be great assets to the state and the nation."
The legislation was passed by the 101st Congress in October 1990. President Bush signed it into law Nov. 14, 1990.
Robinson was Utah's longest serving member of the House of Representatives, Nielson told Congress when he introduced the legislation to name the Provo Federal building in Robinson's honor.
Robinson was born in Coalville on Jan. 18, 1878. He left school after the sixth grade to help support his family but did not give up his education. Robinson worked a year, then went to school a year until he completed his public education.
In his remarks to the House of Representatives, Nielson said that Robinson as an undergraduate "developed somewhat of a reputation as a scrapper . . . Among other things, he would hustle bets at county fairs and the like, saying he could beat a horse in a 40-yard race. Given the fact he could indeed run the 100-yard dash in under 10 seconds, he would usually come out on the winning end."
Robinson married Birda Billings in 1905 and graduated from Brigham Young Academy in 1908. He became a teacher and principal in Vernal, then moved to Heber as principal of Wasatch High School.
In 1912 Robinson earned a law degree from the University of Chicago and became a member of the Utah Bar. He practiced law in Provo and served the state as a member of the University of Utah Board of Regents. In 1932, he was elected to Congress.
"During his seven terms in Congress, Robinson was well known as an innovator and defender of issues important to the West," said Nielson. "As chairman of the Committee on Public Lands, and later the Committee on Roads, he made his mark in the areas of public land management and reclamation.
"He considered the highlight of his career his role in helping pass legislation that created the National Highway System."
Robinson was defeated in the 1946 election but remained in government service in Washington for a few years. He returned to Utah when he retired in 1949. He died in 1964 when he was 86.
Arthur V. Watkins stood his ground when it came to teachers' salaries and he refused to work for less than sheepherders' pay.
A report from Nielson's office said Watkins left Brigham Young Academy in 1906 to teach the fourth and fifth grades at Maeser Elementary School in Maeser, Uintah County. "When he was told that he would be paid only $40 a month, he asked how much sheepherders were paid.
"One of the school trustees told him that herders were paid $60 a month because they were responsible for valuable property.
"`I won't work for less than sheepherders,' said Watkins, `Children are a lot more valuable than sheep!' "He was paid $60."
Watkins was elected to the Senate in 1946. As chairman of the Select Committee on the Censure of Joseph McCarthy, Watkins was described by Time magazine as "a man little known in the past who should be long remembered into the future." McCarthy, a senator from Wisconsin, accused many people of belonging to the Communist Party.
Watkins lost his bid for re-election in 1958. He remained in Washington as a water and power consultant to the Department of the Interior. He then served as commissioner to the Indian Claims Commission until he retired in 1967.
He died at 81 in 1973.