The 1960s were a turbulent time of war protests, rock 'n' roll and mind-altering substances. But not for Jan Graham.
For the person who would some day become Utah's first female attorney general, the '60s were a time when she worked the soda and popcorn counters at the downtown Woolworth store, as a waitress at a local Arctic Circle drive-in and as a receptionist for the Salt Lake City Water Department."The Beatles and Rolling Stones were all outside my world," she said. "I lived in a classic sheltered world where my main concern was what blouse and what skirt I was going to wear. I was an academic achiever and in pep club, but I was never much interested in the politics of the time. I wanted to be a schoolteacher."
At the time, it was a dream that seemed a million miles away.
Born into a working-class family with FDR values, Graham and her two brothers watched their parents struggle financially. Her father had dropped out of school at age 16 to work for the Road Commission and would later work for Kennecott, as did her mother.
"My parents worked hard to make opportunities for their children," Graham said. "They taught us that opportunity does not come solely through power and wealth, but through hard work."
Graham grew up across the street from the Snelgrove's ice cream store on 2100 South, a place she visited daily until she started at South High School. But the most memorable experiences were those spent with her grandmother, Julia Stevens Crump, in Bluffdale.
"She kept chicken coops and sold eggs across from the Bluffdale City Cemetery for 20 years after grandpa died. I washed more brown and white eggs on that back porch than I want to remember," she recalled in a recent centennial sketch.
It would be the first of many jobs that would forge her work ethic. "We never had much money, but no one we knew did either," she said. So after graduating high school in 1967, she knew that to attend college she would have to work her way through.
In the fall of 1967, at age 17, she attended Brigham Young University, her first time away from home. Given her independent streak and the high cost of tuition there, she returned to Salt Lake City after a year and enrolled at the University of Utah.
It was while attending the U. she worked as a receptionist for the Water Department, and as a waitress at Arctic Circle and the Highway House at the Roadway Inn. She worked the Woolworth's soda counter until she was "promoted to hand bags."
Graham attended the U. until 1970 when financial circumstances forced her to quit. When she had saved enough money, she decided to finish her degree at Clark University, a liberal arts college in western Massachusetts.
"I thought at that time I wanted to be a clinical psychologist," she said. "It was one of the leading colleges for psychology at the time."
But it was a rude awakening for Graham. Not only was she the only Mormon student on campus, but most of the other kids were from affluent families. By necessity, she worked as a waitress in a nearby town. When her grandmother, the driving influence in her life, died, Graham could not afford the plane ticket home to attend the funeral.
After getting her bachelor's degree in 1973, "I came sprinting back home. I missed the mountains, I missed my family and home," she said. "It was a real lesson for me."
In the fall of 1973, she enrolled in graduate school at the U. and worked full time as a teacher at Franklin Elementary ("I could never get used to 37 prepubescent kids calling me Miss Crump"). The next year, she worked as a counselor at Northwest Multipurpose Center. Three of the kids she counseled would eventually commit homicides.
"They were very tough kids," she said. "I was working with a high-risk population, and I was expecting results and I didn't see them. We weren't much more than baby sitters, and I reached the point I did not want to be a psychologist anymore."
She got her masters in psychology in the spring of 1977 and in the fall of that year enrolled in law school. She spent her summers and spare time doing research projects and as a law clerk. And she still found time to work as a waitress at the Fort Douglas Country Club. While in law school, she married, taking the name Graham, but subsequently divorced.
In 1980, she got her law degree and was hired by the prestigious firm of Jones Waldo. By 1985, her prowess in corporate law had earned her a partnership and election as the first woman to the board of directors. "In those days, there were no women doing that kind of legal work," she said.
She had found her niche, and she thought she would probably retire there. In 1989, she married Buzz Hunt and was on course to become one of the most prominent female attorneys in the state. "I thought some day I might be president of the firm," she said.
But that all changed in 1990 when she happened to run into Joe Tesch, the chief deputy to Attorney General Paul Van Dam. He asked her if she might be interested in managing the Attorney General's Office. She said no.
"I went home and talked to Buzz about it and he felt very certain it was something I should do. Two weeks later, I accepted the job as solicitor general," she said.
When Van Dam announced he would not run for re-election, various individuals in the Attorney General's Office looked around to see who should run for the seat. When the fingers began pointing at her, "I got a steady feeling it was the right thing to do, even though I hate politics and fund raising. I never thought I would run for political office, but I had a strong sense of destiny, that I was meant for this office."
Graham delivered William Graham Hunt two days after the Democratic State Convention in 1992, then won her Democratic primary. She then won the general election by less than 1 percentage point against Iron County Attorney Scott Burns, her opponent in this election, as well.
Throughout her term, Graham has emphasized efforts to curtail domestic violence and child abuse, calling it her personal mission. It is a mission she says she needs four more years to complete.
"This will absolutely be the last term," she said. "I want to play a much more private role after this."
She said when all is said and done, she hopes her grandmother would be proud. "She had strong views about everything, and even though she was a devout Mormon, the only true saint in her life was FDR. In her view he saved America," she wrote. "And even though Democrats are getting a little rare in Utah these days, I can always rest easy knowing grandma wouldn't have it any other way."