Utah Department of Administrative Services

Division of Archives & Records Service

George Henry Dern


1925-1933, Democrat

Before entering the political realm George Henry Dern was a business man. He followed his father into mining and quickly made a name and a distinguished career for himself. He developed a vacuum slime filter process that was used by various mines both in the United State and abroad. He also aided in creating the Holt-Dern roasting process. He was also noted for his efficient managerial skills. His other business interest included ranching, dairying, public utilities, and banking.

George Henry Dern first entered politics in 1914 when he was elected to the Utah State Senate. He was not your usual Utah politician for the time. He was not a member of the predominant religion nor of the predominant political party. Dern was a Democrat and a noted progressive reformer but got along well with the Republican leaders and constituency.

In 1924, Dern was elected governor of Utah. He defeated Republican incumbent and Mormon, Charles R. Mabey. "We want a Dern good governor and we don't mean Mabey," was a popular slogan during the campaign. During Governor Dern's terms he obtained compulsory certification for all school teachers, regulations extending the jurisdiction of the Public Utilities Commission, and the expansion of automobile regulations. He managed a revision of Utah's tax laws in favor of middle and lower class groups. Dern also secured Utah's share of water in the Colorado River Compact. Because of his successes he gained notable attention both within and outside of the State and was elected the chair of the National Governors' Conference.

George Henry Dern declined to run for a third. President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed him as his Secretary of War, becoming the first Utahn to fill a position in a presidential cabinet. He died at the age of sixty-four of cardiac and kidney complications following severe influenza.

Bringhurst, Newell G. " George Henry Dern," Beehive History 18 (1992) : 16-17.

Powell, Allan Kent, ed. Utah History Encyclopedia. George Henry Dern, by Newel G. Bringhurst. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1994.

Sobel, Robert and John Raimo, ed. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States 1789-1978, vol. IV. Westport: Meckler Books.

Governor Dern  
Colorado River compact subject file, 1926-1929  
Conference, commission, and committee reports, 1907-1931 Series 207
Correspondence, 1924-1931 Series 204
Employment applications, 1925-1929 Series 205
Expense ledger, 1932 Series 208
Extradition case files, 1932 Series 20792
Scrapbooks, 1926-1932 Series 13860
Speeches, 1914-1928 Series 209
State department correspondence, 1924-1932 Series 210