Utah Department of Administrative Services

Division of Archives & Records Service

Joseph Bracken Lee


1949-1957, Republican

J. Bracken Lee served two terms as the ninth governor of the State of Utah. His political career began when he served six two-year terms as mayor of Price, Utah in beginning in 1935 and continued after his governorship as mayor of Salt Lake City. His service to Utah was never quiet or unproductive. It was shrouded in actions, speaking and doing his mind, and often controversy. He was a well-respected man by many and an opponent to others.

J. Bracken Lee first sought the governorship in 1940 but did not receive the Republican nomination. In 1942 he ran unsuccessfully for Congress and again for governor in 1944. His political persistence paid off and in 1948 he was elected as governor. Governor Lee's political philosophy stated in his own words was, "Do it honestly, do the best you know how, and let 'em holler!" Lee did not cower from this philosophy. He was a thrifty man who did not believe in debt nor waste of money. He was a strict economic conservative. He began his governorship by cutting state departments and other endeavors to save money.

Governor Lee cut the number of commissioners in departments, cut off new construction except for the State Prison, criticized many departments believing they were not necessary, and made the biggest cuts to higher education and the Department of Public Instruction they had yet experienced. In short, Lee cut costs he thought were in excess. Because of some of these cuts and his opinions, Lee was not a popular man with some organizations. He became an enemy to education and educators overall. Lee fiercely opposed income tax and once refused to pay it except by court order. He also opposed foreign aid and the United Nations. His strict monetary cuts and loud actions gained Lee national attention and some believed him to be the next man to lead the nation.

Lee ran for a third term as an independent because of loss of support from the Republican party. Both the Republican and Democrat candidates defeated him. He went on to serve three terms as mayor of Salt Lake City and again controversy followed him into office. Lee ran for the Senate in 1957 and in 1962 both times being defeated. He ran again for governor in 1964 and was again unsuccessful.

Lythgoe, Dennis L. Let 'Em Holler: A Political Biography of J. Bracken Lee. Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, 1982.

Powell, Allan Kent, ed. Utah History Encyclopedia. J. Bracken Lee, by Dennis L. Lythgoe. 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 Lee  
Conference and committee reports, 1949-1956 Series 13852
Correspondence, 1946-1956 Series 211
Education reports, 1950-1956 Series 17623
Extradition case files, 1947-1953 Series 23594
Friendship train gifts, 20732 Series 20732
Legislative messages, 1955 Series 213
Newspaper clippings, 1949-1956 Series 214
Press releases, 1949-1956 Series 215
Proclamations, 1949-1956 Series 216
Radiation study tumor registry case files, 1951-1953 Series 1604
Speeches, 1949-1956 Series 217