Photos of his career as Idaho governor (1950-1954) and U.S. senator (1962-1972), including meetings with prominent politicians and everyday Idahoans
Len B. Jordan (Leonard Beck Jordan) served as Governor of Idaho from 1951 to 1955 and United States Senator from 1962 to 1973.
Jordan was born in Mount Pleasant, Utah, on May 15, 1899. He was educated in the public school system of Enterprise, Oregon, where he graduated from high school at the age of 16. He enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War I and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. After the war, he attended the University of Oregon, earning a Phi Beta Kappa key and graduating in 1923. A year later, he married Grace Edgington and together they became ranchers. In 1933 the Jordans moved to a remote ranch below Hells Canyon on the Snake River where they grazed sheep. They left Hells Canyon and moved to Grangeville, Idaho, in 1940, where they continued farming and Jordan worked in the automobile business.
Jordan was elected to the Idaho State Legislature in 1946 as a Republican from a predominantly Democratic county but was defeated in his bid for a second term. Despite that defeat, he ran for Governor of Idaho in 1950 and was elected to a four-year term. As governor, Jordan promoted cooperation among Northwestern states in the conservation and development of water resources in the Snake-Columbia River basins. He was also an opponent of a federally funded high dam on the Snake River at Hells Canyon, prevailing in one of the most intense public policy debates in Idaho during the 20th century.
While serving as Governor, Jordan was instrumental in convincing his peers that the 1952 Western Governors Conference should be held in Boise. Republican presidential candidate Dwight D. Eisenhower attended the conference and kicked off his national post-convention campaign with a large rally on the steps of the Idaho State Capitol, the largest political rally ever held in Idaho.
After his term as Governor was over, Jordan was appointed by President Eisenhower to the International Joint Commission. He moved to Washington, D.C., and served on the IJC from 1955 to 1957. As chairman of the U.S. section, he helped negotiate agreements with Canada to develop the St. Lawrence Seaway and resolve other water issues involving the U.S. and Canada.
The Jordans returned to Boise in 1957 and Len Jordan once again engaged in ranching. Though active politically, he declined to seek office again himself. He was thrust into office once more, however, when Idaho Governor Robert Smylie appointed him to the U.S. Senate to fill the vacant seat of Senator Henry Dworshak, who died suddenly in July 1962. Three months later, Jordan was elected in his own right to serve the balance of the term, defeating the popular Democratic candidate, U.S. Representative Gracie Pfost. Reelected to a full term in 1966, Jordan did not seek reelection in 1972 and left the Senate in January 1973. While in the Senate, he served on the Senate Finance Committee, Interior Committee, Joint Economic Committee, Senate Public Works Committee, and the Select Committee on Standards and Conduct. He helped pass the legislation that created the Sawtooth National Recreation Area in Idaho in 1972. He retired once more to Boise, where he spent the remainder of his life with his wife Grace until his death in 1983.
Len Jordan’s life is chronicled in two books by his wife Grace Jordan: Home Below Hells Canyon (1954) and The Unintentional Senator (1972). Len Jordan’s Senatorial papers (ca.250 boxes) are housed in the Special Collections Department of the Boise State University Library.
This collection features photographic images and objects documenting highlights of Len Jordan’s political career as Idaho governor and a United States senator. The digital collection contains 75 images selected from the Len B. Jordan Papers (MSS 6) located at Boise State University in the Special Collections department.
The photographs were selected and scanned by Richard Guinn, an undergraduate intern in the Special Collections department. Most of the photograph descriptions came directly from a binder of captions prepared by Jordan’s office before coming to Boise State. Other narrative and scholarly content related to this collection was provided by Special Collections staff Erin Passehl and Alan Virta.
Senator Jordan with flag, March 1963, MSS 006 63-018.