A non-Mormon (a practicing Jew, in fact) and a Democrat, in Utah's top office only 20 years after statehood?

As unlikely as it seemed, Simon Bamberger was the state's fourth governor, a successful businessman and a tireless civic worker.Bamberger was the embodiment of the "American Dream," a young man who came to the United States as an emigrant from Germany, worked first at menial jobs, saved his money, invested wisely and ultimately became a man of wealth and position.

The Bambergers were people of substance in Germany, but when his father participated in an unsuccessful revolt against the German government, their property was expropriated. Young Simon embarked for the United States at the age of 14, settling first in Cincinnati. He saved his wages from odd jobs to bring other members of the family to America.

Later, he went to St. Louis to join a brother who had a mercantile business. When Union Pacific Railroad started its expansion westward (to meet up with Central Pacific Railroad at Promontory, Utah in 1869) the brothers began the journey west as well, managing a construction-gang company store.

Simon settled first in Ogden and in 1871 moved to Salt Lake City, where he drew on an innate business sense that was in harmony with the frontier times. He purchased the White House Hotel, organized a coal company, became a director in a loan and trust firm, invested in mines and other businesses. Ultimately he established the concern for which many Utahns will best remember him - Bamberger Electric Railroad.

For thousands of Utahns, summer meant hopping aboard a Bam-berger train bound for Saltair or Lagoon for a pleasant respite from the heat. Year-round, the Bamberger rails carried city folk to their jobs, to transact business and to visit friends and kin in nearby cities.

His company first built the Great Salt Lake and Hot Springs lines in 1892. By 1908, the Bamberger line had reached Ogden, and the company's various branches were electrified. They were in use until being disbanded in 1952.

Lagoon, one of the most popular stops, was another Bamberger venture. Initially, he had established the Lake Park Resort on the edge of Great Salt Lake. When the lake withdrew in one of its frequent fluctuations, he was left with a resort on a mud flat, and moved east to the current Lagoon location.

Bamberger was a short, stocky man with a pronounced Jewish-German accent. He was dedicated to his religion and a man of peace who preferred negotiation to confrontation. He had a reputation for honesty, and during his days as a railroad merchant he was often asked by rail workers to hold their paychecks when they went on a spree, to assure they'd have some money left when they were through.

He made frequent trips to Europe to raise money for his ventures, and on one such trip he made a stop in Cincinnati to visit his parents. During the stay, he proposed to a neighborhood friend, Ida Maas. They were married Nov. 3, 1881 and honey-mooned in Europe while he continued his business trip. They reared four children in Utah.

As his Utah enterprises flourished, Bamberger gained the leisure to become involved in com-munity government. He was named to fill the unexpired term of a Salt Lake School Board member and then elected to a complete term, serving five years in all.

He championed teacher raises and in 1903 when the city schools were threatened with closure four weeks early because they were out of money, he headed a subscription effort with a $500 contribution. Calling on others to donate, he succeeded in getting 19 other large subscribers to come up with a total of $10,000 - enough to keep the schools open to the end of the term.

When he determined to run for governor in 1916, he faced some long odds. Utahns had historically elected Mormons and Republicans, and Bamberger didn't fit into either category. But he did have friends in both camps.

Asked early in the campaign if being a Jew in a Mormon community was death for his political ambitions, he responded that "they (Latter-day Saints) have always treated me right, and if the time comes that I cannot live here in peace with them, I shall move to some other state."

An anti-Semitic cartoon was circulated in the Capitol, ostensibly the work of Republican leadership. Nevertheless, his progress to office was smoothed considerably by his positions on many of the current issues. He proposed a law that would forever prohibit the sale of liquor in Utah. It didn't pass, but it put him in league with many Mormon voters. He also had considerable support from the education community because of his proven devotion to its interests.

Throughout his term in the governor's post, Bamberger gained a reputation for fairness. He didn't decide political issues on either religious or business sentiments. He promoted a tax on mines, despite his own financial interests in the industry, and was supportive of legislation to create a workmen's compensation law and other efforts to improve the lot of em-ploy-ees.

When he went into office, the state was $500,000 in the red. He pledged to correct the deficit and balance the budget "even if God should oppose," and succeeded in his promise.

One of the lasting memorials to Bamberger is a large monument in Carbon County, created by prisoners on a work detail who were impressed at his friendly nature. During an inspection trip of state roads, the governor lunched with the chain gang and kept them regaled with his sense of humor. The stone memorial they built in his honor in the Willow Creek area was refurbished by Helper schoolchildren in 1976.

Bamberger's time in office coincided with World War I, and the governor was solidly behind the effort to defeat his former homeland. He identified himself with bond drives and traveled the West soliciting contributions. The Beehive State oversubscribed its quota in three of four drives and became second in the nation, proportionately, in the number of military enlistees.

As a reward for a particularly successful drive in Carbon County (17,000 residents in the county raised $12 million, the greatest per-capita effort in the United States), a U.S. Navy ship was named Utacarbon. Bamberger was invited to christen the ship, and in keeping with what he felt sure would be the desire of fellow Utahns, he filled the champagne bottle with salt water from Great Salt Lake.

Sailors watching the christening realized there had been a substitution because the salt water didn't bubble like champagne. They refused to board until the traditional bottle of bubbly was broken across the bow. The Utacarbon became "one of the finest vessels on the Pacific today." Chased by Japanese submarines, it consistently eluded the enemy to carry precious cargoes of oil to American troops, commanders reported.

At the end of his term in office, Bamberger returned to his family home at 623 E. 100 South and to his business interests. He died Oct. 6, 1926, leaving a legacy of honest business dealings and amicable interreligious relationships in his adopted state.