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Moss helped shape the state

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Before the word "liberal" was spun to mean "permissive" and "lax," there was Utah's liberal senator, Frank E. Moss.

In the Moss era, "liberal" meant champion of the common cause and friend of the common man. And for three terms in the U. S. Senate, Moss was just that.

Frank Moss passed away earlier this week at age 91. But in his nine decades, his policies and personality managed to touch the lives of every single Utahn.

It was Moss who gave us Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and the Golden Spike Monument.

Moss was behind moves to quell cigarette advertising and protect consumers from false labeling, and he trumpeted legislation to freshen the air.

Moss was both a "New Deal" Democrat and the "real deal" as a politician. His populist rhetoric always went down like a dinner. People knew his insides were the same as his outsides. His hard-scrabble early years were his credentials.

In 1934, the man couldn't even afford a photographer to take pictures of his wedding.

Born in Holladay in 1911, Moss witnessed World War I, participated in World War II as a judge and pushed for America to pull out of Vietnam long before it was fashionable. He won a Senate seat in 1958 and held on to it for 18 years, until he was defeated by a young upstart named Orrin Hatch. Moss tried to paint Hatch as an opportunistic outsider, but the notion didn't take. In the end, Moss' loss was not so much a rejection of him as it was an early tremor in Utah's shifting politics. Once proud, liberals were now being cast locally as overindulgent big spenders. Left-leaning Democrats were being shuttled to the periphery.

After politics, Moss returned to life as an attorney. He practiced law until age 90. The Federal Courthouse was named for him.

Now, he may be gone, but his image will forever be seen in the many landmarks — and historical moments — that make up the fabric of the state. In fact, with his trend-setting landscape legislation, he has left his fingerprints all across America — literally from the Gulf Stream waters to the redwood forests.

He was always a patriot in the best sense of the word.

In the words of another legendary "liberal" of the era, Frank Moss never asked what his country could do for him, but asked what he could do for his country.

And once he learned the answer, he went out and did it.