Facebook Twitter

Hundreds honor Rampton

Turnout would have surprised ‘The Governor,’ mourners say

SHARE Hundreds honor Rampton

Several hundred Utahns lined up outside the Governor's Mansion on Thursday afternoon to pay homage to the late Gov. Cal Rampton, the state's longest-serving chief executive.

"It's a wonderful opportunity to just pay your deep respect, especially to someone who was so well thought of," former Rampton administration employee Gloria Hunt said after walking through the mansion's grand hall, where Rampton's flag-draped casket was placed.

Hunt, who worked for what was then the state Department of Highways and now is employed by Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., said Rampton would be surprised at the number of people who paid their respects.

"He was a very humble man," Hunt said.

Rampton's eldest living child, Janet Warburton, said her father would have questioned whether anyone would even recall his service to the state. "He'd say, 'Nobody remembers me any more. I'm an old man."'

But the service made it clear that Utahns have not forgotten the man known to most as simply "The Governor," a Democrat who served three terms from 1965 to 1977 and is credited with bringing the state into the modern era.

Huntsman offered the mansion as the place for his late predecessor to lie in state because the state Capitol is closed for a massive, multiyear renovation. Huntsman said he wanted "to share some of the governor's legacy right here in the mansion."

There is no state protocol for dealing with the death of a former governor, so Huntsman's staff tapped the knowledge of the White House in arranging the service. An honor guard of Utah Highway Patrol troopers and National Guardsmen accompanied the casket.

Rampton's youngest child, Vince, said the family was "grateful but somewhat overwhelmed" by the event. The last Utah governor to lie in state was Scott Matheson, in 1990, in the rotunda of the Capitol.

Former Salt Lake Tribune publisher Jack Gallivan, who grew up in the mansion, said the South Temple home was better for his longtime friend.

"It's a much warmer setting," said Gallivan, who was the first person to walk by Rampton's coffin.

Members of the Rampton family arrived with the body of the late governor at the mansion at 11 a.m. and spent time sharing memories with Huntsman and first lady Mary Kaye Huntsman before the mansion doors were opened to the public at noon for four hours.

Robb T. Benns Sr., whose late wife, Bernice, advised Rampton on education issues, said he came to remember a governor whose door was always open.

"He came back to touch base with the people," Benns said of the former governor. "He's touching base again."

Kirk Jowers, director of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics, said Rampton's lying in state at the mansion helps put politics in perspective.

"These opportunities to remember our leaders are important, and they are unifying," Jowers said. "To have such a well-respected leader lie in state gives us another opportunity to remember the partisan divisions are not nearly so deep as they seem.

"I hope it gives us a chance to realize we truly are Utahns before we are Democrats or Republicans."

Rampton, who was in hospice care after suffering a stroke and earlier being diagnosed with cancer, died last Sunday at 93. Funeral services are set for 11 a.m. Friday at the Salt Lake Parleys LDS Stake Center, 1870 E. Parleys Canyon Blvd.

E-mail: lisa@desnews.com