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Former Utah Attorney General Jan Graham dies, leaving ‘a legacy of justice and compassion’

Graham was the only female attorney general in Utah state history

SHARE Former Utah Attorney General Jan Graham dies, leaving ‘a legacy of justice and compassion’
Jan Graham, who served as Utah’s attorney general from 1993 to 2001, has died.

Then-Utah Attorney General Jan Graham gives then-Senate President Lane Beattie a friendly pat on the shoulder on Feb. 2, 1999, after the state Senate passed legislation. Graham, who served as Utah’s attorney general from 1993 to 2001, has died.

Gary M. McKellar, Deseret News

Former Utah Attorney General Jan Graham has died.

Graham, 74, died in her home after a near decade-long battle with cancer.

“In her final years, she undertook a massive labor of love: writing a detailed account of her mother’s family history with the help of her beloved brothers and some relatives discovered on Ancestry.com,” her obituary stated. “Even through various cancer treatments, she had boundless energy, a quick wit, and a zest for discovering the new and exciting.”

“She is survived by her husband Verl “Buzz” Hunt, son William Graham Hunt, stepdaughter Elisabeth Kay Hunt, brothers Steven Kesler Crump (Kay) and Kevin Ray Crump (Nancy), eight nieces and nephews and many grandnieces and grandnephews. She was preceded in death by both of her parents,” the obituary said.

The only woman elected as attorney general in the Beehive State’s history, Graham was a founding member of Women Lawyers of Utah. She served as the state’s 18th attorney general for eight years.

Growing up in Sugarhouse, Graham graduated from law school at the University of Utah, according to Maren Peterson, writing for the Utah Division of Archives and Records Service. She married Buzz Hunt. Before she became attorney general, she worked as a partner at a law firm.

In 1993, Graham was elected Utah Attorney General, running as a Democrat. Reaching across the aisle was something that was important to Graham.

“I spent a good deal of time when I was first elected — this may surprise some — considerable energy and thought trying to get along with some Republican members of the Legislature. So I really put some effort into individually speaking to each of them (leaders), befriending them, getting to know them, getting them to know me,” Graham said. “Perhaps I could disarm them a little, showing I’m a normal person. I’m a mother, I live in a family just like you.”

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said in a statement about Graham’s death, “As the first woman to serve as Utah Attorney General, Jan Graham was a trailblazer. Abby and I are grateful for her public service and express condolences to her family.”

Scott Howell, former Utah State Senate minority leader, released a statement about Graham’s passing, describing her legacy as “one of unwavering dedication to justice.” Howell served alongside Graham.

“As Utah’s Attorney General, she tirelessly advocated for the principles of fairness and equality, leaving an indelible mark on the legal landscape. Graham’s passion, resilience, and leadership in the face of adversity serve as an inspiration to all,” Howell said. “In my role as the minority leader in the Utah State Senate, I collaborated with Jan on numerous challenging issues.”

“She consistently prioritized the law above all, going beyond any other policy initiatives in our efforts. Her moral compass and integrity never wavered,” Howell continued. “Her contributions to the legal field and her enduring impact on the lives she touched will be remembered with deep respect and gratitude. May her memory continue to inspire a legacy of justice and compassion.”

As attorney general, Graham was a champion for victims of domestic abuse and was integral in holding tobacco companies to account.

“Jan created Children Justice Centers, a place where children could feel comfortable talking to the police if there were problems with their home life,” Peterson wrote. “She also led the fight in suing tobacco companies for funds the state lost to treating Medicaid members for lung cancer.”

After her stint as attorney general, Graham was described as mostly leaving public life. She practiced law and helped Joe Torre build the “Safe at Home” foundation.

Utah State House Minority Leader Angela Romero released a statement about Graham’s death, celebrating her “enduring legacy of advocacy and service.”

“Graham’s election marked a historic moment in Utah’s political landscape, as she became the first woman in the state to be elected to a statewide office. Her campaigns against family violence, unwavering commitment to protecting children, and emphasis on victims rights in the criminal justice system have left an enduring mark on Utah’s legal and social fabric,” Romero said.

Utah Senate Minority Leader Luz Escamilla said in a statement, “As one of the few female state leaders and a Democrat, Jane Graham’s legacy inspires me and my work, which focuses on the well-being of women and children.” said Escamilla. “Jan Graham’s impact on our state and her commitment to advocating for our children will never be forgotten. Our thoughts are with her loved ones during this difficult time.”

“General Graham was a historic legal and political figure as the first and only woman in Utah history to be elected as Attorney General, and the last Democrat elected to statewide office,” Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said in a statement. “Beyond these unique and significant milestones, she was a dedicated public servant and substantive lawyer who championed noteworthy causes as AG that continue to benefit many in Utah.”

“Among her accomplishments, she guided Utah’s role as part of groundbreaking national litigation and settlement with large tobacco companies to protect the health and safety of all Utahns. She also laid the foundation for much of the success Utah has achieved with programs like the Children’s Justice Centers. Even more important than her pioneering achievements and professional accolades, however, was her role as a loving mother and devoted family member and friend,” Reyes continued.

Utah Senate Democrats also issued a statement on the passing of Graham saying, “It is with heavy hearts that we acknowledge the passing of Former Attorney General and proud Democrat, Jan Graham. As the first and only female Attorney General in Utah‘s history, Jan Graham shattered barriers and paved the way for future generations of women in public office. At the time, Jan was Utah’s only and now the last Democrat statewide officeholder.”

“Jan Graham’s legacy is marked by her unwavering dedication to justice, particularly in the realm of domestic violence advocacy,” the statement continued. “Her passionate campaign to raise awareness about domestic abuse reached every corner of our state, breaking the silence and stigma surrounding this critical issue.”