A New History of Wyoming


Chapter  17: The 1950s



Television, Yellow Stripes and Red Scare Politics


     "Everything in Wyoming is political," goes the oft-quoted saying, "except politics. Politics is personal." The remark explains much of the uniqueness of Wyoming politics from World War II to the 1970s. It was particularly apt in the 1950s. In a state characterized by a tiny population huddled in small towns thinly spread across some 97,000 square miles, all successful politicians have been individuals who knew their constituents, many on a first-name basis. Weak parties and general consensus on most major issues contributed to this politics of personality.

            An outside observer would be hard pressed to explain these results by relying on conventional demographic analysis. The state has been overwhelmingly white and a class structure is virtually non-existent.[1] Organized religion has not been a factor in the state's politics.[2] Two of the most popular politicians since the 1930s were Roman Catholics: Republican Frank Barrett, who served as congressman, governor and U. S. Senator; and Democrat Joseph C. O'Mahoney who represented Wyoming in the U. S. Senate from 1933 to 1960 with one two-year break.

            While party identification may be a factor in very close contests, the two political parties in Wyoming have shared similar conservative assumptions on issues of economics and libertarian views on civil rights and individual freedoms.

            During the decade of the 1950s, the rural migration into larger towns continued. Extreme drought, similar in magnitude to some years of the 1920s and 1930s, struck eastern Wyoming in the early 1950s. Significant changes in farm policy, introduced by the Eisenhower administration, caused landlords to shift from a system of tenant leases  to placing lands in the “soil bank.”[3] Particularly in eastern counties, corporate agriculture began making gains and ranch consolidation accelerated. One observer has noted that eight of ten ranches and farms on which people had lived in the 1920s were empty by the end of the 1950s.[4]

            The oil industry, revitalized by the post-World War II influx of young entrepreneurs (characterized by such college-educated, “second-generation” oil men as Tom Stroock, Warren Morton  and H. A. “Dave” True), made new discoveries in the Powder River Basin, the Big Horn Basin and the southwestern part of the state.  Not only were discoveries made in previously unproven fields, deeper wells were placed in already known oil fields. For example, a well was drilled to 14,309 feet in the West Poison Spider Field, Natrona County, making it the deepest producing well in the United States in the early 1950s.

            More excitement was gained from the discoveries of another mineral in Wyoming--uranium. Presence of the mineral was not unknown as the decade of the 1950s opened. It had been identified by geologists in 1918 from outcropping at Silver Cliff, within the town limits of Lusk. Other geologists made reference to uranium in the Red Desert as early as 1936, and in Crook County soon after the end of World War II. In the autumn of 1951, J. David Love of the United States Geological Survey, located a major deposit of uranium near Pumpkin Buttes in southern Campbell County.

            By the time of the Love discovery, a national demand existed for uranium. The sole customer for uranium, the United States government, offered attractive prices to small producers, prompting a modern-day “rush” to uranium fields throughout Wyoming. Stores appeared in places like Rawlins and Riverton, specializing in the sale of Geiger counters and other uranium-seeking equipment

            On Sept. 13, 1953, Lander machine shop operator Neil McNeice and his wife Maxine were hunting antelope in the Gas Hills in eastern Fremont County. McNeice took along a Geiger counter for the fun of doing “weekend prospecting.” When he fired up the device, the needle indicating the presence of radioactivity leaped to the right. Recognizing the importance of his discovery, McNeice filed mining claims on the federally-owned lands later that month. Within days, as many as 140 other prospectors had located claims in the same area. By the end of 1954, 7,000 claims had been filed. McNeice and several partners formed the “Lucky Mc” mining company, building processing plants near the mine sites and attracting interest from national investors. Previously wide places in the highway became thriving towns, almost overnight.[5]

            Uranium surpassed coal in production value in Wyoming during the 1950s. Previously, mineral production meant coal and oil and ownership usually resided elsewhere.  The major coal mines in the 1950s were owned by the Union Pacific Coal Company, a division of the railroad that remained the largest private landowner in the state. A few mines, such as those at Kemmerer and near Sheridan, were owned by smaller corporations, most of which were headquartered in the East. The Union Pacific Railroad, one of the last lines in the country to do so, was switching entirely from coal-powered steam locomotives to new diesels in the early 1950s.

            At the beginning of the decade, the oil industry was prospering, but it, too, was still dominated by two companies: Standard Oil of Indiana and Ohio Oil.  During the 1950s, many small independent producers managed to make inroads into the industry and oil fields of the state. Nonetheless, while oil towns enjoyed boom conditions in the 1950s, most operations were controlled by multinationals that sent relatively low-ranking managers to oversee their Wyoming branches.

            Except for the towns blessed by the proximity of nearby mineral deposits, towns with fewer than 500 people before the war, continued to decline in population in the 1950s. More dependable automobiles and better roads contributed to their decline. So did the increasing impact of farm and ranch consolidation into fewer owners and operators. Farm tractors and other mechanized equipment made it even more expensive to break into the agriculture business. It made it impossible to continue eking out all but an existence on the smaller ranches.

            The period of bank consolidation began in the 1950s. Bank regulators insisted on higher reserves than could be afforded by the tiny banks in such towns as Medicine Bow and Jay Em. Even if they could meet the state-bank regulations, the increasing costs of land and operations forced ranchers to seek out banks with significantly more lending capacity.[6] On Main Street in most Wyoming towns, the independent grocer watched chain competition arrive in the 1950s. So did the operator of the local hardware store and the local women who ran a clothing shop while her husband had permanent work in the mineral industry.  The legislature tried to help by outlawing trading stamps, a loyalty-inducing incentive attempted mostly by chain stores.

            The railroads in Wyoming added to the misery brought on by technology. Thousands of coal miners in Sweetwater, Carbon and Sheridan counties lost jobs when the railroads converted to diesels in the 1950s. In 1959, the largest steam-powered locomotive in America was retired from Union Pacific Railroad service.[7] The new fuel allowed the railroads to reduce their workforces, too. One man could operate the fuel tanks while it often took crews to handle the loading of the coal at various stations along the route.

            The news media underwent changes in the 1950s. The first television signals were received in the state in July 1952 from a Denver television station. On March 21, 1954, KFBC-TV, Channel 5, in Cheyenne went on the air. With a “broadcast day” running from 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., at first, the station served the smallest populated area of any station in the country. Legendary newspaper owner Tracy McCraken, publisher of the two dailies in Cheyenne, also owned KFBC-TV.

            On the print scene, many Wyoming towns still had competing newspapers during the decade of the 1950s. Torrington, Lusk, Newcastle, Laramie, Jackson and others were two-newspaper towns. By the end of the decade, however, the only place with competing papers was Jackson and when the Guide was established on July 17, 1952. Other small weeklies were purchased by out-of-state newspaper chains and three chains controlled by Wyoming groups.[8] This was a striking change from the political scene at the end of World War II.

     Powerful personalities dominated the Wyoming political scene at the war's end and none were any more forceful than two newspaper owners who exercised considerable influence in their respective political parties. Tracy McCraken, the owner of a statewide chain of dailies, including both dailies in the state capital, was at the height of his influence after the war. Not only did he control papers in all but two of the seven largest towns in the state, he served as at various times as Democratic National Committeeman and state party chairman. Adding to his influence was his ownership of radio stations and, of course, Wyoming's first television station in 1954.[9]  McCraken's evening paper in Cheyenne, the State Tribune, was editorially Republican despite the owner's close affiliation with the Democratic Party. Its editor consistently endorsed Republicans. McCraken's morning paper, the Wyoming Eagle, remained Democratic.

     While McCraken's Eagle was the flagship voice of the Democratic Party, a small weekly had similar influence with Republicans.  James B. Griffith, the southern-born publisher of  the Lusk Herald, a weekly newspaper in the small eastern Wyoming town of Lusk, enjoyed somewhat similar influence. Griffith, who backed a succession of Republican candidates in successful campaigns for statewide office, served as state party chairman. At one point in the 1940s, Griffith was rewarded for almost single-handedly gaining the governorship for rancher Nels Smith by appointment to the influential post of state land commissioner. Griffith was one of the few to recognize that Nels Smith stood any chance against incumbent, two-term governor Leslie Miller in 1938.[12] 

     Just as the national partisan press gradually gave way to bland corporate ownership in the decades following the war, Wyoming papers passed out of the hands of these "publisher-politicians." By the time of Tracy McCraken's death in December, 1960, (six months after "putting Kennedy over the top" as chairman of the Wyoming delegation to the national convention in Los Angeles), the independent, often fiercely partisan, family-owned papers were disappearing in Wyoming.  By the time the energy bust descended on the state in the early 1980s, most newspapers were chain-owned, many by firms headquartered in other states.

            Media consolidation and chain ownership were not unique to Wyoming. Nonetheless, the changes came at the very time that other sectors of the economy were increasingly dominated by outside interests.  Unlike other parts of the West as the 1950s began, Wyoming was not becoming more economically independent. It was becoming, in fact, more colonial.

            The three main industries since statehood have been agriculture, mineral production and tourism.  Since territorial days, agriculture often meant the Wyoming Stockgrowers Association, a group whose members made up a disproportionate share of the legislature for much of the first century of statehood. Reclamation projects brought more Wyoming land under irrigation during the 1950s, although the new dams, including Glendo on the North Platte and Boysen on the Wind River, also brought recreational opportunities for boaters and fishermen.

            Of the three major industries in the state in the 1950s, tourism remained the least controlled by outside interests. Even in this industry, however, outside companies held the key concessions in Yellowstone National Park. Hotel/motel chains and fast-food restaurants were slow to locate in Wyoming.      

            Economic data for the 1950s show a period of stagnation. The population grew, but more slowly than surrounding states. When railroads completed the shift away from the coal-burning locomotives, the economies of coal mining towns such as Rock Springs and Rawlins declined. The massive oil discoveries in the Middle East brought declines in oil exploration and prices. At the same time, cattle ranchers felt the cost squeezes and the increasing competition from alternative sources of meat. Tourism alone seemed prosperous although the primary destination point throughout the period was Yellowstone National Park where a federally sanctioned concessionaire prospered. Towns along the main routes vied as overnight stop-overs for park-bound auto travelers.

            The key to electoral success in Congressional office from Wyoming was to cater to the needs of the three industries and, at the same time, denounce federal government interference in state affairs. The pattern had been set and perfected by Sen. Francis E. Warren who spent a lifetime in the U. S. Senate, holding the mark for longevity until it was surpassed by Carl Hayden of Arizona,[10] Republican Warren and his Democratic colleague John B. Kendrick, who held similar views toward constituent service and federal interference, both passed from the scene by the beginning of the New Deal. Kendrick was replaced by Joseph C. O'Mahoney, a former editor of the Wyoming Eagle and Kendrick aide, who kept an eye out for the interests of Wyoming's three main industries while, at the same time, championing most New Deal programs. O'Mahoney, who had demonstrated his independence of Washington in 1937 by opposing the Roosevelt plan to increase the membership of the Supreme Court, remained in the Senate as a senior member as the decade began.. Wyomingites liked having their congressional delegation stand up to the federal government. O'Mahoney, re-elected to three terms, was finally defeated by Gov. Frank Barrett in the Eisenhower landslide of 1952.  He was returned for a final term two years later.

            It was during O'Mahoney's long tenure that Tracy McCraken became the state's leading Democratic party spokesman. While he used the influence of his newspaper chain to support particular Democratic Party candidates, he did not engage in any meaningful debate over issues. T. A. Larson in his History of Wyoming could have been describing McCraken's tenure as party leader when he characterized politics in Wyoming as a "game played seriously by a few hundred people, most of them men.  In even-numbered years they maximize their efforts and activate temporarily a few thousand recruits."[11]  Republican Griffith shared McCraken's love for the "game" of politics even though he owned just one paper, compared to McCraken's statewide chain of dailies.

            In 1942, Smith lost to the Secretary of State, Democrat Lester C. Hunt, who remained governor throughout the war years. At the same time, newspaperman Griffith helped his fellow townsman and political ally Frank Barrett, win the state's only congressional seat. In none of these races did candidates of either party question the general assumptions about catering to the state's major industries. In all cases, economic development meant gaining federal support for the three major industries and making state government their partners in growth.

            Hunt was a former Lander dentist who had gained fame in the middle 1930s when, as secretary of state, he commissioned the "bucking horse" logo for the state's license plate. When World War II ended, Hunt feared Wyoming would experience the same kind of economic collapse it had suffered after World War I. Consequently, he was reluctant to request increased state appropriations for any purpose. War industries had not located in Wyoming as they had in other Western states. The economy remained tied to the three basic industries of minerals, agriculture and tourism. Politics remained a game driven by personality.

            In the 1940s and 1950s, McCraken expanded his empire by purchasing daily newspapers in key Wyoming cities, adding broadcast stations to his operation, including the state's first television station. Unlike many of his less affluent predecessors in the Wyoming newspaper business, McCraken was a businessman, first, and a political kingmaker, second. To understand McCraken's political influence in the post-war years, one must look back to a major financial and political coups in 1937 when McCraken's much smaller Wyoming Eagle forced a merger with what had been the most powerful statewide daily, the Wyoming State Tribune. McCraken transformed the Eagle from the political sheet for Senator John B. Kendrick and other Democrats into a business.[13]   

            The Tribune could boast of its statewide readership, but there were no statewide businesses to provide the advertising base. In a sense, the Tribune management always expected local Cheyenne merchants to subsidize the readership because few readers in distant places such as Sheridan, Cody or Evanston could be expected to be regular customers in Cheyenne stores. McCraken's daily Eagle shamelessly boosted local businesses in news and editorial pages and offered attractive ad rates in a publication specifically targeted toward local customers. At the same time, McCraken cannily let his Eagle's bigger rival spend its resources circulating statewide.  By the end of World War II, McCraken had control of the larger Republican daily and newspapers in a half dozen other Wyoming towns.

            Observers initially predicted that the State Tribune's editorial pages would make the inevitable switch to supporting the Democrats. But McCraken, the businessman, took a non-partisan approach. The Tribune would remain editorially Republican, thus decreasing the likelihood that disgruntled capital city Republicans would turn their advertising support to any new newspaper venture that would threaten the McCraken monopoly. The Tribune was to remain staunchly Republican editorially for the rest of McCraken's life and beyond.

     Democratic Party nominees continued to be men who held the same basic assumptions about the three Wyoming industries as McCraken held. As the 1950s began, however, some issues crept into the politics of personality although none were to threaten the continued concerns for the health of the three major industries.

            Like several of his predecessors, including Warren and Kendrick, Hunt resigned from the governorship in mid-term to take a seat in the U. S. Senate. Meanwhile, Frank Barrett left Congress after four terms and, with Griffith's editorial help, won election to the governorship. Two years later, he, too, moved to the U. S. Senate following an upset win over Senator O'Mahoney in the 1952 general election.

     Barrett and Hunt shared similar assumptions about federal assistance to Wyoming's main industries. Both courted the stockgrowers and the oil industry, and the two senators generally voted in their interests. The two men split over the tactics of Joe McCarthy. Barrett supported the Wisconsin senator even when the Senate voted for censure. By early 1954, Hunt was becoming increasingly troubled by McCarthy's tactics, worried about his own health, and disturbed by his son's minor legal problems. The Democratic Party, nationally and in Wyoming, expected him to seek reelection. On an April morning in 1954, Hunt brought a rifle to his Senate office and committed suicide. His death sent shock waves through the Wyoming political scene. Former Senator O'Mahoney, still very popular statewide and McCraken's choice for the seat, helped settle the confusion. He ran for the seat and was returned to the Senate after spending two years out of office.

            Four years later, the Democrats reached a post-war pinnacle when a popular young University of Wyoming history professor, Dr. Gale McGee, upset Barrett's reelection bid to the Senate. As McGee was joining fellow Democrat O'Mahoney in the U. S. Senate, Rawlins lawyer J. J. "Joe" Hickey took back the governor's office from the Republicans by defeating incumbent Milward Simpson.  In most respects, personality and not issues drove the respective campaigns. Along with the inevitable aid from McCraken's papers, McGee relied on a non-partisan base of former students whom he had inspired during his dozen years of university teaching.

            Simpson had gained a reputation for free spending during his four years as governor. He acted out of character for a Republican in other matters, too. He openly opposed capital punishment, declaring he would commute such sentences to life in prison. Hailing from the Yellowstone Park area town of Cody where he once edited the local newspaper (in which he maintained an ownership interest), Simpson was angered by what he believed was poor service and unfair prices set by the Yellowstone concessionaire chosen by the National Park Service.  He asked the legislature to authorize state purchase of the Yellowstone concessions. The tourism industry was uncomfortable with Simpson's radical plan and the legislature refused to let this experiment in socialism proceed. Instead, legislators opted for increased state outlays for the Wyoming Travel Commission so that the agency could attract more tourists for longer stays.   

     In the view of some observers, Simpson lost in 1958 because he had become mired down in a dispute over where the proposed interstate highways would intersect in northern Wyoming. When he opted not to overrule the "non-partisan" state highway department's proposal favoring a location near Buffalo, he angered Sheridan County voters who sat out the fall election. The balance was tipped toward Hickey who proved to be more fiscally conservative than Simpson and equally defiant of federal government "interference."

            The most celebrated non-issue of Hickey's administration was the media-charged demand from federal highway officials that Wyoming's highways be striped with white paint instead of the traditional yellow.  In a larger symbolic display of state's rights, the Wyoming legislature ordered state highway officials not to comply, even at the risk of losing federal highway funds. The issue was eventually settled quietly.

            Like the senatorial election of 1954, the 1960 race was memorable for tragedy. Senator O'Mahoney did not seek another term. Republicans nominated 42-year-old congressman Keith Thomson, a journalist and lawyer by training, who defeated a Casper lawyer in the November general election. Wyoming Republicans, disappointed with the election of young John F. Kennedy to the presidency, felt some consolation with young Thomson's victory. They prophesied that, with any luck, he could, by his mid-70s, challenge Warren's senatorial longevity mark.

            Barely two weeks after the general election, Thomson, on vacation near Cody, was stricken by a heart attack and died. He had not yet even been sworn into office. In a move that some observers believe brought decades-long disaster to the Democratic Party, Governor Hickey resigned from his office, allowing his fellow Democrat Secretary of State Jack Gage, to become acting governor. Gage then appointed Hickey to serve out the two years in the U. S. Senate until an election could be held. The move angered Republicans who characterized the act as tantamount to electoral theft.

            On December 26, 1960, before Hickey was sworn in to the Senate and less than a month before John F. Kennedy was to be inaugurated, Democratic power broker Tracy McCraken died of a heart attack at a ranch west of Cheyenne. (Hickey later claimed that he intended to appoint McCraken to the vacant Senate seat and his own appointment was necessitated by the publisher's untimely death). Two months before the election, old Republican king maker Griffith had died, bringing to an end the "game" of personality politics he had so ably played for a generation against his old rival McCraken.

            Wyoming, at the end of the decade of the 1950s, still was home to numerous small independent oil companies, many having offices in Casper. Refineries operated in numerous Wyoming towns, including Casper (3), Cheyenne, Newcastle, Thermopolis, Cody, Lusk, and Sinclair. Multi-national oil companies had regional offices in Wyoming's oil capital. Tourism thrived throughout the decade as the National Park Service initiated "Mission 66" with the goal of improving the parks by the middle of the following decade. Automobile traffic to Yellowstone broke records annually. Both political parties enjoyed periods of success during the decade although both suffered tragedies from the untimely deaths of party leaders. Agriculture throughout much of Wyoming suffered from drought conditions in the middle 1950s and ranch consolidation, already starting in the 1940s, accelerated. In education, many of the state's school districts were consolidated and country schools closed in most parts of the state. The University of Wyoming remained the only four-year institution, but community colleges established after the war in Casper, Powell, Sheridan and Torrington continued to grow. (Western Wyoming College at Rock Springs was founded in the fall of 1959 and, later, community colleges were formed at Riverton and Cheyenne).

              The decade of the 1950s that began with grasshopper infestations in many parts of the north and the decline in importance of coal, ended with a severe earthquake rocking Yellowstone National Park on August 17, 1959; the first Atlas missiles being loaded into missile silos in the Cheyenne area; trading stamps prohibited by legislative act; and the Whitney Gallery of Western Art dedicated in Cody. The 1960 census revealed that Wyoming had a population of 330,066--an increase of 40,000 since 1950.

            On April 6, 1960, the statue of Esther Hobart Morris was unveiled in Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol, becoming the first of two people from Wyoming to be so honored. Speakers at the dedication remarked favorably on Wyoming's role in women suffrage and expressed optimism for the state's continuing growth and development in the new decade of the 1960s. But the next decade would prove to be far more stormy than the silent 1950s.

* Segments of this chapter are adapted from an article on media in Wyoming that appeared in Richard Lowitt, (ed.) Politics in the Post-War American West. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1995).

                [1]It could be argued that families who own large ranches occupy near feudal status in some communities. In the territorial and early statehood period, the Wyoming Stock Growers Association wielded significant influence over state affairs. The "three Grand Old Men" of Wyoming politics, Francis E. Warren, Joseph M. Carey and John B. Kendrick, were all association stalwarts. Members of the organization continued to hold a disproportionate number of seats in the state legislature until recent years. For the connection between the association and state politics, see Agnes Wright Spring. 70 Years Cow Country. (Cheyenne: WSGA, 1940).

                [2]Adherents of the LDS (Mormon) faith predominate in some areas in the extreme western part of the state and the Big Horn Basin. While Mormons have been elected to the state legislature, there have been no Mormons elected to the governorship or to any of the congressional offices.

                [3] For the national implications of these policies, see Donald Pisani, From Family Farm to Agribusiness. (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1990).

                [4] For anecdotal evidence of this, see Niobrara: Our Neighbors. (Lusk: Niobrara County Historical Society, 1985), along with other “county histories.”

                [5] For a concise portrait of one of these uranium boomtowns, see John Egan, “Home on the Range No More: The Boom and Bust of Jeffrey City,” in Phil Roberts, ed. Readings in Wyoming History. (Laramie: Skyline West, 1993).

                [6] The author is indebted to his father, the late Les Roberts, former town treasurer of Medicine Bow, for comments on the relationships between bankers and ranchers in the 1950s.

                [7]Known as the Challenger 3985, the last engine was fired up again at Cheyenne in 1981. It had been rebuilt by local railroad buffs.

                [8]One chain was controlled by Roy and Robert Peck of the Riverton Ranger.  Roy Peck, an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 1974, died suddenly in Cheyenne in 1982 while he was serving in the State Senate. His brother Robert, also served as State Senator from Fremont County, and continued to operate the family-owned newspaper group until his death in 2007.. A second chain, Sage Publishing Company, was headed by Bruce Kennedy, who was killed in an automobile accident in 1992. The McCraken chain, noted later, is the third Wyoming-controlled group. For additional information on the history of Wyoming newspaper ownership, see Carolyn Tyler, ed. History of Wyoming Newspapers. (Riverton: WPA, 1985).

                [9]Soon after McCraken died, the U. S. Department of Justice instituted anti-trust proceedings against Cheyenne Newspapers, Inc., the family-owned company, charging it with holding a media monopoly in the state's capital city. The firm owned the two daily newspapers, the only television station, the cable television system, and the largest radio station. For more on the litigation, see Peggy Bieber-Roberts, Media Monopoly in Cheyenne. Unpublished M.A. thesis, University of Wyoming, 1985.

                [10]Warren was the last territorial governor and first state governor. Soon after statehood, Warren resigned from the governorship to accept legislative selection to the U. S. Senate.  Unlike many of his "stalwart Republican" colleagues, Warren was able to retain his seat even after the 17th Amendment forced him to seek popular election. Joseph M. Carey, the first U. S. Senator from Wyoming, was an arch-rival of Warren's. When he was rebuffed by Warren's organization for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 1910, Carey accepted the Democratic nomination and won even though he did not officially change his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat.

                [11]T. A. Larson, History of Wyoming. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1965, revised 1978),  542.

                        [12]The Smith administration may have demonstrated the ultimate in personality-driven politics. The handsome rancher who some said "looked like a governor" turned out to be a poor administrator who often acted on the prejudices of others. His manipulations of the University Board of Trustees in an ultimately successful attempt to fire the University President, Arthur G. Crane, cost him politically. An oral history interview of the late Milward Simpson, held in the collections of the Wyoming State Historical Department, provides an interesting look at how Simpson and Smith broke over the issue of Crane’s firing. Milward Simpson, Interview # -- . Interviewed by Jim Garry, n. d.

                [13]Local Democrats, including Kendrick, had simply handed the Wyoming Eagle over to McCraken following a successful campaign when it became apparent that it would be an expensive liability to maintain during the two years until the next election.




Outline: Red Scare and Yellow Stripes: The 1950s in Wyoming


I.  Post-war politics and society in Wyoming

            a. economic prosperity, "urbanization" of small towns, returning veterans

            b. construction booms in housing, schools, public buildings, business

            c. prosperity in the "oil patch," depression in the coal fields

II. The national scene: beginning of the "Cold War"

          a. UW textbook controversy, 1947-1948

b. national "McCarthyism"

c. the campaign of 1952--Joseph C. O'Mahoney defeated for Senate

d. Sen. Lester Hunt's dilemma in 1954; suicide and aftermath

e. O'Mahoney returns to the U. S. Senate, 1954

f.  U. S. Air Force established; Atlas missiles located at Warren Air Force Base 

III. University of Wyoming as a political force in Wyoming

            a. Dr. Arthur G. Crane, acting governor

  b. "big-time" athletics and the 1943 national championship

            c. Duke Humphrey, public television, politics

            d. Tracy McCraken and J. B. Griffith, publishers and political spokesmen

            e. Milward Simpson as governor--millions for UW, elected governor in 1954           

IV. The "Silent '50s"

            a.  Teno Roncalio and Civil Rights Act, 1957

            b.  preservation activities in the 1950s

     i). "rediscovering" the past: Fort Laramie, Fort Bridger, Historical Landmarks Commission

                 ii). formation of Wyoming State Historical Society

                 iii) creation of Wyoming State Archives; UW archives

                 iv). state parks and the Wyoming Recreation Commission

c. Democratic resurgence: Gale McGee, history professor to U. S. Senator, election of 1958

d.  Simpson loses reelection to governorship to Hickey

                   i).  the role of the death penalty and highway location

                   ii). Milward Simpson as "fiscal liberal" in governorship; archconservative in U. S. Senate

e. Joe Hickey and the "yellow stripe" controversy of 1959

V. The End of the 1950s: Political Turmoil and a "Changing of the Guard"

a. Keith Thomson, age 41, runs for U. S. Senate; Tracy McCraken and JFK nomination

b. Thomson's death; the Hickey-Gage arrangement to send Hickey to the U. S. Senate

c.  Thyra Thomson elected Secretary of State; Milward Simpson elected to U. S. Senate

VI.  1950s in Retrospect: Prosperity for Some, Stagnation for Others, Quiet Years for All


Significant Names, Terms

Lester Hunt                           Dr. George "Duke" Humphrey                Joe McCarthy                    

W. Edwards Deming            Dr. T. A. Larson                                        Joseph C. O'Mahoney          Thyra Thomson

 Dr. Gale McGee                   Frank Barrett                                             Clifford Hansen

William R. Coe                       J. J. Hickey                                                Bob Devaney

Milward Simpson                 Keith Thomson                                        "Red" Jacoby