Cal Ramptom leaves a legacy

By By Ana Breton

By Ana Breton

Robert Huefner remembers the caravan of cars driving amid the gusts of dust on the way to Sanpete County. Then-governor of Utah Cal Rampton’s staff, which Huefner was a part of, was heading to Skyline Drive, a connecting road between Carbon and Sanpete counties that had stirred controversy among people in both towns because of its poor, unpaved conditions.

At one point during the drive, Huefner noticed the line of 20 cars had slowed down. Concerned, he looked out his window and saw that in front of the governor’s vehicle (which was leading the caravan of cars), Rampton himself was grabbing large rocks with both hands and flinging them out of the limousine’s way.

“We hoped that by taking this trip, the governor would apply his influence to the road, but never so directly,” said Huefner, who is a retired political science professor from the U. “I just laughed. It was so characteristic of him to take things in his own hands.”

This was just one of many colorful stories Huefner, who was the planning coordinator on Rampton’s staff, remembered about the former three-time governor, who died Sunday night at the age of 93 after a long battle with cancer.

Rampton unsuccessfully ran for governor six times before landing the position in 1964 and serving for three terms afterward. During his time as governor, Rampton, who received a law degree from the U in 1940, focused on sustaining institutions of higher education, including the U.

Huefner said Rampton allocated bonds that helped fund the construction of Orson Spencer Hall, and later Rampton helped solidify the place of the Merrill Engineering Building and the buildings that now house the business and education departments on campus.

“That was a really big deal — a superb accomplishment,” Huefner said. “He had great enthusiasm and support for higher education, especially the U.”

Rampton also appointed the late David Watkiss, his junior law partner for 30 years, as chair of the Fort Douglas area, and ultimately helped prevent that part of campus from being bought by real estate developers who wanted to build mansions on the land, said Dorothy Watkiss, David Watkiss’ wife.

“He did more to defend those buildings than anyone else at that time,” Dorothy Watkiss said. “He did a lot for education. Ask anyone.”

Rampton also helped the U medical school work with other schools around the state in order to make medical school more affordable for potential students, Watkiss said.

Huefner said Rampton also secured the land that now makes up Research Park and part of the This is the Place monument.

“That just goes to show how superb he was at negotiating,” Huefner said. “He preserved (that land) and clearly shaped the future of that part of the university.”

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