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Senator William E. Borah - "The Lion of Idaho"

"I would sooner lose in a right cause than win in a wrong cause. As long as I can distinguish between right and wrong, I shall do what I believe to be right - whatever the consequences." - William Edgar Borah

When Borah High School opened in 1958 the school was named after Senator William Edgar Borah (June 29, 1865 - January 19, 1940), a prominent Republican attorney and longtime United States Senator from Idaho noted for his oratorical skills and isolationist views. One of his nicknames was "The Lion of Idaho" and is the reason the lion was chosen as Borah High School's mascot.

William E. Borah was born June 29, 1865 near Fairfield, Wayne County, Illinois, one of 10 children in a devout Christian family. Borah's schooling included the Wayne County common schools and the Southern Illinois Academy at Enfield. He entered the University of Kansas in 1885 but was forced to leave after contracting tuberculosis his freshman year. He never returned to school but he studied law and was admitted to the bar in September 1887. After practicing law in Lyons, Kansas, he relocated to Boise, Idaho in 1890, where he eventually became the most prominent attorney in the state. In 1895 he married Mary McConnell, the daughter of Idaho Govenor William J. McConnell.

In the courtroom, Borah had a reputation for both shrewd strategies and forceful oratory. In 1907, shortly after entering the Senate, Borah, as prosecuting attorney, faced Clarence Darrow in the nationally publicized trial of "Big Bill" Haywood and two other radical labor union officials for the 1905 murder of former Idaho Governor Frank Steunenberg.

Borah had a strong interest in politics, beginning with a race for city attorney of Boise which he lost by three votes in 1891. He ran for the United States Senate for the first time in 1902 but was unsuccessful. Running again in 1906 he won the election and was subsequently reelected by the Idaho Legislature in 1912, and four more times by popular vote (1918, 1924, 1930 and 1936). He served from 1907 to 1940, the longest-serving member of the United States Congress in Idaho history.

Borah was a progressive Republican who often had strong differences of opinion with the conservative wing of the party. Borah also had a reputation for being headstrong. When conservative President Calvin Coolidge was told of Borah's fondness for horseback riding, the president is said to have replied, "It's hard to imagine Senator Borah going in the same direction as his horse." Borah was a strong political force in Idaho and the nation. He served on numerous committees in the Senate and was, from 1925 to 1933, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In an attempt to revitalize the progressive wing of the Republican Party, in 1936 Borah ran for President of the United States, becoming the first Idahoan to do so. Borah's candidacy was opposed by the conservative Republican leadership and he managed to win only a handful of delegates.

Throughout his long career Borah remained popular among Idaho voters. While in the Senate he never faced a serious political challenge from either the Republicans or Democrats. Known for his public integrity, eloquent speaking ability, and genuine concern for his constituents, Borah died in Washington, D.C., on January 19, 1940 of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 74. His funeral was held in the Chamber of the United States Senate. He is buried in Morris Hill Cemetery in Boise.

In 1947, the state of Idaho donated a bronze statue of Borah to the National Statuary Hall Collection. Idaho's highest point, Borah Peak (12,662 feet), is named for him, as are two public schools: Borah High School in Boise, and Borah Elementary School in Coeur d'Alene. At the University of Idaho, an annual symposium on foreign affairs, a residence hall, and a theater in the student union building bear his name. William E. Borah Apartment, Windsor Lodge, one of his homes in Washington, D.C., was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1976.

1895: William & Mary Borah shortly after their marriage.

April 6, 1926: First airmail flight from Boise. From left, William E. Borah, Governor H.C. Baldridge, and Boise mayor Walter Hansen.


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