William "Bill" Gustave Larson
July 2, 1904 - March 3, 2001


W. G. "Bill" Larson died Saturday morning, March 3. Born at Oakley, Idaho, July 2, 1904, he was 96 years old. The second son of Charles Gustave Larson of Moltropp, Sweden and Nancy Louisa Perry of Washington, NC, he was named William Gustave. He is survived by his wife of 73 years, Lucy Grace Sorenson, and daughters Nancy Lou Larson, San Francisco and Billie Gay Larson, Washington, D.C.

Union member and labor advocate, local community leader, businessman, life-long Democrat and party leader, state legislator, Salt Lake County Commission Chairman, Chairman of the Governor's Board on Aging, Bill Larson loved politics and public service.

He established a progressive record: he championed rights and protections for working people; he established and expanded facilities and programs for senior citizens; he fought for increased funding of Utah's educational system; he supported improvements to Utah's roads and infrastructure; he pushed measures to protect and improve air and water quality. He believed that the public is entitled to the courteous and competent delivery of services and he worked to make that happen for Utah taxpayers and families.

His active participation in Democratic party politics, beginning in the 1930's, included service as Democratic Legislative Chairman, District Chairman, Committeeman and Delegate. Mr. Larson served as a Delegate to County, State and Democratic National Conventions. He was a member of the Young Democrats and the Jackson Democratic League.

From 1944 to 1956, Mr. Larson represented labor as a member, and later as chairman, of the Joint Labor-Management Committee. In 1946 he won the first of five consecutive elections to the Utah House of Representatives.

Earlier in 1946 he and his wife Lucy opened the Larson Drug at 9057 W. 2700 S, Magna. He was a member of BPOE #85, Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie No. 1760, and a former President of the Magna Lions Club.

In 1951, the Utah House convened with 30 Democrats and 30 Republicans. Mr. Larson was nominated for Speaker of the House by his Democratic colleagues (including Charles Romney, brother of yet-to-be Governor of Michigan George Romney, and Richard Howe, brother of yet-to-be Congressman Alan Howe). Clifton Kerr was nominated by the Republicans. After four days of tie votes, a deal was struck: Mr. Kerr was named Speaker; Mr. Larson was named Co-Speaker and his Party took control of the major and most minor committees. His portrait hangs in the State Capitol Building along with all former Speakers.

From 1951-52, Mr. Larson also served as House Democratic Floor Leader; in 1953, and he was elected Minority Floor Leader. Later, he chaired the Committee on Appropriations and the Committee on Labor and he served as a member of the State Legislative Coordinating Council.

Early in his House career, Mr. Larson was a chief architect of the legislation that provided for the establishment of special improvement districts outside incorporated areas for sewer and water systems. This enabled communities, like Magna, to create locally controlled sewer and water systems. He was instrumental in the final passage of the Firemen and Policemen Pension Act of 1955.

Mr. Larson began his Utah State Senate term in 1958 as a member of the Education Committee, where he fought for the school lunch program and increased state aid to school districts, and sponsored legislation to improve Utah's schools at all academic levels. He was a Democratic Delegate to five Western Conferences on education, highways, health and welfare.

As a Representative and a Senator, Mr. Larson opposed the Right to Work law at every opportunity. He sponsored bills to improve employees' health, working conditions and for workers' rights in industrial accidents. He was an active member and officer of Magna Division #506, Order of Railway Conductors and Brakemen, and he chaired the ORC&B Legislative Committee.

In 1960, Mr. Larson won a seat on the Salt Lake County Commission, the first Democrat and resident from west of Redwood Road to serve in decades. Under his direction, the Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation Department improved facilities and expanded recreational opportunities county-wide. Two years later, he became Chairman of the Commission and directed the modernization of the County Roads & Bridges Department. He knew that many Kennecott employees resided in south Salt Lake County and in Utah County, and he was instrumental in the planning and construction of a new east-west highway connecting with 8400 West which shortened the Bingham commute for hundreds of workers and relieved commuter traffic on Redwood Road and State Street.

After the Salt Lake County Hospital moved its operations from 21st South and State Street to the University of Utah, and during a term when Mr. Larson was not a Commissioner, the Salt Lake County Commission decided that the former hospital site ought to be sold. When Mr. Larson was re-elected to the Commission in 1966, he objected to the sale of this valuable public property and was instrumental in reversing the earlier decision. Instead, it was Mr. Larson's initiative that converted this facility into a public service center for county residents, resulting in significant savings to county taxpayers by obviating the need for constructing new facilities or leasing privately owned properties to house county government offices. Today, this property continues to provide facilities for Salt Lake County residents and stands as a tribute to Mr. Larson's foresight.

In 1966, Mr. Larson traveled with Jack Galavan, General Maxwell Rich, Governor Cal Rampton (and others) to Rome, Italy as a member of Utah's delegation to the Olympic Committee, an important early effort to put Utah on the international skiing map.

As Chairman of the Salt Lake County Commission in the 1960's, Mr. Larson served as Chairman of the Metropolitan Council on Aging. During his tenure, the first Meals on Wheels were served in Salt Lake County and ground was broken for the first senior citizen low cost housing.

As a delegate to the Utah State Bicentennial Governor's Conference on Aging in 1976, Mr. Larson was honored as the Outstanding Senior Citizen of Salt Lake County. Appointed by Governor Scott Matheson to Chair the Governor's Council on Aging, he was able to continue the work he loved. He also served as Chairman of the State Board of Aging. The United States Department of Health and Human Services awarded Mr. Larson a commendation for his work on behalf of the elderly. In 1987, at age 83, he retired from his official duties after double by-pass surgery made it difficult for him to persevere.

An all-round star athlete, Mr. Larson led the Oakley High School basketball team to the 1923 State Championships and was named All-State Center. After graduation he hired on at U.S. Mining Company's Highland Boy Mine as a miner and a basketball player. In 1924, he signed on with Utah Cooper at the Bingham open pit mine and continued playing ball.

In 1925, the Utah Apex Mine started an athletic program and joined the Utah Copper League (other teams were Magna Mill, Arthur Mill and Bingham Mine). Mr. Larson was the first athlete hired by Apex. In 1926, the Apex basketball team won the Industrial League championship, and then traveled by train to Kansas City for the National Finals.

Bill Larson and Lucy Sorenson were introduced at Bingham in the spring of 1926, before Bill took the field for a baseball game. They were married Dec. 14, 1927, in the Salt Lake City and County Building. The couple's first apartment was in Bingham; they moved to Magna in 1928.

In August 1929, copper mills throughout the area closed down and Mr. Larson got a job with the Utah State Road Commission. In 1936 the Bingham Mine reopened as the Kennecott Copper Corporation and he returned to work at the Arthur Mill.

Throughout his political career, Mr. Larson took "leave of absence" from Kennecott Copper Corp. whenever appropriate or necessary. He retired from KCC in 1965.

Mr. Larson's brother Charles Edwin "Ed" died in 1992 at Milford, Utah; Daniel Perry "Pete" died in 1973 at Mt. Vernon, Washington.

Friends may call Monday March 5, at Peel Funeral Home, 8525 W. 2700 S. 6-8 p.m. and at the church one hour prior to services. Services will be held 12 noon Tues. March 6, 2001, at the Magna Stake Center, 3084 S. 8400 W. Interment: Valley View Memorial Park.


This page last updated on April 19, 2012 .