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Scott M. Matheson

Gov. Scott M. Matheson

  • January 3, 1977 - January 7, 1985
  • Democrat
  • January 8, 1920
  • October 7, 1990
  • Illinois
  • University of Utah; Stanford School of Law
  • Married Norma Louise Warenski; four children
  • NGA Chair


SCOTT M. MATHESON was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1929. He soon moved with his family to Parowan, Utah, and, when he was five years old, to Salt Lake City, where his father became Assistant U.S. Attorney for Utah. Matheson graduated from Salt Lake City’s East High School in 1946, from the University of Utah in 1950 with a degree in political science, and from Stanford Law School in 1952. Following his graduation from law school, Matheson practiced law for several years in Cedar City, Utah. In the mid-1950s he moved to Salt Lake City and became Deputy Salt Lake County Attorney. He joined the legal department of the Union Pacific Railroad Company in 1958 and, except for a three-year period from 1969 to 1971 when he was assistant general counsel for the Anaconda Copper Company, remained there until 1976, when he was elected Governor of Utah. A popular governor, in 1980 Matheson was elected to a second term. He did not seek a third term, instead moving into private law practice in Salt Lake City. Matheson enjoyed the mechanics of government, had a penchant for the details and forms of governmental relations, was a skilled administrator, and was often characterized as a “technician governor.” As governor, Matheson dealt with a number of important issues. As the increasing importance of outside forces became more evident, whether they were federal government agencies, national energy companies, or powerful regional interests, he tried, more than had his predecessors, to achieve some control over Utah’s affairs. He advocated an alliance between government and the corporate community to encourage growth and the development in particular of Utah’s mineral resources, and he worked closely with major corporations and the Western Regional Council, which consisted of top executives from the largest corporations in the interior West and identified itself as a regional equivalent of the National Business Roundtable. Matheson also came to oppose the deployment of the MX missile system in Utah, though he was initially in favor of it; opposed the transportation of wet eye nerve gas from Colorado to Utah’s Tooele Army Depot; supported the Central Utah Project; and initiated “Project Bold,” a proposal for land exchanges between the federal and state governments. While governor he chaired the National Governors Association, served on the federal government’s Intergovernmental Task Force on Water Policy, and chaired the Four Corners Regional Commission and the Western Governors’ Policy Office. Matheson died of cancer at the age of sixty-one.


Directory of Governors of the American States, Territories, and Commonwealths, National Governors Association, 1984.

Official Website for Utah Government

Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

Utah History Research Center

Utah History Encyclopedia

“Cancer Claims Life of Former Governor Scott Matheson,” Deseret News, October 8, 1990, p. A1 (includes timeline); “Scott Matheson, Ex-Governor, Dies of Cancer,” Salt Lake Tribune, October 8, 1990, p. A1].


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