Arthur Vivian Watkins

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Arthur Vivian Watkins
Arthur Vivian Watkins.jpg
United States Senator
from Utah
In office
January 3, 1947 – January 3, 1959
Preceded by Abe Murdock
Succeeded by Frank E. Moss
Personal details
Born (1886-12-18)December 18, 1886
Midway, Utah
Died September 1, 1973(1973-09-01) (aged 86)
Orem, Utah
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Andrea Rich
Children 7
Alma mater Brigham Young University
New York University
Columbia University Law School
Religion The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon)

Arthur Vivian Watkins (December 18, 1886 – September 1, 1973) was a Republican U.S. Senator from 1947 to 1959. He was influential as a proponent of terminating federal recognition of American Indian tribes. He also chaired the Watkins Committee in 1954.


Watkins was born in Midway, Wasatch County, Utah to Arthur Watkins (1864-1959) and Emily Adelia Gerber (1864-1947). He was the eldest of 9 siblings. He attended Brigham Young University (BYU) from 1903 to 1906, and New York University (NYU) from 1909 to 1910. He graduated from Columbia University Law School in 1912, and returned to Utah. There he was admitted to the bar the same year and commenced practice in Vernal, Utah.

He engaged in newspaper work in 1914 (The Voice of Sharon, which eventually became the Orem-Geneva Times, a weekly newspaper in Utah County.) In 1914 Watkins was appointed assistant county attorney of Salt Lake County. He engaged in agricultural pursuits 1919-1925 with a 600 acre (2.4 km²) ranch near Lehi.

Watkins served as district judge of the Fourth Judicial District of Utah 1928-1933, losing his position in the Roosevelt Democratic landslide in 1932. An unsuccessful candidate for the Republican nomination to the Seventy-fifth Congress in 1936, Watkins was elected as a Republican to the United States Senate in 1946, and reelected in 1952. He served from January 3, 1947, to January 3, 1959. Watkins was an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), the most influential church in Utah. He worked as an LDS missionary in the Eastern States Mission from 1907–1910 and as President of the Sharon LDS Stake in Orem, Utah for 16 years.

The Watkins Committee[edit]

In 1954, Watkins chaired the committee that investigated the actions of Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy to determine whether his conduct as Senator merited censure. As Chairman, Watkins barred television cameras from the hearings, and insisted that McCarthy conform to Senate protocol. When McCarthy appeared before the Watkins committee in September 1954 and started to attack Watkins, the latter had McCarthy expelled from the room.

The committee recommended censure of Senator McCarthy. Initially, the committee proposed to censure McCarthy over his attack on General Ralph Zwicker and various Senators, but Watkins had the charge of censure for the attack on General Zwicker dropped. The censure charges related only to McCarthy's attacks on other Senators, and excluded from criticism McCarthy's attacks on those outside of the Senate.

McCarthy's anti-communist rhetoric was popular with Utah's electorate, however. Former Utah Governor J. Bracken Lee took the opportunity in 1958 to oppose Watkins for the nomination in the senatorial election. Though Watkins won the Republican primary, Lee ran as an independent in the general election. This caused a split in the Republican vote and allowed Democrat Frank E. Moss to win the seat. Lee went on to a long career as mayor of Salt Lake City. Moss served three terms in the Senate, losing to Republican Orrin Hatch in 1976.

Indian Affairs[edit]

Watkins served as chair of the Senate Interior Committee Subcommittee on Indian Affairs. He advocated termination of Indian Tribal Entities, in the belief that it was better for tribal members to be integrated into the rest of American life. He believed that they were ill-served by depending on the federal government for too many services.

Watkins' termination policy had four fundamental goals:

1. To repeal laws that discriminated against Indians and gave them a different status from other Americans;

2. To disband the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and transfer its duties to other federal and state agencies or to tribes themselves;

3. To end federal supervision of individual Indians; and

4. To end federal supervision and trust responsibilities for Indian tribes.[1]

Watkins called his policy the "freeing of the Indian from wardship status," equating it with the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves during the Civil War. Watkins was the driving force behind termination. His position as chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Indian Affairs gave him tremendous leverage to determine the direction of federal Indian policy. His most important achievement came in 1953, with passage of House Concurrent Resolution No. 108, which stated that termination would be the federal government's ongoing policy. Passage of the resolution did not, in itself, terminate any tribes.

Tribal termination had to be accomplished one tribe at a time by specific legislation. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) began to assemble a list of tribes believed to have developed sufficient economic prosperity to sustain themselves after termination. The list was headed by the Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin. One reason the BIA chose the Menominee was that the tribe had successful forestry and lumbering operations, which the BIA believed could support the tribe economically. Congress passed an act in 1954 that officially called for the termination of the Menominee as a federally recognized Indian tribe.

Termination for the Menominee did not happen immediately. Instead, the 1954 act set in motion a process that would lead to termination. The Menominee were not comfortable with the idea, but they had recently won a case against the government for mismanagement of their forestry enterprises, and the $8.5 million award was tied to their proposed termination. Watkins personally visited the Menominee and said they would be terminated whether they liked it or not, and if they wanted to see their $8.5 million, they had to cooperate with the federal government[citation needed]. The tribal council reluctantly agreed. Many Menominee tribal members believed that it was the intent of Wilkins to have termination be a means to force the loss of rich tribal lands to non-Indians.[2]

To set an example, Watkins pushed for termination of Utah Indian groups, including the Shivwits, Kanosh, Koorsharem, and Indian Peaks Paiutes. Once a people able to travel over the land with freedom and impunity, they were forced to deal with a new set of unfamiliar laws and beliefs. The Paiutes were terminated without their consent, with results that ultimately came to be seen as disastrous to the tribe.[1] The termination policy soon fell out of favor, and after many years of struggle, the Utah Paiutes saw their federal status restored with Public Law 96-227, signed by President Carter on April 3, 1980. On February 17, 1984, President Reagan signed HR 2898, placing 4,770 acres of (relatively low quality) federal land in trust for the Utah Paiutes.

After the Senate[edit]

After Watkins left the Senate, he served as a member of the U.S. Indian Claims Commission from 1959 to 1967. He retired to Salt Lake City, and in 1973, to Orem, Utah.

In 1969 Watkins published a book about his investigation of McCarthy, Enough Rope: The Inside Story of the Censure of Senator Joe McCarthy by his Colleagues: The Controversial Hearings that Signaled the End of a Turbulent Career and a Fearsome Era in American Public Life, (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1969).

A project of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the Arthur V. Watkins Dam north of Ogden, Utah, created Willard Bay off of the Great Salt Lake.

Watkins died in Orem, Utah, on September 1, 1973, and was buried at Eastlawn Memorial Hills cemetery, Orem, Utah County, Utah, on September 3, 1973.

His son, Arthur R. Watkins, was a professor of German at Brigham Young University for more than 25 years, and also served as the dean of foreign languages at BYU.


  1. ^ a b Metcalf, R. Warren (2002). Termination's Legacy: The Discarded Indians of Utah. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. 
  2. ^ Fowler, Verna (2006). "Chapter 1.12: Termination and Restoration". In Tigerman, Kathleen. Wisconsin Indian literature: anthology of native voices. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press. p. 31. ISBN 978-0-299-22064-8. 

Klingaman., William The Encyclopedia of the McCarthy Era, New York : Facts on File, 1996 ISBN 0-8160-3097-9. Menominee Termination and Restoration [1]

External links[edit]

United States Senate
Preceded by
Abe Murdock
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Utah
1947 – 1959
Served alongside: Elbert D. Thomas, Wallace F. Bennett
Succeeded by
Frank E. Moss