Bill Orton

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Bill Orton
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Utah's 3rd district
In office
January 3, 1991 – January 3, 1997
Preceded by Howard C. Nielson
Succeeded by Chris Cannon
Personal details
Born (1948-09-22)September 22, 1948
North Ogden, Weber County
Died April 18, 2009(2009-04-18) (aged 60)
Juab County, Utah
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Jacquelyn
Children Will
Alma mater Brigham Young University
Religion The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon)

William "Bill" Orton (September 22, 1948 – April 18, 2009) was an American Democratic Congressman. He was a member of the United States House of Representatives from Utah from 1991 to 1997.


Early life and education[edit]

Born in North Ogden, Utah, Orton was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He attended Brigham Young University, from which he earned his undergraduate degree and his Juris Doctor. In 1966, he was hired by the Internal Revenue Service, and in 1979, he returned to Utah to set up a private law practice.


In 1990, Orton ran for the open 3rd District seat, his first bid for public office. He defeated Republican Karl Snow by 22 points, a major upset considering that the 3rd, then as now, was reckoned as strongly Republican. He was re-elected in 1992 and 1994. While in the House, Orton served at various times on the Banking, Budget, Small Business, and Foreign Affairs Committees.

Orton was one of the few bright spots for the Democrats when the Republicans took control of the House in the 1994 elections. In a year when many districts far less Republican than Orton's reverted to form (including the Salt Lake City-based 2nd District, traditionally the most Democratic district in the state), Orton won by just over 19 points. The 1994 election left Orton as the only Democrat representing Utah at the federal level.

In the spring of 1996, as he was preparing for his re-election that year, Orton was injured in a freak accident. As he was walking down a tunnel to make a House vote, he was struck from behind by a federal employee who was running behind him.[2]

In 1996, Orton was narrowly defeated by Republican businessman Chris Cannon during his bid for a fourth term. He left Congress as his third term expired in January 1997, and no Democrat would be elected to Congress from Utah again until Jim Matheson's victory in 2000. The Democrats have not seriously contested the 3rd District since then; indeed, no Democrat has crossed the 40 percent mark since Orton's defeat, proving just how Republican this district was. Utah and national political pundits blame Orton's loss on the creation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument without local input.[3][4] [5]

After politics[edit]

Following his departure from Congress, Orton resumed the practice of law and was a member of the legal counsel of the plaintiff in Idaho Potato Growers v. Rubin, a case to Clinton v. City of New York in which the line-item veto was ruled unconstitutional. He also joined Advantage Associates, a consulting firm made up of former politicians. In 2000, Orton unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Michael Leavitt for the governorship.


Orton died in an ATV accident on April 18, 2009, at Little Sahara Recreation Area in Juab County, Utah.[6] Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. ordered flags flown at half-staff on 24 April, the day of Orton's funeral.[7]


  1. ^ Deseret News, 25 April 2009, p. A5
  2. ^ "Orton for governor? Only with the right 'backing'",Deseret News, September 3, 1999.
  3. ^ Davidson, Lee (November 13, 1996). "Utah's Congressional Delegation in Position to Influence Clinton". Deseret News. Retrieved 2009-06-04. 
  4. ^ Bernick Jr., Bob. (September 30, 1996). "Orton, Utah are Expendable in Clinton's Political Game Plan". Deseret News. Retrieved 2009-06-04. 
  5. ^ Davidson, Lee (September 25, 1996). "Orton says He's Alive and Well". Deseret News. Retrieved 2009-06-04. 
  6. ^ Winslow, Ben (April 19, 2009). "Bill Orton dies in accident". Deseret News. Archived from the original on 24 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-04. 
  7. ^ Roche, Lisa Riley (April 25, 2009). "Orton remembered as 'noble public servant'". Deseret News. p. A5. Retrieved 2009-06-04. 

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Howard C. Nielson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Utah's 3rd congressional district

Succeeded by
Chris Cannon