Olene S. Walker

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Olene Walker
Olene Walker.JPG
15th Governor of Utah
In office
November 5, 2003 – January 3, 2005
Lieutenant Gayle McKeachnie
Preceded by Mike Leavitt
Succeeded by Jon Huntsman, Jr.
4th Lieutenant Governor of Utah
In office
January 4, 1993 – November 5, 2003
Governor Mike Leavitt
Preceded by W. Val Oveson
Succeeded by Gayle McKeachnie
Personal details
Born Olene Smith
(1930-11-15)November 15, 1930
Ogden, Utah, U.S.
Died November 28, 2015(2015-11-28) (aged 85)
Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Myron Walker
Children 7
Alma mater Brigham Young University, Utah
Stanford University
University of Utah
Religion The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon)

Olene Walker (née Smith; November 15, 1930 – November 28, 2015) was an American politician and Utah's 15th Governor. She was sworn into office on November 5, 2003, shortly before her 73rd birthday, as Utah's first, and, to date, only female governor. She was a member of the Republican Party.

Early life and education[edit]

Walker was born in Ogden, Utah in 1930 to Thomas Ole and Nina (née Hadley) Smith. She received her bachelor's, master's, and doctorate degrees from Brigham Young University, Stanford University, and the University of Utah respectively.[1]

Political career[edit]

Walker's political background includes eight years in the state legislature including a term as Majority Whip. She served as the fourth Lieutenant Governor of Utah for the 10 years prior to becoming governor. She founded the Salt Lake Education Foundation and served as its director. She served as director of the Utah Division of Community Development. She has chaired the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, the Utah State Housing Coordinating Committee, the Governor's Commission on Child Care, and the National Conference of Lieutenant Governors.

She assumed the office of Governor of the State of Utah after previous governor Mike Leavitt was nominated by President George W. Bush to lead the Environmental Protection Agency in 2003. Walker served as governor until the end of Leavitt's term on January 3, 2005.

Shortly after becoming governor, she selected former State Representative Gayle McKeachnie to be her lieutenant governor. Olene Walker was the first female governor to be sworn in by a female Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court, Christine M. Durham.

In a move that caused a degree of controversy within the state, the Utah Republican Party at its convention on May 8, 2004 elected not to place Walker on the ballot for the party primary (held on June 22, 2004), selecting instead Jon Huntsman, Jr. and Nolan Karras as the two potential Republican party candidates for the office of Governor of the State of Utah.

Huntsman went on to win the primary election with more than 66% of the vote. These events effectively ruled out any possibility of Walker being on the ballot in the 2004 general election. Convention delegates defended their choice by claiming that many of the delegates were already pledged to other candidates, because Walker had served only six months as Governor before the party convention.[2]

The Olene S. Walker Institute of Politics & Public Service[edit]

In 2012[3] Walker created the Olene S. Walker Institute of Politics & Public Service to help foster in Weber State University students and the broader community the ideals of public service and political engagement that motivated her decades-long career in Utah politics. The Walker Institute coordinates internships for Weber State University students, holds public forums and debates on public policy issues, and provides leadership and engaged-citizenship workshops for students and the community at large.

Personal life and death[edit]

She was married to Myron Walker; they had seven children and twenty-five grandchildren. Walker was a Latter-day Saint (Mormon). She and her husband served as International Affairs missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in New York City. As of the spring of 2010 she served as the Primary president in the Bloomington 7th Ward on the southside of St. George, Utah.[4]

Olene Walker died of natural causes on November 28, 2015, aged 85.[5]


The State of Utah operates the Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund which seeks to provide affordable housing throughout the state, renovate rural housing, protect tenants from landlords who seek to exploit them, and in other ways provide livable housing options to low income residents of the state.[6]

In May 2010 the Utah County Democratic Party gave Walker its first distinguished service award.[7]


  1. ^ "Current Biography Yearbook". google.ca. Retrieved November 30, 2015. 
  2. ^ "GOP selects Huntsman, Karras". Deseret News. May 9, 2004. 
  3. ^ "Walker Institute | Weber State University". www.weber.edu. Retrieved 2015-11-29. 
  4. ^ Jamshid Askar. "One of A Kind: Former Utah Governor Serves as Primary President", Church News, May 15, 2010.
  5. ^ Dan Harrie (November 28, 2015). "Olene Walker: A Utah original and pioneer is gone". The Salt Lake Tribune. 
  6. ^ "Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund". utah.gov. 
  7. ^ Marc Haddock (May 17, 2010). "Utah County Democrats to honor former GOP Gov. Olene Walker". DeseretNews.com. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Val Oveson
Lieutenant Governor of Utah
Succeeded by
Gayle McKeachnie
Preceded by
Mike Leavitt
Governor of Utah
Succeeded by
Jon Huntsman