I had never heard of this newcomer to Utah who wanted to run for the United States Senate.
It was in 1976 – late March or early April. The phone rang: “This is Orrin Hatch. I would like to meet you. Could you come to my office?
Like most Utahans at the time, I had never heard of Orrin Hatch. But his request sounded like it might involve paid work, and I was a struggling writer/consultant. I jumped on all the work opportunities that presented themselves.
Our meeting took place in his offices in the old Continental Bank building at Second South and Main. He told me he hadn’t lived long in Utah, but was planning to run for the Republican nomination to be a United States senator.
I told him that the candidate had already been well chosen – a classmate of mine from East High who had made a national name for himself in the business world. I asked if he had any campaign money. He said he raised such a low amount that I had a hard time not laughing. I asked if he had a campaign manager.
He named a local television personality who happened to be the wife of his legal partner. I knew she had little or no experience in politics.
We talked for about an hour about issues, politics, campaign strategy, etc. He tentatively offered me a job, but said he couldn’t pay me until the primary in June. I had bills to pay. I declined the conditional offer, telling him that I could not support some of his political positions.
As I got up to leave, Hatch asked what he should do. I told him he had no name recognition in Utah; he needed a major event to gain visibility.
He asked for a suggestion. I told him there was a governor in California named Reagan who appealed to many Utahans. He should try to get Reagan to come to Utah and endorse him.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Rest assured that I take no credit for Ronald Reagan’s appearance at the Capitol Theater a few weeks later. I’m sure someone was working on these arrangements before my conversation with Hatch.
Senator Hatch and I laughed about that encounter years later whenever I visited him in Washington.
Above all, Orrin Hatch was a good man. His values were the values of a good man. He has always put the individual needs of his constituents first.
He literally saved the life of a friend of mine. (No, Hatch was unaware of our friendship.) When my work obligations required me to travel to Washington three or four times a year, Hatch was always available for my quiz sessions, which other elected officials refused to do. He spoke and listened to those who disagreed with his political positions. In most cases, he didn’t see these individuals as inferior, just different.
During one of our last meetings in his Washington office a few decades ago, he insisted on playing a recording of music he had helped create. He was proud of this dimension of his life. And those of us who knew him were proud of the Hatch dimension of our lives.
One of the last times I saw him was waiting for a Pioneer Day parade to start. He was in an open car with Ron McBride, Utah’s outstanding football coach. We spoke briefly.
Clearly, he was not what he had been when we first met decades earlier. But he remembered me. We laughed at the good old days. Then the parade began and his carriage continued on its way.
Orrin Hatch played an important role in the Utah Parade – in the National Parade. I will miss him. He will be missed in Utah. The nation will miss him. Enjoy the music of a meaningful life, Orrin.
Because of people like Orrin Hatch, Don Gale is happy to have made the transition from medicine to journalism almost seven decades ago.