Frank & Bethine were two great Americans who led Idaho and the nation with dignity, compassion, and honor. Their legacy is one of public service and they stand as models to us all.
Frank Church was born in Boise, Ada County, Idaho, July 25, 1924. He graduated from Stanford (Calif.) University in 1947 and from Stanford Law School in 1950. During the Second World War he served in the United States Army and was assigned to Military Intelligence in India, Burma, and China in 1942-1946. He was admitted to the bar in 1950 and commenced the practice of law in Boise, Idaho.
He was later elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate in 1956 then reelected in 1962, 1968, and again in 1974 and served from January 3, 1957, to January 3, 1981. He was unsuccessful in his bid for reelection in 1980.
In the Senate, he served as chairman of The Special Committee on Aging, The Special Committee on Termination of National Emergencies, The Select Committee on Government Intelligence Activities, and the Committee on Foreign Relations. He also served on the Committee on the Interior.
He was chosen as the United States delegate to the twenty-first General Assembly of the United Nations. He resumed the practice of law in Washington D.C. until his death on April 7, 1984. He is buried in Morris Hill Cemetery, Boise, Idaho.
“Bethine Church was the daughter of an Idaho governor and later federal judge, and the niece of a U.S. senator. Frank Church was her high school sweetheart and was just 30 years old when he was elected to the Senate in 1956….
…Bethine Church opted not to become a Washington, D.C., widow, but headed home after her husband’s death from pancreatic cancer.
She joined the board of The Wilderness Society, and up to her death was fighting to preserve the majestic White Cloud Mountains north of Sun Valley. (President Obama is under pressure, from Andrus and others, to designate the White Clouds as a national monument.)
Bethine Church also oversaw creation of the Frank Church Institute at Boise State University. She kept up ties to such national Democratic figures as Al Gore and Joe Biden.
And she wrote a book, “A Lifelong Affair: My Passion for People and Politics.”
The book covered everything from her instrumental (and later lamented role) in building the Dworshak Dam, which wrecked a great steelhead fishing stream, to whether she and Frank continued to be intimate during his struggle with cancer. (Answer: A graceful yes.)
It also related Fran Symms’ account of how husband Steve walked out on his wife soon after winning reelection, and how Church’s successor turned up drunk on the Senate floor while fighting the 1986 Simpson-Mazzoli immigration bill.
Frank Church is now acclaimed by historians as one of the 20th century’s greatest Senators, a politician who put himself in harm’s way out of conviction. Symms is seen as an embarrassment.
Bethine Church welcomed BSU visitors to her small, warm home in downtown Boise. She died with family singing Christmas carols at her bedside.”