Saturday, November 19, 2016

Boise Attorney, Businessman, and Education Leader Oliver Haga [otd 11/19]

Attorney Haga. H. T. French photo.
Boise lawyer and education advocate Oliver O. Haga was born November 19, 1872 in Luverne, Minnesota (in the extreme southwestern corner, 25-30 miles east of Sioux Falls, South Dakota).

At the age of twenty, he had a job as school Principal in Wisconsin. In 1894, he graduated from Indiana’s Valparaiso University. (He later received a master’s degree from the school.)

After graduation, he moved to Idaho as the school Principal in Salmon City. He spent two years there, two years in a similar position at Glenns Ferry, and became Principal of Boise High School in 1898. His tenure followed a period of dramatic growth in the Boise student population. In 1894 and then again two years later, Boise City had added new facilities to its system.

For many years, Haga had filled his spare time reading law in local attorneys' offices. During the summers, he traveled East to study in various law schools. Thus, concurrent with his move to Boise, he qualified for the Idaho bar. In time he would earn the right to argue cases in the Supreme courts of Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Indiana, as well as Federal courts in those states … and the U. S. Supreme Court.

In 1901, Oliver resigned from the Boise school to go into the law full time. He joined Judge James H. Richards, a former Boise mayor, in the firm of Richards & Haga. In little more than a decade, Richards & Haga developed a client list that included the Idaho branches of some of the largest financial and investment companies in the United States. Haga himself became a nationally-known authority on irrigation and water law, a hugely important specialty in the arid Western states.

In early 1926, Haga was appointed as one of two Idaho members of the Advisory Commission for the The SesquiCentennial International Exposition. The Exposition, a world’s fair held in Philadelphia, commemorated the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It opened at the end of May, was officially dedicated on July 4th, and ran through November.

Haga developed extensive business and property holdings in the Boise Valley, across southern Idaho, and even into Montana. As a sideline, he became a “gentleman farmer” and rancher in the Boise Valley, where he bred registered shorthorn cattle.
BJC Administration Building, ca 1955.
Albertsons Library Digital Collections.

Haga never lost his interest in education. He had a long tenure on the Boise school board, including several years as board president, and also served on the Board of Trustees of the Idaho Industrial Training School. The Training School was a rehabilitation center for juvenile offenders.

From 1934 through 1939, Haga responded to an educational crisis in his adopted home town: the preservation of the fledgling Boise Junior College. The detailed story is beyond the scope of this blog. To summarize: Oliver not only Chaired the Board of Directors that managed the school, but he also shepherded a “junior college bill” through the legislature. That law, signed in February 1939, provided for more reliable school funding.

Haga passed away in 1943. Eight years later, the BJC Administration Building was designated the Oliver O. Haga Hall, although, the Boise State archives note, it was “rarely called by that name.”
                                                                                                                                      
References: [French], [Hawley], [Illust-State]
Erastus Long Austin, Odell Hauser, The Sesqui-Centennial International Exposition, Reprint Edition, Arno Press, Inc., New York (1976).
Eugene B. Chaffee, Boise College, An Idea Grows, Printing by Syms-York Company, Boise (© Eugene B. Chaffee 1970).

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