Thursday, April 20, 2017

Educator, Newspaperman, and Rexburg Patriarch Arthur Porter, Jr. [otd 04/20]

Arthur Porter, Jr. as a young man.
Porter family records.
Arthur Porter, Jr. – college professor, businessman, public servant, and religious leader – was born April 20, 1876 in Auckland, New Zealand. Mormon converts, the family moved to Utah in 1885.

Arthur, Jr. grew up there and went on to school at Brigham Young College in Logan. After earning his B.S. degree in 1896, he served as a missionary in Switzerland. While there, he took classes at the University of Geneva.

Even a minimal summary of Porter's multiple careers describes a life of incredible activity and achievement. He first taught in Utah and then in Preston, Idaho. However, in 1902, he began his long association with Rexburg and what is today Brigham Young University-Idaho (BYU-Idaho). At what was then Ricks Academy, he started out teaching mathematics and geography, as well as vocal music.

Starting with the 1905 school year, Porter was assigned to teach science classes: physics, chemistry, physiology, geology, and botany. Five years later, he added geometry and German to his teaching load. However, after one year of that, he was allowed to teach just German. Before his resignation from the full-time faculty over a decade later, in 1916, he also taught theology.

Off and on for another dozen years he taught there part-time. That included the period when the Academy became Ricks Normal College (in 1918) and then just Ricks College five years later. During this period, the school weathered a storm when the church closed many academies as a cost-cutting measure. Because it offered a wide range of college-level classes, Ricks escaped the axe. Porter was among those who argued for the school’s continuance. He would be heavily involved in the non-teaching affairs of the College for many, many years.

Arthur got his introduction to the newspaper business during his brief sojourn in Preston. He was a partner in running the Preston Standard. Porter sold his interest when he moved his family to Rexburg. Then, in 1908, he purchased a Rexburg newspaper that he would continue to publish for over forty years. Porter also owned farm property and engaged in extensive real estate activities. For a time, one of his companies owned a Rexburg hotel.
Arthur Porter with grandchildren, ca. 1947. Porter family records.

Porter's sense of civic duty led him into public service. Over the next half century he would: lead innumerable county and city committees and associations, serve six years on the Rexburg city council then later six years as mayor, serve two terms in the state House of Representatives, and end with four years as county Superintendent of Schools. He closed his public career only after a failed bid for a state Senate seat in 1954, when he was seventy-eight years old.

As if all that weren't enough, Porter remained very active in the LDS church for most of his life, as: missionary, Sunday school superintendent, stake Counselor, LDS hospital board member, and frequent and long-term committee member or leader.

Arthur Porter, Jr. died at the end of 1967. Rexburg's Porter Park is named in his honor, as well as the Arthur Porter Room (Special Collections) at BYU-Idaho.
References: [French]
David L. Crowder, Arthur Porter Jr., Community Builder, Man of Vision, Arnold Press, Rexburg, Idaho (© David L. Crowder, 1986).
David L. Crowder, The Spirit of Ricks: A History of Ricks College, Ricks College Press, Rexburg, Idaho (1997).
John Powell (ed), "Arthur Porter, Jr. Papers," Arthur Porter Special Collections, Brigham Young University - Idaho, Rexburg (2003)


  1. Thank you for this post! I am a Wolf Scout leader here in town and I enjoyed teaching my boys about Porter Park today!

  2. Thank you for visiting my blog. Glad you found the information useful. Arthur, Jr was an amazing fellow. What he managed to accomplish in his life was staggering ... something I could only hint at in a blog article.