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29th Governor of
California, January 2, 1939 - January 4, 1943

Born:† November 7, 1876, near Fillmore in Utah Territory

Died:† April 13, 1962, in Los Angeles, California

Marriage:† Kate Jeremy (1905), 3 sons


When Culbert Olson, a Democrat, took office as governor in 1939, he followed a long line of Republican governors. Not since 1899 had there been a Democrat in the governorís chair.


Early Life

Culbert was born in Utah Territory. He learned about politics early when his mother, Delilah King Olsen, became the first woman to be elected to a public office in Utah. While he was in school, Culbert worked on a farm, in construction, for the railroad, and as a Western Union telegraph operator. After two years at Brigham Young University, he did newspaper work for the Ogden Standard. He continued his education in Washington, D.C., at Columbian University Law School (later George Washington University), earning a Bachelor of Laws in 1901. While in Washington he worked as secretary for Congressman William H. King, his cousin.



Olson began his law practice in Salt Lake City, where he soon became involved in other business ventures and in civic affairs. He was elected to the Utah Senate in 1916, but moved to Los Angeles in 1920. There he worked to revitalize the Democratic party. In 1934 he was the successful Democratic candidate for a State Senate seat and went on to win the governorís office in the 1938 election.



Olson, 62 years old, started his term as governor in poor health. Problems of unemployment and social unrest continued, and the Republican-controlled legislature did not support much of Olsonís program of relief. Several groups mounted recall movements against Olson, but he remained in office. During Olsonís term the U.S. was attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, and defense issues became an added source of concern. A state guard was established to defend the coast. One positive aspect of Olsonís term was the creation of the California Youth Authority in 1941.


Later Years

When his term ended, Olson went back to his law practice in Los Angeles where he kept active in the Democratic party, though his power diminished. His health continued to be poor, and he died in a rest home in Los Angeles at the age of 85.


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