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Large statue of William E. Borah goes up in front of Boise building which bears his name

A new statue of former Idaho Senator William E. Borah popped in in Boise this week.

The eight-foot-tall bronze statue stands in front of the Borah branch of the US Postal Service at 8th St. and Bannock St. in downtown Boise. The building, the former Federal courthouse for Idaho once housed Borah’s office.

The large statue stands on a bed of concrete with basalt rocks embeded in it. The statue stands facing toward the door of the building, with an overcoat, bow tie and a brimmed hat.

Boise attorney and former Lieutenant Governor David Leroy helped lead the effort to put up the statue.

“Together with a couple of… graduates from Borah High School who are committed to and interested in public statuary, we believe that a comparable figure someplace in Boise would be a very worthy addition to the cultural fabric of the city created by our many monuments around town,” Leroy told BoiseDev

Kay Hardy and Carol MacGregor, PhDjoined with Leroy on the project. The group commissioned Irene Deely, owner of the Woman of Steel gallery.

“We turned to (Deely) to create the very unique figure,” Leroy said. “The redoing of the Borah Post Office plaza gave us a very appropriate site for such a figure. With a proper plaque installed one day, more people will know of Idaho’s most significant and famous historic figure William Borah because of the statue.”

Borah and Idaho

William E. Borah
William E. Borah

Borah, who served in the US Senate as a Republican from Idaho from 1907 through his death in 1940, is the focus of several prominent landmarks in Boise. In addition to the post office and new statue, Borah is the namesake of Borah High School on the Boise Bench. His final resting place bears a prominent marker in the Morris Hill Cemetery.

As a lawyer, Borah helped prosecute the case against Bill Haywood, charged with conspiracy in the assassination of Gov. Frank Steunenberg at his home in Caldwell in 1905. While a jury acquitted Haywood, the trial boosted Borah’s prominence in the US Senate and saw him gain national notoriety. Leroy called Borah the best-known historic figure from Idaho in the first half of the 20th century.

During his more than 30 years in the Senate, Borah served as chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and later as Dean of the Senate. He was known as a ‘progressive Republican’ and often fought against party leaders.

As with many historic figures, Borah’s legacy is complicated, which is addressed throughout his Wikipedia entry.

He gained the nickname the “Lion of Idaho,” which later gave rise to the mascot of Borah High School – the Lions.

A statue of Borah also stands in the US Capitol Visitor Center, and the Architect of the Capitol sometimes rotates it into the building’s Statuary Hall.

Striding toward his office

Borah statue Boise
The Borah statue in front of the Borah building in Boise. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

Leroy said they initially eyed the Ada County Courthouse for the piece, but when the Capital City Development Corp. announced plans to revamp the public areas around the Borah building, it presented an even better location.

“It was an even more obvious choice to work with the state Department of Administration and the governor’s office to locate the statue at its present situation,” he said. “There along with the other four statues – including the bust of Cecil Andrus in Andrus park, it creates a synergy for public historic imagery – with the Lincoln statue, the Lewis & Clark figures and, Steunebuerg all in the same neighborhood.”

The statue is positioned striding confidently toward the door of the building – a route he once took to visit his office inside.

(Thanks, Carolyn, for the tip!)

Don Day - BoiseDev Editor
Don is the founder and publisher of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow. Contact him at [email protected].

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