Haven Barlow used to joke that he would retire from the Utah Legislature when someone could beat him at tennis.
Barlow served in the body for 42 years — Utah’s longest-serving legislator. It is unclear if he ever lost that match.
Barlow, who died Sunday, just a few weeks after his 100th birthday, was remembered by his friends and former colleagues as a statesman, a man of his word and a champion for education.
“There has never been a legislator who has done more for the education of the children of Utah than Haven Barlow,” said former Senate President Lane Beattie, who considered Barlow a mentor.
Barlow was instrumental in establishing the Davis Applied Technology Center, was considered the “Father of Technical Education in the state, according to Sen. Ann Millner, and helped Weber State University’s transition from a 2-year college to a 4-year university.
“His fingerprints were there,” said Millner, a former Weber State University president. “He was a true Utah statesman and was always committed to doing what was right for the people of Utah.
His advocacy for public education funding continued up through 2019, when he wrote an opinion piece in The Tribune opposing an amendment to the Utah Constitution that sought to change a provision that earmarked income tax revenues to public schools.
“Haven J. Barlow epitomized a dedicated public servant,” Gov. Spencer Cox said in a statement. “We thank him for his many contributions to the state and we offer sincere condolences to all who knew and loved him.”
Barlow was born in Clearfield, Utah, on Jan. 4, 1922. He earned a business degree from Utah State Agricultural College, now Utah State University, and enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II.
He was elected to represent Davis County in the Utah House in 1952 and to the state Senate in 1954, serving in the body until 1994, including six years as president of the body.
His effectiveness as a lawmaker was because he was true to his word, said Richard Carling, who was elected to the Utah House in 1967 and the Senate several years later.
“You could believe him,” Carling said. “If he made an agreement or was talking about how we should do something, you could tell he was doing it because that’s how he really felt. I think he had the highest ethical standards.”
Former Sen. Lyle Hillyard, the third-longest serving legislator behind Barlow, sat next to the Davis County senator for Barlow’s last two years in the body and said he learned much from his seatmate but, despite having played tennis in high school, never was able to beat his mentor.
“I loved it when he’d stand up on the floor of the Senate and say, ‘This is a pretty good bill, but …’” Hillyard said. “You knew he was going to lambaste him.”
Beattie recalled Barlow would have piles of papers on his desk and, while giving floor speeches, would reach deep into the stack and pull out just the right folder. One night, an intern stayed late to organize and alphabetize his files and Barlow was outraged, unable to find anything he needed.
“He was not a senior, he was a sage, and as a young guy who came in as this young president of the Senate, the big advantage I had was I was wise enough to run almost everything past Haven,” said Beattie, whose granddaughter was named after Barlow (although Barlow made clear he believed it should be a boy’s name). “He absolutely was one of the most effective legislators ever.”
Senate President Stuart Adams, who represents a portion of Barlow’s old Davis County district, said that last year, when Barlow’s health was failing, the Senate honored him with a coin commemorating his century of service. Barlow said at the time he was committed to making it to 100 and, “in true form,” followed through.
“What a great life,” Adams said. “We’re all proud and honored to have known him and for the great things he’s done for this state and for the Legislature.”