Today's profile centers on one of the single greatest political name discoveries I've made in quite some time. The illustrious named individual above, Nephi United States Centennial Jensen, was a highly regarded Utah attorney, judge and Mormon elder during the first half of the 20th century. While these facts may sound quite paltry in terms of political notoriety, Jensen later served one term in the Utah State House of Representatives during the early 1900s, rightly earning him a place here.
I first discovered Jensen's name (as well as above picture) in a very informative work entitled the History of the Bench and Bar of Utah, which was published in 1913. Throughout this lengthy book were numerous Utah lawyers, attorneys and judges, many of which had political offices to their credit. One of these men was the fellow shown above, listed under the curious name of Nephi U.S.C. Jensen. I soon found that his odd first name was given to him in honor of Nephi, the sixth born son of Lehi, a high ranking prophet in the book of Mormon. After some lengthy searching, I discovered a death certificate for a Nephi United States Centennial Jensen, born in Salt Lake City on February 16, 1876. I compared the date to the one found in the aforementioned Bench and Bar book and found them to be a spot on match! After making this amazing name discovery, I did some jubilant shouting and promptly began work on the article you are now reading!
Nephi U.S.C. Jensen was born of Danish parentage on February 16, 1876 in Salt Lake City, Utah. His parents, Soren and Christine Rasmussen Jensen, had settled in Utah after emigrating from Denmark in 1861. No source mentions why his parents gave him the middle names "United States Centennial", but seeing that the country turned 100 years old in the year of his birth, they must have been seized with a truly patriotic fervor to do so!!
Young Nephi joined the Mormon Church at age eight and is recorded as attending schools local to the Salt Lake City area as well as the Union High School in Montezuma County, Colorado. Jensen continued his education at the Latter Day Saints College in Salt Lake City and later earned his LL.B degree from the University of Chattanooga in 1906. After leaving school in Utah, Jensen went into missionary service, preaching the word of Mormonism throughout the Southern area of the United States. Jensen returned from his religious mission in 1900 and settled in Arizona for a time. It was here that he married Ms. Margaret Fife Smith (1882-1969) on April 9, 1902 and moved back to Utah a short while later. Genealogical websites mention that Nephi and Margaret had at least one son born to them, Paul, who was recorded as being born sometime in 1903.
Jensen was admitted to the Utah bar in February 1906 and in November of that year was elected to his first political office, winning election to the Utah State House of Representatives as a Republican. He took his seat in early January 1907, representing the county of Salt Lake. The Bench and Bar of Utah also mentions his service, stating that he received "the highest vote of any candidate on the ticket." He served in the state house for one term (1907-1909) and a roster of house members from that legislative session has been provided below. Nephi's name is located at the very bottom of the roster.
Jensen took his seat in the legislature in January 1907 and in an interesting anecdote, his arrival in the state house soon caused problems for the compilers of the legislative journal! As the Salt Lake Tribune snippet posted below relates, the legislature passed a motion stating that the lengthy name of Mr. Jensen occupied "too much space in the journal" and " that in the future he be designated as Nephius Jensen". No paper of the time denotes how Jensen reacted to the measure, but I like to think that he and many of his fellow legislators had a good laugh about it!
After leaving the legislature, Jensen continued practicing law, and in 1911 was named as the Assistant Attorney for Salt Lake County. He served in this position until August of 1913, when he resigned and started a joint law practice with another Utah attorney, C.E. Marks, who had previously served as a district court judge in Idaho. A portrait/article on Jensen's resignation from that office appeared on page fourteen of the July 16. 1913 edition of the Salt Lake Tribune and is shown below. For such an obscure individual, Mr. Jensen has had quite a few pictures of himself located in periodicals of the time, much to my great surprise!
The firm of Marks and Jensen became regarded as one of the most successful law firms in Salt Lake, and this partnership lasted until 1919. That year, Jensen felt called to religious work once again and journeyed to Canada to accept the leadership of the Canadian Mission, a project of the Mormon church. His appointment to this position was viewed by the May 1919 edition of the Improvement Era periodical as an excellent choice, remarking that Jensen's "many friends feel that he will make good in the honor that has come to him to found a new mission of the Church." During his leadership Jensen established the mission's base in Toronto and after returning to the United States in the mid 1920s became a well known public speaker on Mormon church affairs, tracts and religious ideals. During the course of research on Mr. Jensen a number of archived newspapers articles were discovered that attest to his popularity as a public speaker. The Improvement Era further illustrates that Jensen was a popular draw during that period, stating that "his ability as a speaker, and his diligence to service of the Church is recognized by all who have heard or known him."
Nephi U.S.C. Jensen as he appeared in the 1919 edition of the Improvement Era.
In an aside note, I have decided to post a part of Nephi United States Centennial Jensen's death certificate, as I have an inkling that no reader will believe that one man could be given so strange a name! Here it is, courtesy of the Utah State Archives website.
A death notice for Jensen that appeared in the Ogden Standard Examiner.
"His Official Record....."