Frank and Bethine Church  
  Donor: Forrester Church  

Bethine Church (19 February 1923 - )

Frank Church (25 July 1924 - 7 April 1984)

Bethine Church was born Feb. 19, 1923 to Jean Burnett Clark and Chase Addison Clark, a New Deal Democratic mayor and governor. Clark was one of Franklin Roosevelt’s last appointments as a Federal District Judge.

She met President and Eleanor Roosevelt in 1936 when she was thirteen years old. Her father, then mayor of Idaho Falls, took her to meet them in West Yellowstone. She found Eleanor Roosevelt beautiful, with her blue chiffon scarf tied haphazardly around her hair. They both treated her like a grown-up and an equal. She was thrilled and this moment wedded Bethine forever to politics and the Roosevelts.

Bethine graduated with a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Michigan in 1945. She married Frank Church on the porch of Robinson Bar, the family ranch in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho. They had two sons, Frank Forrest Church IV and Chase Clark Church, both named for their grandfathers. They were blessed with six grandchildren: Frank F. Church V, Nina Wynn Church, Monica Carol Church, Andrew Cecil Church, Jacob Luce, and Nathan Luce.

On Frank’s death, Bethine came home to continue active civic service: appointed by Democratic Governor Cecil Andrus to the State Homecare Task Force; Chair of the Frank Church Institute and newly renamed Frank and Bethine Church chair at Boise State University; became President and Founder of the Sawtooth Society to save from massive development the Sawtooth Recreation Area made law by her husband. For their joint efforts, the Galena Overlook at the Sawtooth’s entrance, has been named for them both.

As the years have gone by, she worked diligently for the establishment of the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial in Boise, on the governing board of the National Wilderness Society, for state and national Democrats, becoming a delegate to the first Clinton Democratic convention and those thereafter, including the 2000 convention in Los Angeles, 40 years after Frank was keynote speaker in Los Angeles for John F. Kennedy.

Bethine has worked with community radio and television. Listed as one of the 100 most influential Idahoans for several years, she has an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Lewis and Clark State College; a Silver Medallion Award, the highest honor from Boise State University; and several Lifetime Achievement Awards, as well as major awards from the Forest Service, celebrating its100th anniversary this year.

It was said of her at one of the award ceremonies that she does not refuse involvement; always makes time for appropriate causes; and is honored for her spirit, courage, and generosity.

Frank and Bethine Church were close and loving partners for 36 years, but they were friends from the time she moved to Boise at age 17 in 1940 when her father became governor.

Frank Church served as an army intelligence officer in India, Burma, and China, enlisting when he was 19 years old and a student at Stanford University. He returned to Stanford after his discharge to receive his B.A. After their marriage on June 21, 1947, he survived cancer his first year of law school, completed his law degree, and became a member of the Idaho Bar the same fall he graduated. After five years of practicing law, he was elected at age 32 to the United States Senate in 1956. It was his first elected office, and he won 3 successive terms, serving a total of 24 years, becoming the first Democratic Senator ever re-elected in Idaho.

When Frank Church became Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1979, it was the fulfillment a life-long ambition. When first elected, he quickly gained the recognition and respect of his colleagues. Lyndon Johnson broke precedence to sponsor him for a seat on the Foreign Relations Committee in 1959, only two years after he came to the Senate.

When at 35, he gave the Keynote Speech, it brought him national recognition. Eloquent in debate, he used this talent to advance his views on many controversial issues over 12 Congresses and six Presidential Administrations. In 1964, Church became one of the first Senators to urge a negotiated settlement of the war in Vietnam. He continued to regard it as a "futile, foolish war."

In 1970, he co-authored the Cooper-Church amendment, which placed the first limits on expansion of the war into Cambodia and Laos.

He was co-chairman of the Senate Special Committee on the Termination of National Emergency Powers. The inquiry led to passage of the National Emergency Act of 1976.

He chaired the Subcommittee on Multinational Corporations, the only serious Congressional effort ever undertaken to probe instances of improper interference by some of the largest American corporations in the internal affairs of other countries.

Frank Church also chaired the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Activities, which investigated and exposed un-lawful activities of the CIA, the FBI, and other federal intelligence agencies.

Senator Church, with Bethine at his side, ran in the 1976 Presidential campaign. Church won four Democratic primaries—in Nebraska, Idaho, Oregon, and Montana—against the front-runner, Jimmy Carter.

During his tenure in the Senate, he advocated a strong and independent Israel, when the Camp David Accords produced the break-through peace agreement between Israel and Egypt in 1979. Church helped to see that the agreement was fully underwritten by Congressional authorization of peace-keeping funds.

When the Panama Canal treaties came before the Senate in 1979, Church led the debate for their ratification, despite their unpopularity in Idaho. Again, because of his conviction that the treaties were essential, he assumed the political risk at home in the interests of the country.

When President Carter recognized the People's Republic of China in 1978, Church amended the Taiwan Relations Act to protect the legitimate concerns of Taiwan, guiding the legislation through the Senate.

He was a determined advocate of nuclear arms control.

A major interest during Church's Senate career was the environment. The Senator was an outspoken conservationist long before environmental issues became a focal point of national interest. He was a father of the National Wilderness System and the author of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the Sawtooth and Hells Canyon National Recreation Areas, and the River of No Return Wilderness Area, the largest in the country outside Alaska at the time and renamed the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness when he was dying.

He is also remembered for his notable work on behalf of the elderly. Serving for nearly ten years as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Aging, Frank Church sought to improve the condition of life for older Americans. It was his amendment in 1972 that established automatic annual adjustments in Social Security bene¬fits. In 1978, he secured Senate approval of another amendment exempting from taxation up to $100,000 in capital gains from home sales by older persons preparing for their retirement.

After leaving the Senate in 1981, Church joined the New York law firm of Whitman and Ransom, specializing in international law in the firm's Washington, D.C., office. He continued to write articles on foreign policy. He was outspoken against the “Imperial Presidency.”

The Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute is solely responsible for biographical content included in the Remembering Greatness interactive exhibit.