Famous Mormons: Senator Orrin Hatch

by Molly on December 28, 2010

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch proudly shows everyone who visits him a painting of his great-grandfather, Jeremiah Hatch, entering Utah’s Uintah Basin on horseback. Jeremiah founded what is now Vernal in 1878, and left a great legacy.

Hatch has carried the torch of his great-grandfather’s frontiersman spirit all his life, from his working-class upbringing in Pittsburgh to a successful Utah law practice, and eventually to representing the Beehive State in Washington.

Hatch reached his full height of 6’2” his junior year of high school. His height gave him considerable advantage on his school’s basketball team – but he weighed only 118 pounds. Despite his scrawny build, Hatch became a scrappy boxer and came to pack a jarring punch for a youngster his size. Hatch balanced his athletic pursuits with scholarly discipline and a passion for music. He learned to play the piano, organ, and violin. While in high school, Hatch was elected to the student Senate, and later as student body president.

As a young man, Hatch learned the value of hard work as a metal lather and a card-carrying member of the AFL-CIO. As a student, he struggled to provide for a growing family as a janitor, lather, and all-night desk attendant in a dormitory. He earned a bachelor’s in history from Brigham Young University and a law degree from the University of Pittsburgh.

In 1954, Hatch served a mission for his church to the Great Lakes . After returning, he married Elaine Hansen of Newton, Utah , on August 28, 1957. The two had met in an astronomy class at BYU thanks to an alphabetical seating chart. The two have six children and a growing brood of grand- and great-grandchildren, sometimes called “Hatchlings.”

Orrin Grant Hatch (born March 22, 1934) is a Republican senator from Utah. Hatch served as the chairman or ranking member Senate Judiciary Committee (depending on whether the Republicans controlled the Senate) from 1993 to 2005. He previously served as chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee from 1981 to 1987, and is expected to become the top Republican on the Finance Committee in the 112th United States Congress. Hatch also serves on the Board of Directors for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Hatch was considered for a seat on the Supreme Court during Ronald Reagan’s presidency, and his name was mentioned in the press during the George W. Bush administration as a possible replacement for either William H. Rehnquist or Sandra Day O’Connor.

Although a conservative Republican, Hatch is noted for his willingness to cross party lines to get legislation passed. He notably formed a longstanding legislative partnership with the late Edward M. Kennedy, a liberal Democrat from Massachusetts.

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