We don’t hear much about Norman B. Willey, Idaho’s second governor. That’s too bad, because it was really on his watch that most of the details of transition from territory to state took place. It was during his term that state agencies were set up and Idaho got its state seal. He served from December 18, 1890 to January 2, 1893. His political career, which included a term on the Idaho County school board, stints as an Idaho County commissioner and county treasurer, and several terms as a territorial legislator, came to an end when he did not win his party’s nomination for a second term as governor.
Willey had come to Idaho as a miner, and he left the state to become a mine superintendent in California. Things went downhill for him from there. He suffered a string of setbacks. Hearing of his financial situation, the Legislature appropriated $1200 to send to him as something of retirement gift. Then he fell from the public conscious until the headlines read “Former Governor Dies as a Pauper.”
Governor Willey had passed away in a Kansas City poor house after dropping out of sight for a number of years. To add a probably unintentional sting to his ignominious end, the Blackfoot Republican misspelled Norman B. Willey’s name in the announcement of his death. He became “Normal” B. Willey.