Idaho’s first native born governor grew up on the family ranch near Parma, herding cows and riding horses with other cowboys until he was 18. As much as he loved being a cowboy his sights were set on the statehouse, even as a boy. He would often joke with the hands that they should be proud to be riding with Idaho’s future governor.
Ross went through the sixth grade in Parma, then at 18 he attended business school in Portland and took business classes in Boise. With three years of higher education behind him, C. Ben returned to the ranch in 1897, where he and his brother, W.H. Ross became prominent farmers and stockmen.
Politics never ceased calling to him. He ran for Canyon County commissioner in 1915 and won the seat, running as “the farmers’ friend.” The slogan he used was “The Cow, The Pig, and The Hen.” He held that office until 1921 when he and his family moved to Bannock County to work land he had purchased in the Michaud Flats irrigation district. By that time he had become well-known across the state as one of the founders of the Idaho Farm Bureau. That may account for his astonishingly quick success in politics in his new hometown. He was elected mayor of Pocatello less than two years after moving there.
The mayor brought paved streets and an improved water system to the city, serving as mayor for three terms. He took his first shot at the statehouse in 1928, but was defeated by an old friend from Parma, H.C. Baldridge.
Ross was back running for governor in 1930. This time he took the statehouse. He would be the first Idaho governor to be elected three times in a row, though it should be noted that gubernatorial terms then were just two years.
In 1936 Ross decided to take on popular US Senator William E. Borah. Borah soundly defeated him and “Cowboy Ben” vowed to quit politics. That vow lasted until 1938 when he decided to run for governor again to clear his name. Political foes had called for a special audit of his Bureau of Highways, and he wanted to be vindicated. He won the race in the Democratic primary, but ultimately lost to Republican C.A. Bottolfsen, questions about his past administrative practices dragging him down.
C. Ben Ross retired to his place in Parma where he was struck down by a heart attack in 1939.
Much of the information for this post came from an article by Michael J. Malone in the Winter 1966-1967 Idaho Yesterdays.