Ralph R. Harding

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Ralph R. Harding was a former congressman from eastern Idaho. He was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

When Mrs. John F. Kennedy began collecting first editions for a White House Library, Harding and his wife decided to present President and Mrs. Kennedy with the 1830 first-edition copy of the Book of Mormon, which they bought in 1949. Then representative Harding presented the book to President Kennedy in the Rose Garden in August 1962. He also gave a brief history of the book and the Church. (Church News, September 8, 1962).

Harding was born on September 9, 1929, in Malad City, Idaho. He served a full-time mission for the Church and then served in the Korean conflict in the U.S. Army from 1951 to 1953. He then graduated from Brigham Young University in 1956.

During his last year of college, he served in the Idaho state legislature. He ran as a Democrat against incumbent Hamer Budge for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and won with a 51.1 percent. He was reelected for a second term but was defeated for a third term, possibly because he criticized Ezra Taft Benson for being a “spokesman for the radical right of this nation” with his support for the John Birch Society.[1] Benson was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at the time, and Harding’s congressional district was largely populated by members of the Church.

Harding then served as a special assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force, and in 1966 sought election to the U.S. Senate. He won the Democratic nomination but was defeated in the general election. He also lost in his bid to regain his congressional seat in 1978.

He then worked on an assortment of business ventures. Harding and baseball hall of famer Harmon Killebrew co-founded the Killebrew-Thompson Memorial, formerly the Danny Thompson Memorial Golf Tournament, in 1977. The tournament is held annually in Sun Valley (Idaho) in late August to benefit leukemia and cancer research at St. Luke's Mountain States Tumor Institute in Idaho and Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota.[2]

Harding died on October 26, 2006, in Blackfoot, Idaho. He and his wife, Wilhelmina Conrad Harding, were the parents of five children.