Stephen Downey was a prominent Laramie lawyer and legislator who, while serving in the Wyoming Territorial Legislature, played a crucial role in upholding the Woman’s Suffrage Act that had passed a year earlier in 1869. His political career included separate stints as territorial treasurer and auditor in the 1870s, and as Wyoming Territory’s delegate to the United States Congress.
In the 1886 Wyoming Territorial Legislative session – the last one before statehood – Speaker of the House Downey introduced a bill to fund a state university. Downey is therefore often considered to be the “father” of the University of Wyoming. After statehood, Downey served as president of the University of Wyoming’s Board of Trustees between 1891 and 1897.
While managing a political career, Downey continued to practice law. In 1899, he negotiated to gain the possession of an enormous dinosaur the University of Wyoming felt it had claim to—and the effort was eventually successful. Downey’s daughter, June Etta Downey became a professor of philosophy and psychology at the University of Wyoming.