Dallin Willard Jensen

June 2, 1932 - September 10, 2017
Service Date:
Thursday, September 21, 2017 6:00 PM
Service Location:
Starks Funeral Parlor

There is no way to do justice to the fine man that Dallin was, but everyone who knew him personally or professionally recognized his remarkable and impressive character.  His contribution to water law has had significant and lasting impact to everyone in the state of Utah.  Dallin was born in Star Valley, Wyoming, the youngest of six children in a rural home before indoor plumbing and electricity.  He learned the value of hard work on the farm, but the prospect of milking cows every morning encouraged him to attend college instead.  In short order, he obtained a Geology degree, served two years in the military, married a marvelous woman who considers herself fortunate, and completed a law degree at the University of Utah with an interest in Water Law.

As Assistant Attorney General, Dallin was assigned to the State Engineer’s Office to administer water rights, where he developed an expertise in natural resources.  In 1971, he argued brilliantly before the United States Supreme Court for the first time, and won the suit for title to the Great Salt Lake and all its valuable minerals (for which the Federal Government had claimed ownership); if it were not for his persuasive arguments, the Great Salt Lake would not belong to the state of Utah!  In 1987, he also persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court that Utah owns title to Utah Lake.  Between these rulings, he and Dick Dewsnup compiled and published the most significant national evaluation of water resources law and policy of the time, A Summary-Digest of State Water Laws, a reference that is still used by law schools today.  On behalf of the state, Dallin fought victoriously for Utah’s rights to its oil, gas, minerals, and water, for water quality standards, and to secure the water allocation needed for everyone in Utah.  He served as Utah Solicitor General from 1983 to 1988, and retired having served a total of 28 years under four governors.

Dallin then joined the law firm of Parsons Behle & Latimer as counsel and shareholder, and practiced in their Environmental, Energy and Natural Resources department.  Among his clients were Kennecott Utah Copper and Barrick Gold Corporation, and he served on many important water-related commissions, including the Board of the Central Utah Water Conservancy District and the Upper Colorado River Commission.  Dallin negotiated complex multi-party water transfers and participated in interstate compact negotiations, involving federal and Indian water right claims, public interest groups and environmental organizations.  He was also an active member of Utah’s Constitutional Revision Commission for 12 years.  By the time he retired, he had been recognized in Best Lawyers in America in the area of Environmental, Natural Resources, and Water Law for 27 years, as well as being named Salt Lake City’s Lawyer of the Year in Energy Law and Natural Resources.

While achieving these professional goals, Dallin was a natural mentor and trusted advisor for his fellow attorneys, helping many to advance in their careers and receive promotions.  His sense of humor and salty language delighted those who were accustomed to the measured approach and calm reason he brought to his job; all remember him fondly.  At home, he was a privately devoted family man, treasured by his wife (Barbara), his daughter (Julie), son (Brad), daughter-in-law (Laura), and granddaughters (Alexandra and Elizabeth).  His extended family benefited from his practical knowledge and skilled helping hands, his simple words of guidance at exactly the right moment, his humorous comments that brought levity, and his ability to make each person feel welcome and valued in his presence.  Dallin died surrounded by family, and he was gracious and charming to the end, an exemplary man.

Friends are invited to honor Dallin’s life on Thursday, September 21, 2017 from 6:00 to 8:00 PM at Starks Funeral Parlor, 3651 South 900 East in Salt Lake City.  Guests are encouraged to use the complimentary valet parking provided on the north side of the building.  Graveside service for the family will be held at 11:00AM on Friday, September 22, 2017 at Salt Lake City Cemetery, 4th Avenue and “N” Street.  Condolences may be offered to the family at www.starksfuneral.com where a tribute video slideshow may be viewed. 


The family is deeply grateful for the exceptional care provided by the Huntsman Cancer Institute’s doctors and staff.  In lieu of flowers, please consider donating in his name to the Huntsman Cancer Foundation.