Henry Bellmon

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Henry Bellmon
23rd Governor of Oklahoma
In office
January 12, 1987 – January 14, 1991
Lieutenant Robert S. Kerr III
Preceded by George Nigh
Succeeded by David Walters
United States Senator
from Oklahoma
In office
January 3, 1969 – January 3, 1981
Preceded by A. S. Mike Monroney
Succeeded by Don Nickles
18th Governor of Oklahoma
In office
January 13, 1963 – January 9, 1967
Lieutenant Leo Winters
Preceded by George Nigh
Succeeded by Dewey F. Bartlett
Member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
Born Henry Louis Bellmon
(1921-09-03)September 3, 1921
Tonkawa, Oklahoma
Died September 29, 2009(2009-09-29) (aged 88)
Enid, Oklahoma
Resting place Billings Union Cemetery
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Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Shirley Osborn (1947–2001)
Eloise Morsman Bollenbach (2002–2009)
Alma mater Oklahoma A & M
Occupation farmer, politician
Religion Presbyterianism
Awards Silver Star
Legion of Merit
Military service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1942–1946
Rank First Lieutenant
Battles/wars World War II
Battle of Iwo Jima

Henry Louis Bellmon (September 3, 1921 – September 29, 2009) was an American Republican politician from the U.S. state of Oklahoma. A member of the Oklahoma Legislature, he went on to become both the 18th and 23rd governor of Oklahoma and a two-term United States Senator. He was the first Republican to serve as governor of Oklahoma.

A World War II veteran, Bellmon served a single term in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, before running for governor. After serving in the U.S. Senate, he returned to serve again as governor and was responsible for passing a large education reform package. He died in 2009 after a long struggle with Parkinson's disease.

Early life and career

Bellmon was born in Tonkawa, Oklahoma and graduated from Billings High School in Billings, Oklahoma. He graduated from Oklahoma A & M (now Oklahoma State University) in 1942 with a Bachelor's Degree in agriculture. He was a lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps from 1942 to 1946. He was a tank platoon leader in the Pacific Theater of World War II. He took part in four amphibious landings on Pacific islands, including Iwo Jima.[1] For his service, he was awarded the Legion of Merit and a Silver Star.[2] After the war he returned to farming and took up politics.

Bellmon served a single term in the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1946 to 1948. In January 1947, he married Shirley Osborn, to whom he remained married until her death in 2000. In 1960 he served as the State Republican Party Chairman.

Governor of Oklahoma

Elected in 1962 as Oklahoma's first Republican governor since statehood in 1907, he served his first term from 1963 to 1967. While governor, he served as the chairman of the Interstate Oil Compact Commission and as a member of the executive committee of the National Governor's Association.[3] Under Oklahoma law at the time, a term limit was in place; he was unable to run for a second term.

United States Senate

In 1968, he was serving as the national chairman for Richard Nixon's presidential election campaign, but then decided to run for the U.S. Senate, and won, unseating U.S. Senator A.S. Mike Monroney.[4] In the Democratic landslide of 1974, he managed to be reelected over Congressman Ed Edmondson by a very narrow margin. He did not run for a third term in 1980. During his service in the Senate, he sometimes took moderate positions that put him at odds with the largely conservative Oklahoma Republican Party: he supported Gerald Ford over Ronald Reagan in the 1976 presidential election (even though the state delegation was committed to Reagan);[4] he opposed a constitutional amendment to prohibit forced busing for the purpose of racially desegregating public schools; and he supported the Panama Canal treaty.[5]

In 1976, Bellmon was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.[6]

During his second term he was the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee.[1] He was a co-founder and co-chairman of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.[3] He chose not to run for re-election in 1980[4] and was succeeded by Republican Don Nickles.

Bellmon was appointed the interim director of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services by Governor George Nigh, a Democrat, in 1982.[4]

Return to governor's mansion

In 1986, Oklahoma Republican leaders asked Bellmon if he would consider running for governor again (by this time the term limit provision had been removed). Bellmon agreed to run, and in November, Oklahoma voters returned Bellmon to the Governor's Mansion for a second term and he served from January 12, 1987 to January 14, 1991. During his second tenure as governor he chaired the Southern States Energy Board.

During his second term, Bellmon worked with Democrats in the Oklahoma legislature to pass an educational reform package, House Bill 1017, over the opposition of most Republicans. Bellmon chose not to seek reelection to a third term as governor in 1990, which Bellmon was eligible for, since his two terms in office were nonconsecutive. The Republican candidate to replace him, Bill Price, promised to repeal HB 1017. However, Price was defeated by David Walters,[5] whom Bellmon had defeated four years earlier.

Death penalty

Bellmon is notable for overseeing as Governor both Oklahoma's last pre-Furman execution (when James French was electrocuted in 1966) and its first post-Furman, when Charles Coleman was put to death by lethal injection in 1990.[citation needed]

Later years

Bellmon returned to his agriculture business interests.[7] Bellmon also taught at Oklahoma City University, Central State University, Oklahoma State University, and the University of Oklahoma. Shirley Bellmon died in 2000; Bellmon married a longtime friend, Eloise Bollenbach, in 2002.[4] A March 1, 2009 profile in The Oklahoman reported that he was living with Eloise in Kingfisher, Oklahoma; the article also reported that, despite suffering from Parkinson's disease and a heart ailment, Bellmon was still operating his family farm in Billings.[8]

He was inducted into the Oklahoma CareerTech Hall of Fame posthumously in 2011.


Bellmon died September 29, 2009 in Enid, Oklahoma at the age of 88 after a long battle with Parkinson's disease.[2] He is buried at the Union Cemetery in Billings, Oklahoma.

Henry Bellmon Sustainability Awards

In 2009 Tulsa Southside Rotary Club and Sustainable Tulsa received permission from Bellmon's daughters to name the Henry Bellmon Sustainability Awards after Bellmon.

"Dad loved the land and never tired of teaching us about nature and its beauty and mystery. We hope to honor his legacy by teaching others and continuing to find better ways to live more sustainably with Earth." - Pat Hoerth, Ann McFerron, and Gail Wynne, Henry Bellmon’s daughters

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Hanneman, Carolyn G. "Bellmon, Henry Louis (1921- )". Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History & Culture. Oklahoma Historical Society. Retrieved 2009-03-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Hoberock, Barbara (2009-09-29). "Former governor Henry Bellmon dies". Tulsa World. Retrieved 2009-09-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 Henry Bellmon at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 "Former Oklahoma Gov. Henry Bellmon dies", The Oklahoman, September 29, 2009.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Randy Krehbiel, "State mourns GOP giant: Ex-governor, senator dies at 88", Tulsa World, September 30, 2009.
  6. [1]
  7. Greiner, John (2007-11-04). "Love of the farm shapes Henry Bellmon's life". The Oklahoman. Retrieved 2009-03-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Painter, Bryan (2009-03-01). "Rural upbringing shapes former governor Henry Bellmon's life". The Oklahoman. p. 6. Retrieved 2009-03-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
George Patterson Nigh
Governor of Oklahoma
January 14, 1963 – January 9, 1967
Succeeded by
Dewey F. Bartlett
Preceded by
George Patterson Nigh
Governor of Oklahoma
January 12, 1987 – January 14, 1991
Succeeded by
David Walters
United States Senate
Preceded by
A. S. Mike Monroney
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Oklahoma
1969 – 1981
Served alongside: Fred R. Harris, Dewey F. Bartlett, David L. Boren
Succeeded by
Donald Lee Nickles
Party political offices
Preceded by
Phillip Ferguson
Republican nominee for Governor of Oklahoma
Succeeded by
Dewey F. Bartlett
Preceded by
Tom Daxon
Republican nominee for Governor of Oklahoma
Succeeded by
Bill Price
Preceded by
B. Hayden Crawford
Republican nominee for United States Senator from Oklahoma
(Class 3)

1968 1974
Succeeded by
Don Nickles