Daniel I. J. Thornton

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Dan Thornton
Chair of the National Governors Association
In office
August 2, 1953 – July 11, 1954
Preceded byAllan Shivers
Succeeded byRobert F. Kennon
33rd Governor of Colorado
In office
January 9, 1951 – January 11, 1955
LieutenantGordon L. Allott
Preceded byWalter Walford Johnson
Succeeded byEdwin C. Johnson
Personal details
Born(1911-01-31)January 31, 1911
Hall County, Texas, U.S.
DiedJanuary 18, 1976(1976-01-18) (aged 64)
Carmel, California, U.S.
Resting placeGunnison Cemetery
Gunnison, Colorado
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Jessie Willock
EducationTexas Tech University, Lubbock
University of California, Los Angeles

Daniel Isaac J. "Dan" Thornton (January 31, 1911 – January 18, 1976) was a United States cattle breeder and Republican politician who served as the 33rd Governor of the State of Colorado from 1951 to 1955.


Daniel Isaac J. Thornton was born in Hall County, Texas, on January 31, 1911 and graduated from Lubbock, TX high school in 1929. He was very active in 4-H and was elected President of the Texas 4-H clubs in 1927. Thornton attended (1929-30) Texas Technological College (now Texas Tech University) in Lubbock, attended (1932) University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and received Honorary Doctor's Degrees from Western State College, Gunnison, CO (1951) and Texas Technological College (1953).

He married Jessie Willock, and they remained married until her death in 1972.[1] In 1937, the Thorntons purchased a cattle ranch near Springerville in northeastern Arizona. In 1941, they moved their operation to a ranch in Gunnison County in southern Colorado. The Thorntons developed the Thornton Type, a strain of Hereford cattle. In 1948, Thornton was elected to the Colorado State Senate, a position that he held for only two years before becoming governor.

Political career[edit]

In 1950, Thornton defeated incumbent Democratic Governor Walter Walford Johnson. Thornton was known for his Stetson hat, pipe, and cowboy boots. He served as governor for two then two-year terms. As governor, he was instrumental in developing the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. In 1952 he was one of five people on the short list for consideration of the Republican vice presidential nomination. Dwight D. Eisenhower, like Thornton Texas-born, instead chose Richard Nixon, a freshman U.S. senator from California.[2]

In 1956, Thornton was under discussion for a cabinet appointment. He was the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in Colorado that year, but was narrowly defeated by the Democrat John A. Carroll.[3]

Death and legacy[edit]

Dan Thornton died of a heart attack in Carmel, California, on January 18, 1976, two weeks shy of his 65th birthday.[4][5]

Governor Thornton is the namesake of the City of Thornton outside Denver, Colorado. In 2008, he was listed among the "100 Most Influential People" from Lubbock, as part of the city centennial observation.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Preston, R. L. (February 22, 2007). Stetson, Pipe and Boots - Colorado's Cattleman Governor: A Biography About Dan Thornton. Trafford Publishing. ISBN 9781412239622.
  2. ^ Morris, Roger. Richard Nixon: The Rise of an American Politician. p. 726.
  3. ^ https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=s4laAAAAIBAJ&sjid=eUkDAAAAIBAJ&pg=3943,1371834&dq=dan+thornton&hl=en
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ [2]
  6. ^ "The city's most influential people, March 9, 2008". lubbockonline.com. Retrieved September 3, 2011.

Further reading[edit]

  • American Hereford Journal. Kansas City, Mo.: Hereford Publications.
  • Daniel I. J. Thornton Manuscript Collection. Colorado Historical Society. Denver, Co.
  • Daniel I. J. Thornton Newspaper Clippings Collection. Denver Public Library. Western History Collection. Denver, Co.
  • Gunnison County Stockgrowers Since 1894 : Tops in Cattle. Denver, Co.: Colorado Cattlemen's Association, 1967.
  • Preston, R.L., Ph.D., Stetson, Pipe and Boots, Colorado's Cattleman Governor, A Biography about Dan Thornton, Trafford Publishing, Victoria, B.C., 2006.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
David A. Hamil
Republican nominee for Governor of Colorado
1950, 1952
Succeeded by
Donald G. Brotzman
Preceded by
Eugene Millikin
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Colorado
(Class 3)

Succeeded by
Peter H. Dominick
Political offices
Preceded by
Walter Walford Johnson
Governor of Colorado
Succeeded by
Edwin C. Johnson
Preceded by
Allan Shivers
Chair of the National Governors Association
Succeeded by
Robert F. Kennon