|18th and 23rd Governor of Oklahoma|
January 12, 1987 – January 14, 1991
|Lieutenant||Robert S. Kerr III|
|Preceded by||George Nigh|
|Succeeded by||David Walters|
January 14, 1963 – January 9, 1967
|Preceded by||J. Howard Edmondson|
|Succeeded by||Dewey F. Bartlett|
|United States Senator|
January 3, 1969 – January 3, 1981
|Preceded by||Mike Monroney|
|Succeeded by||Don Nickles|
|Member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives|
Henry Louis Bellmon
September 3, 1921
Tonkawa, Oklahoma, U.S.
|Died||September 29, 2009 (aged 88)|
Enid, Oklahoma, U.S.
|Resting place||Billings Union Cemetery|
(m. 1947; died 2000)
Eloise Morsman Bollenbach
|Alma mater||Oklahoma A & M|
|Branch/service||United States Marine Corps|
|Years of service||1942–1946|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
Battle of Iwo Jima
|Awards|| Silver Star|
Legion of Merit
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, mainly in the 1960s and again in the 1980s, as well as a two-term United States Senator in the 1970s. He was the first Republican to serve as Governor of Oklahoma and, after his direct predecessor George Nigh, only the second governor to be reelected.
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. For his service, he was awarded the Legion of Merit and a Silver Star. 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
In 1962, beating the studied journalist and well known constructor Bill Atkinson with 392,316 votes (55.3%), Bellmon became Oklahoma's first Republican governor since statehood in 1907. 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. He was unable to run for reelection in 1966; at the time, Oklahoma did not allow governors to immediately succeed themselves. Republican Dewey F. Bartlett was elected as his successor.
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.
His 1974 contest was far closer and ultimately was resolved by the Senate. On election night, He led Rep. Ed Edmondson by only 3,835 votes. Edmondson challenged the result alleging irregularities in the voting, specifically that Tulsa County did not have levers to allow straight-ticket voting, as required under state law, and that the machines had misleading instructions. The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that there were problems, but Edmondson could not demonstrate that they would have changed the result. Edmondson then appealed to the Senate in January 1975, asking it to take up the challenge. Although the Senate voted to seat Bellmon, this was done without prejudice to the challenge.
The Senate investigated the election and the Rules and Administration Committee voted along party lines on a report that it could not identify who won the election. The full Senate would have to decide how to proceed. Both candidates made their cases on the floor and nine Democrats voted along with all the Republicans to end the challenge and seat Bellmon. Although the Democratic Party had a 62–38 majority, seven Democrats were not in Washington and did not vote.
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); he opposed a constitutional amendment to prohibit forced busing for the purpose of racially desegregating public schools; and he supported the Panama Canal treaty.
During his second term he was the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee. He was a co-founder and co-chairman of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. He chose not to run for re-election in 1980 and was succeeded by Republican Don Nickles.
Return to governorship
As the tenures of Bellmon and his party colleague Bartlett had been followed by four terms of Democratic rule, Oklahoma Republican leaders asked him in 1986, if he would consider running for governor again. Bellmon agreed to run, and he narrowly won the election in November with 431,762 votes (47.5%) over David Walters (405,295; 44.5%). 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. Though the state constitution had been amended in 1966 to allow governors to succeed themselves, Bellmon chose not to seek reelection in 1990. He would have been eligible for a third term, since 8-year lifetime term limits were not enacted until 2010. The Republican candidate to replace him, Bill Price, promised to repeal HB 1017. However, Price was defeated by David Walters, whom Bellmon had defeated four years earlier.
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.
Bellmon returned to his agriculture business interests. 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. 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.
He was inducted into the Oklahoma CareerTech Hall of Fame posthumously in 2011.
Henry Bellmon Sustainability Awards
"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
- Hanneman, Carolyn G. "Bellmon, Henry Louis (1921- )". Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History & Culture. Oklahoma Historical Society. Archived from the original on 2009-01-05. Retrieved 2009-03-01.
- Hoberock, Barbara (2009-09-29). "Former governor Henry Bellmon dies". Tulsa World. Retrieved 2009-09-29.
- Henry Bellmon at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. He also pardoned a killer from the Osage murders despite protest from the Osage tribe.
- "Former Oklahoma Gov. Henry Bellmon dies", The Oklahoman, September 29, 2009.
- "The Election Case of Edmond A. Edmondson v. Henry L. Bellmon of Oklahoma (1976)". United States Senate. Retrieved 2018-08-06.
- "Senator Bellmon Retains His Seat". New York Times. March 5, 1976.
- Randy Krehbiel, "State mourns GOP giant: Ex-governor, senator dies at 88", Tulsa World, September 30, 2009.
- Greiner, John (2007-11-04). "Love of the farm shapes Henry Bellmon's life". The Oklahoman. Retrieved 2009-03-01.
- Painter, Bryan (2009-03-01). "Rural upbringing shapes former governor Henry Bellmon's life". The Oklahoman. p. 6. Retrieved 2009-03-01.
- United States Congress. "Henry Bellmon (id: B000351)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved May 1, 2013.
- "Henry Bellmon". Find a Grave. Retrieved May 1, 2013.
- Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture - Bellmon, Henry
- O-State Stories Oral History Interview with Henry Bellmon, Oklahoma Oral History Research Program
- Voices of Oklahoma interview with Henry Bellmon. First person interview conducted on April 14, 2009, with Henry Bellmon.
- Remembering Henry Bellmon Collection at Oklahoma State University
- Appearances on C-SPAN