J. Howard Edmondson

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J. Howard Edmondson
United States Senator
from Oklahoma
In office
January 7, 1963 – November 3, 1964
Appointed byGeorge Nigh
Preceded byRobert S. Kerr
Succeeded byFred R. Harris
16th Governor of Oklahoma
In office
January 12, 1959 – January 6, 1963
LieutenantGeorge Nigh
Preceded byRaymond D. Gary
Succeeded byGeorge Nigh
Personal details
James Howard Edmondson

(1925-09-27)September 27, 1925
Muskogee, Oklahoma, U.S.
DiedNovember 17, 1971(1971-11-17) (aged 46)
Edmond, Oklahoma, U.S.
Resting placeMemorial Park Cemetery
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Jeanette Bartleson
ParentsEdward A. Edmondson Esther Pullen Edmondson
Alma materUniversity of Oklahoma
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
Years of service1942-1945
UnitUnited States Army Air Forces
Battles/warsWorld War II

James Howard Edmondson (September 27, 1925 – November 17, 1971) was an American politician from the U.S. state of Oklahoma. He served as the 16th governor of Oklahoma from 1959 to 1963, and an appointed United States Senator from Oklahoma from 1963 to 1964, ousted by voters who elected Fred R. Harris in a special election for the U.S. Senate. Elected Governor at the age of 33, Edmondson is still the youngest governor in the history of the state.[1]

Prior to serving as governor, Edmondson practiced law in Muskogee, Oklahoma, worked as the chief prosecutor of the Tulsa County attorney, and successfully campaigned to become the county attorney in 1954 and 1956.

Early life and career[edit]

Edmondson was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, attended elementary and secondary schools there and enrolled in the University of Oklahoma after high school graduation.[2] He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces in March 1942, and served until December 5, 1945. He returned to the University, was married to his childhood sweetheart, Jeanette Bartleson, in May 1946,[2] and completed his law degree in August 1948.[2] He had a son, James, Jr., and two daughters, Jeanne and Patricia.

After practicing law in Muskogee, Edmondson moved to Tulsa to become the chief prosecutor in the office of the county attorney of Tulsa County. He was elected county attorney in 1954 and was re-elected in 1956.

As governor, Edmondson helped to establish a state merit system and central purchasing, but failed in his attempt to transfer control of county road funds to the Oklahoma Department of Highways. He resigned in the final weeks of his gubernatorial term and was appointed to the United States Senate, where he was defeated by Fred Harris in his campaign for election to the seat. He later practiced law after leaving elective office and died of a heart attack and is buried in Oklahoma City.

Governor of Oklahoma[edit]

Edmondson was inaugurated as governor of Oklahoma on January 12, 1959, after winning the election by the largest majority ever given to a gubernatorial candidate in the state. He ran on a platform of reform, and passed many reforms despite opposition from the legislature during his first two years as governor.[2] He was also committed to a special election to repeal prohibition of the sale of alcohol, and successfully pushed a referendum through the legislature.[3] He was successful in establishing a state merit system and central purchasing, but failed in his attempt to transfer control of county road funds to the Department of Highways.[4]

Appointment and Ouster from U.S. Senate[edit]

Edmondson resigned from office as governor two weeks before the end of his term, on January 6, 1963, and was appointed to the United States Senate to fill the position left vacant by the death of Robert S. Kerr. He served in the Senate until November 1964. He was ousted in a 1964 special election to finish the last two years of the Senate term, defeated in the Democratic primary by Fred R. Harris.


Still a practicing attorney in Oklahoma City, Edmondson died November 17, 1971 of a heart attack in his home.[5][6]


  1. ^ "Governor James H. Edmondson." 100 Years of Oklahoma Governor's. Oklahoma Department of Libraries. Retrieved 10-13-09
  2. ^ a b c d Davis, Billy J. "Edmondson, James Howard (1925-1971)." Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History & Culture. Oklahoma Historical Society. Accessed September 1, 2015.
  3. ^ Franklin, Jimmie L. "Prohibition," Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, Oklahoma Historical Society, Accessed September 1, 2015.
  4. ^ Agnew, Brad. "Twentieth-Century Oklahoma," Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, Oklahoma Historical Society, September 1, 2015.
  5. ^ "Heart Attack Claims J. Howard Edmondson", Lawton Constitiution, Wednesday, November 17, 1971, Lawton, Oklahoma, United States Of America
  6. ^ "J. Howard Edmondson". Oklahoma Governors Since Statehood. Archived from the original on 14 September 2012. Retrieved 21 September 2012.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Raymond D. Gary
Governor of

Succeeded by
George Nigh
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Robert S. Kerr
United States Senator from

Succeeded by
Fred Roy Harris