Ted Schwinden

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Ted Schwinden
19th Governor of Montana
In office
January 5, 1981 – January 2, 1989
Preceded byTom Judge
Succeeded byStan Stephens
23rd Lieutenant Governor of Montana
In office
January 3, 1977 – January 5, 1981
GovernorTom Judge
Preceded byBill Christiansen
Succeeded byGeorge Turman
Personal details
Theodore Schwinden

(1925-08-31)August 31, 1925
Wolf Point, Montana, U.S.
DiedOctober 7, 2023(2023-10-07) (aged 98)
Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Jean Christianson
(m. 1946; died 2007)
Military service
Branch/serviceUnited States Army
Years of service1944–1946
Battles/warsWorld War II

Theodore Schwinden (August 31, 1925 – October 7, 2023) was an American politician. He was the 19th governor of Montana from 1981 to 1989. He had previously served as the 23rd lieutenant governor of Montana and as a member of the Montana House of Representatives.[1]


Theodore Schwinden was born near Wolf Point, Montana, on his family's farm on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation between Wolf Point and Poplar.[2] Schwinden was a valedictorian at his high school.[3] He enlisted in the United States Army and served in both the European and Pacific theaters in World War II. He left the army in 1946.[3] He earned a bachelor's and master's from the University of Montana.[4] He was studying toward a PhD in economics at the University of Minnesota before he had to return to his family farm due to his father's ill health.[5][6][7]


A member of the Democratic Party, Schwinden was elected to the Montana House of Representatives in 1958, defeating Republican incumbent Chris S. Tange to represent Roosevelt County.[8] Schwinden completed two terms in the House but was unsuccessful in his campaign for a third term.[3] He was elected and named to the Legislative Council in 1959. He served as the House minority whip in 1961. In 1965, he was elected president of the Grain Growers Association. In 1969, he was named Commissioner of State Lands by governor Forrest H. Anderson.[3] He was reappointed in 1973 and served until April 1976. Schwinden resigned to campaign for lieutenant governor and was elected the 23rd lieutenant governor of Montana, serving under Governor Thomas Lee Judge.[9] He served as lieutenant governor from 1977 to 1981.[10]

Schwinden defeated Judge in the Democratic primary in 1980. He then beat Republican Jack Ramirez in that year's gubernatorial election to become the 19th governor of Montana.[11][12][13] He was re-elected governor in 1984, getting the victory over State Senator Pat M. Goodover.[13] Hallmarks of Schwinden's governorship were his "Build Montana" economic plan and popular traveling "Capital for a Day" events, and was known for leading Montana through its economic difficulties.[2][13] He took pride in being what he felt was a governor who maintained an open and attentive approach to the needs and concerns of the public.[13] Despite favorable polling in 1988, he chose not to seek a third term as governor, staying true to his promise of serving only two terms in office.[3]

Personal life and death[edit]

Schwinden married Jean Christianson in 1946. Schwinden and his wife had three children.[4][9] Christianson died from cancer on March 24, 2007, at age 81.[14][15]

On October 7, 2023, Schwinden died in Phoenix, Arizona, at age 98.[3][16]


  1. ^ "Former State Governors". www.netstate.com. Retrieved October 9, 2013.
  2. ^ a b "Governor Ted Schwinden". Montana Historical Society. Archived from the original on August 20, 2012. Retrieved October 10, 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "'Tough old bird': Straight-talking former Montana governor Ted Schwinden dies at 98". Billings Gazette. October 8, 2023. Retrieved October 8, 2023.
  4. ^ a b "Ted Schwinden". National Governors Association. Retrieved August 27, 2012.
  5. ^ Schwinden, Ted; Barrett, Evan (January 2016). "Biography of Ted Schwinden". Biographies and Photos of Series Participants.
  6. ^ "Gov. Ted Schwinden cared for Montana". December 28, 2020.
  7. ^ "A talk with Ted: Catching up with former Montana Governor Schwinden". November 19, 2020.
  8. ^ "Demo Emphasis Appears Aimed at Greater Strength in Senate". The People's Voice. Vol. 19, no. 28. Helena, Montana. June 13, 1958. pp. 1–2. Retrieved October 8, 2023.
  9. ^ a b Schwinden, Ted; Barrett, Evan (January 1, 2016). "Biography of Ted Schwinden". Biographies and Photos of Series Participants.
  10. ^ "Schwinden, Ted (b. 1925)". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved October 10, 2012.
  11. ^ "Schwinden exults after beating Judge". The Spokesman Review. June 5, 1980. Retrieved December 5, 2010.
  12. ^ Neuharth, Allen H.; Ken Paulson; Dan Greaney; Jo-Ann Swanson; Gaynelle Evans (June 8, 1987). "MONTANA;We want to grow, and protect a way of life". USA Today. Retrieved December 5, 2010. Ted Schwinden, 61, a Democrat, was elected governor of Montana in 1980 and was re-elected in 1984. He served as lieutenant governor from 1977 until 1981.
  13. ^ a b c d "Former Montana Gov. Schwinden dies at 98". KTVH. October 9, 2023. Retrieved October 9, 2023.
  14. ^ Raimo, John (October 9, 1985). Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1978–1983. Meckler Pub. ISBN 9780930466626 – via Google Books.
  15. ^ "Former first lady dies of cancer". Helenair.com. March 25, 2007. Retrieved December 5, 2010.
  16. ^ Ambarian, Jonathon (October 8, 2023). "Former Montana Gov. Schwinden dies at 98". KPAX-TV. Retrieved October 8, 2023.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Lieutenant Governor of Montana
Succeeded by
Preceded by Governor of Montana
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for Governor of Montana
1980, 1984
Succeeded by