Bellmon's body at Capitol today
Oklahomans will have the chance today to pay their respects to Henry Bellmon at the state Capitol, where the Billings farmer and former U.S. senator served two terms as governor and one term as a legislator.
The body of Bellmon, who died Tuesday, will lie in repose on the 4th-floor rotunda from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. His casket will be by the Will Rogers portrait. Family members and former staff members will be on hand to greet visitors.
Flags at the Capitol and on other state property are being flown at half-staff, as ordered by Gov. Brad Henry.
The last governor to lie in repose at the Capitol occurred in 1993. The body of Raymond Gary was on the second floor of the Capitol. Gary was elected in 1954 and served from 1955 to 1959.
Visitors may enter the Capitol from any of the entrances and may either take elevators or walk up to the 4th-floor Rotunda. All visitors will have to go through metal detectors at the entrances.
Two funeral services are set for Saturday.
Services are scheduled for 10 a.m. at the First Presbyterian Church in Edmond and at 3 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church in Perry. Burial will at the Union Cemetery in his hometown of Billings.
The family has asked that memorials be made to the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, 825 NE 13, Oklahoma City, OK 73104 or to the Henry Bellmon Endowment, Oklahoma State University Foundation, P.O. Box 1749, Stillwater, OK 74076-1749.
Bellmon was elected in November 1946 to the state House of Representatives, but was not re-elected. He focused on his family and building up his farm, and in the mid-1950s became active in Noble County politics. In 1960 he was elected chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party; he developed a strong statewide base with chapters in each county. He couldn’t persuade anyone to run for governor in 1962 so he ran and was elected, becoming Oklahoma’s first Republican governor and the first GOP governor of a southern state since Reconstruction. Back then, governors in Oklahoma couldn’t seek re-election so he got involved in national politics and eventually ran for the U.S. Senate.
He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1968 and 1974. He didn’t seek a third term in 1980 and returned to Oklahoma. He successfully again ran for governor in 1986.
Bellmon’s accomplishments as governor included establishing Oklahoma’s CareerTech system and a state employees’ retirement program as well as backing legislation to exempt seed and fertilizer from sales tax during his first term. During his second term, he led efforts to pass a public education reform bill, House Bill 1017, which increased teacher salaries and reduced class sizes.
- Michael McNutt, Capitol Bureau
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