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Bellmon’s long service made state a better place

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Modified: September 30, 2009 at 4:11 am •  Published: September 30, 2009
NO reason to mince words: Henry Bellmon was a consequential man, among the most consequential in Oklahoma history. More than anyone else, Bellmon was the father of the two-party system in Oklahoma, who made politics in the state competitive over time. He went before voters statewide four times over parts of three decades, and won every time because Oklahomans believed he was who he said he was.

What Bellmon offered politically was also what he offered personally: an ex-Marine — he once said boot camp was "the best training I ever had as preparation for politics” — and wheat farmer with a wife and three daughters who were part of the storyline, too. The Bellmon family formula was one for unprecedented success, as he became the first Republican governor in state history and the first Republican to succeed himself — albeit 24 years apart — in the same office.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of Henry Bellmon’s political story starts near the beginning, when he agreed in 1960 to take over as the Republican Party’s state chairman. To suggest the Republicans were a small and beleaguered bunch at the time is an understatement. Every major office in the state, as well as both houses of the Legislature, were held and controlled by Democrats. Things were so bleak for Republicans that the chairman of the party in Oklahoma County took out an ad in The Oklahoman begging someone of like mind to run for governor.

That someone turned out to be Bellmon, who spent two years overhauling the party’s machinery, then made the run himself.

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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