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. His impressive victory, at age 41, set the stage for more. Six years later he beat a three-term incumbent, Mike Monroney, for a U.S. Senate seat, then won again – barely — in the Watergate year of 1974. He came home, ran the state’s welfare agency, then got the bug to be governor again. His victory in 1986 was his last political race. He left elective politics but served the last two decades of his life in an elder statesman role, called on by Republicans and Democrats alike. His legacy in state history was cemented long before his death Tuesday. Republicans now control the Legislature, dominate our congressional delegation and are competitive in offices from governor to sheriff. Such a political transformation over a half century began with a plain-speaking farmer turned politician, who used a persona of honesty and hard work to build not only his own career but inspire that of many others, regardless of political party. More importantly, Oklahoma is a different — and better — place because of the five decades Henry Louis Bellmon spent shaping it.