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Henry Bellmon was ‘A giant in Oklahoma history’

Oklahoman Published: September 30, 2009
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Interesting facts and stories about Henry Bellmon:

• Bellmon, a Republican, and George Nigh, a Democrat, were good friends and principal players in transferring power from one governor’s administration to another. In January 1963, Nigh, then lieutenant governor, served as governor for nine days after the resignation of then-Gov. J. Howard Edmondson. He then handed the office over to Bellmon. In January 1987, Nigh had served two full terms as governor and again handed the reins of government to Bellmon.

• Any Oklahoman who knows anything about Henry Bellmon knows that he was very independent. He displayed this trait in 2001 when the state Senate honored him in anticipation of his 80th birthday. Bellmon stood on the Senate floor, and someone rolled a comfortable chair to him. But Bellmon grinned, took the chair, turned it around and rolled it back the other way, causing chuckles and applause from senators.

• In his first term as governor, Bellmon refused to wear a tuxedo at the inaugural ball.

• A farmer, Bellmon got up very early every morning and went to the office when he was governor and when he was in the U.S. Senate. Sometimes, while he was a senator, he would be the only one in the office early in the morning so he answered the telephone calls from constituents, his aides said.

• Bellmon’s staff was dumbfounded in 1979 when he announced he would not run for a third term in the U.S. Senate, said Allan Cromley, then The Oklahoman and Times Washington Bureau Chief.

Sept. 3, 1921: Born on a farm near Tonkawa.

1942: Graduates from Oklahoma State University.

1942-46: Serves in U.S. Marine Corps.

1946-48: Serves in state House of Representatives.

1960: Becomes state Republican Party chairman.

1962: Wins election as Oklahoma’s first Republican governor.

1963-67: Serves as Interstate Oil Compact Commission chairman, joins executive committee of the National Governors Conference.

1968: Wins election to U.S. Senate.

1974: Wins second term in U.S. Senate

1980: Chooses not to seek third term in the U.S. Senate.

1983: Is named director of the state Department of Human Services by Democratic Gov. George Nigh.

1985: State District Court appoints Bellmon receiver of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame.

1986: Wins new term as Oklahoma’s governor, retires from politics in 1991.

1997: Henry and Shirley Bellmon celebrate 50 years of marriage.

July 24, 2000: Shirley Bellmon dies.

April 6, 2002: Henry Bellmon weds longtime family friend, Eloise Bollenbach.

Sept. 29: Henry Bellmon dies after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Sources: Biographical Directory of the U.S. Senate; The Oklahoman Archive


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