Back to former Colorado governors
Daniel Isaac J. Thornton

Gov. Daniel Isaac J. Thornton

  • January 9, 1951 - January 11, 1955
  • Republican
  • January 31, 1911
  • January 19, 1976
  • Texas
  • University of California
  • Married Jessie Willock
  • NGA Chair


DANIEL ISAAC J. THORNTON, Colorado’s thirty-third governor was born in Hall County, Texas, on January 31, 1911. He attended Texas Technological College, and graduated from the University of California. While attending college, he signed a three-year acting contract with Warner Brothers Studio, but realized acting was not his future, and left the movie industry to pursue a career in cattle ranching. He purchased a ranch in Springerville, Arizona, raised and bred Herefords, and became a leader in the livestock business. He expanded and moved his ranching operations to Gunnison, Colorado in 1941, and became internationally known for his Thornton Triumphant Hereford cattle strain. Thornton entered politics in 1948, when he was elected to Colorado’s State Senate. On November 7, 1950, he was elected governor of Colorado, and on January 9, 1951 he was sworn into office. He was reelected to a second term on November 4, 1952.

During his tenure, he initiated a state advertising program, he instituted a severance oil tax, and he strived to establish a parole program with rehabilitation at its crux. Legislation was enacted that financed schools, and controlled Bang’s cattle disease. Thornton also expanded civil defense, supported mining in the state, devised a long-range highway system, and restructured the State Highway Commission. Governor Thornton advertised and promoted the state, and he personally paid for Colorado’s Rose Bowl Parade Float when state funds ran out. He left office on January 11, 1955 and ran unsuccessfully for Colorado’s State Senate in 1956. He retired from public service and returned to his cattle ranch in Gunnison. Governor Daniel Thornton died on January 19, 1976 and is buried at the Gunnison Cemetery.


Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 1, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

Colorado State Archives

The Political Graveyard

Recent Colorado Governors