HENRY LOUIS BELLMON was born near Tonkawa, Oklahoma. He attended Colorado State University and received a Bachelor of Science degree from Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Oklahoma State University) in 1942. During World War II he was a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps, earning the Legion of Merit for action in the invasion of Saipan and a Silver Star for bravery in the invasion of Iwo Jima. When the war ended, he returned to his farm in Noble County, Oklahoma. He served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1946 to 1948 and chaired the Oklahoma Republican Committee from 1960 to 1962. Bellmon was the first Republican elected governor of Oklahoma but remained on good terms with the Democrat-dominated state legislature. During his administration, the legislature was reapportioned, giving a larger share of representation to urban areas. Although Bellmon proposed a “Giant Stride” plan for improving the state’s educational system, a shortage of revenue prevented recommended reforms from being fully implemented. Also, a District Attorney system was established in the state, a higher education code was adopted, and the Industrial Development and Park commission was created. While Bellmon was Oklahoma’s chief executive, the state Constitution was amended to permit governors to serve consecutive terms. The revision did not apply to Bellmon, however, who left the governorship after a single term, returning to his farming interests briefly before winning election to the U.S. Senate. As a Senator for two terms, he co-founded and co-chaired the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. After leaving the Senate, he was appointed interim Director of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. He also joined the RAM Group, working to assist financially troubled farmers, founded the Oklahoma Academy for State Goals, and taught at Oklahoma City University, Central State University, and Oklahoma State University. In 1986, he won election to a second term as governor, during which he chaired the Southern States Energy Board.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 3. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.