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John Woodrow Bonner

Gov. John Woodrow Bonner

  • January 3, 1949 - January 4, 1953
  • Democratic
  • July 16, 1902
  • March 28, 1970
  • Montana
  • Montana State University in Missoula (later became University of Montana)
  • Married Josephine A. Martin; five children
  • Army
  • Croix de Guere; Bronze Star


JOHN W. BONNER, the thirteenth governor of Montana, was born in Butte, Montana on July 16, 1902. His education was attained at Montana State University, where he earned an A.B. degree, as well as a LL.B. degree. Bonner then established his legal career in Butte, serving as counsel for the Montana Highway Commission from 1929 to 1936. He also served as the attorney for the Railroad and Public Service Commission from 1936 to 1940. Bonner first entered politics as the secretary treasurer of the State Democratic Central Committee. He also was chairman of the Lewis and Clark County Democratic Central Committee, and served as attorney general of Montana from 1941 to 1942. His political career was temporarily interrupted with the outbreak of World War II. He served as a major in the U.S. Army, was promoted to the rank of colonel, and earned several medals for his courageous service. After his military duty, he secured the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, and was elected governor by a popular vote in November 1948. During his tenure, a state home for the senile aged was established; highway construction was advanced; the pioneer veterans memorial building was initiated; the department of labor, industry and agriculture was restructured; and a veterans’ preference law was sanctioned. After running unsuccessfully for reelection, Bonner left office, and returned to his legal practice. From 1968 to 1970, he served as a justice on the Montana State Supreme Court. Governor John W. Bonner passed away on March 28, 1970, and was buried in the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.


Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 3, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

Montana Governor's Papers, 1889-1905 (MC 35; boxes 125-134). Montana Historical Society.

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