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Robert Burns Smith

Gov. Robert Burns Smith

  • January 4, 1897 - January 7, 1901
  • Democratic-Populist
  • December 29, 1854
  • November 16, 1908
  • Kentucky
  • Married Catherine Crossland; two children


ROBERT BURNS SMITH, the third governor of Montana, was born in Hickman County, Kentucky on December 29, 1854. His education was attained in the public schools of his native state. He studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1877, and then established his legal career, first in Mayfield, Kentucky and later in Helena, Montana. Smith first entered politics as a member of the 1884 State Constitutional Convention. He also served as U.S. district attorney from 1885 to 1889, and was the city attorney of Helena in 1890. Smith next secured the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, and was elected governor by a popular vote in November 1896. During his tenure the young state’s agricultural college (Bozeman), state university (Missoula) and school of mines (Butte) were nurtured (all established in 1893). Also during his tenure roads were advanced and construction initiated on the state capitol. After completing his term, Smith left office and retired from political life. Governor Robert B. Smith passed away on November 16, 1908, and was buried in the Conrad Memorial Cemetery in Kalispell, Montana.


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.

Clinch, Thomas A. 1970. Urban Populism and Free Silver in Montana. Missoula: University of Montana Press.

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