OSU alum Henry Bellmon is one of the most prominent political figures in the history of the state of Oklahoma. Born in 1921 on a farm near Tonkawa, Oklahoma, he grew up on a homestead near Billings, Oklahoma on land of the former Cherokee Strip. Bellmon graduated from Billings High School and came to Oklahoma A&M to pursue a degree in agriculture. Having attained the degree in 1942, Bellmon enlisted in the United States Marines Corps. In the Corps, he served as a tank platoon leader, saw action at Iwo Jima, Roi-Namur, Saipan, and Tinian. He was awarded a Silver Star and the Legion of Merit.
After serving in the war Bellmon returned to Billings, Oklahoma and started to farm. He entered politics as a republican, ran for the state legislature in 1946 and was elected to serve in the House of Representatives for Noble County. He served one term and returned to private life for 12 years. He farmed and started a bulldozing business. He continued to serve the party at the county level and was elected chair of the Noble County republicans. In 1960, Bellmon returned to state level politics when he was elected to the Oklahoma State Republican Party chairmanship. It was this role that led him to the governor’s mansion. He helped create a ten point plan to capture the governorship. Using this plan effectively, he won the election. In doing so, he became the first republican governor in Oklahoma. In 1968, after his term as governor, Bellmon was elected to the United States Senate and served two terms. Two issues that stood out during his time in the United States Senate was support of integration and the Panama Canal Treaty. From August 1967 to March 1968 he served as Richard Nixon’s national campaign manager.
In 1986, Bellmon was once again elected Governor of Oklahoma. He worked tirelessly on education reform and under his watch the state legislature passed House Bill 1017, a bill that greatly improved the state’s education system. Bellmon also signed into law the Endowed Chairs Program allowing individuals to contribute to endowed chairs at institutions of higher learning with the state of Oklahoma matching the donations dollar for dollar. In 1990, Bellmon did not seek re-election but remained active. He worked for Oklahoma State University for a time collaborating and lobbying for federal funding for research.
Throughout Bellmon’s life his farm was a constant, returning to it often as he traveled the political trail. He often referred to himself as “a farmer” and history has shown him a man of integrity, and a man with down-home common sense. In the fall of 2011 a new multi-disciplinary building was dedicated and named the Henry Bellmon Research Center. It is OSU-Stillwater's only building dedicated exclusively to research.
Bellmon and his wife, Shirley, had three daughters, Pat, Gail, and Ann. He along with his daughter, Pat, wrote The Life and Times of Henry Bellmon. The gentleman farmer and respected statesman passed away September 29, 2009. He is sorely missed by all who knew him.