Henry Bellmon — Farmer, Statesman, Conservationist

image of Henry Bellmon
Sen. Henry Bellmon, c. late 1960s.

Henry Louis Bellmon, former Oklahoma Governor and U.S. Senator passed away Sept. 29, 2009, in Enid at the age of 88 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. Bellmon served one term in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, 1946-1948, then one term as Governor, 1963-1967. He served two terms in the U.S. Senate, 1969-1981, then served a second term as Governor, 1987-1991. He received the OACD President’s Award from the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts in 1989.

OCC Executive Director Mike Thralls grew up in Billings, Okla., as a neighbor of Gov. Bellmon and has memories of the farmer and statesman dating back to Mike’s childhood. He added the following thoughts to the other eulogies and praises for Gov. Bellmon.

“In addition to the significant accomplishments you have read in recent days, you should know Governor Bellmon was also a conservationist. When he returned from World War II one of the first purchases he made was a surplus Caterpillar dozer that he used to build conservation terraces, waterways and ponds both as a contractor and on the family farm. During his tenure as Governor, he signed the bill designating Port Silt Loam as the state soil. He also designated the Commission as the lead agency for section 319 of the Clean Water Act.

“A longtime supporter of the USDA-NRCS Small Watershed Program, and after reaching the milestone age of 80, he wanted to see an additional dam built in the Upper Red Rock Watershed to help prevent the flooding with resulting closing of Interstate Highway 35 in Noble County. So he worked with Congressman Frank Lucas to obtain the funds for construction of Site 52 Upper Red Rock Creek, and attended the groundbreaking in October 2004.

image of Bellmon accepting OACD President's Award in 1989.
Gov. Bellmon accepting the OACD President’s Award in 1989. From left are OCC Executive Director Mason Mungle, Gov. Henry Bellmon, OACD Immediate Past President Lee Roy Hudson and wife Sylvia and OACD President J. Berry Harrison.

“This last year I had the opportunity to look at a portion of his land he was offering for lease. As we drove over a half section of grass fenced for rotational grazing and, with Henry at the wheel, he talked about the new stand of native grass that he wanted to make sure would not be overgrazed, the pecan orchard that needed continuing care, and how to manage the Bermuda grass along Red Rock Creek by haying rather than grazing.

I agree with Governor Brad Henry’s statement that Henry Bellmon was more about doing than talking. He is certainly an example of character, ability and perseverance worthy of emulation. We will honor his memory by conducting ourselves with the same level of personal integrity and dedication to service.”