The man who has been sometimes dubbed the “father of Oklahoma’s Republican Party,” has died.
Former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon died this morning in Enid from complications from Parkinson’s disease. He was 88, according to a statement released by Bellmon’s former chief of staff Andrew Tevington. Bellmon was a two-term governor who also served 12 years in the U.S. Senate. He’s been credited with many reforms to the state’s education system and revered by politicians on both sides of the aisle. Read the full story on Bellmon and check out video interviews.
Former Gov. George Nigh called Bellmon, “the most decent and honorable public servant I ever knew.”
State Superintendent of Education Sandy Garrett who worked with Bellmon on education reforms said: “I will most remember his courage and passion for improving public schools and for building consensus among Democrats and his fellow Republicans for passage of House Bill 1017, the landmark Education Reform and Funding Act of 1990. I was proud to serve as his Cabinet Secretary of Education and to help usher in the reforms we agreed were sorely needed. These include better pay for teachers, the first written state curriculum and assessments to match, class-size mandates, universal Pre-Kindergarten programs, mandatory Kindergarten for every child, school board member training and much more. … To me, he is the father of education reform in Oklahoma. Henry Bellmon was my mentor, my dear friend and I will miss him very much.”
Many in the Capitol are still learning of Bellmon’s death. Gov. Brad Henry is expected to hold a news conference at 2 p.m. today to announce a new member to his executive team, but no doubt he will have praise for Bellmon, as he has in the past.
Funeral arrangements for Bellmon are pending.