Obits: Former Okla. Gov./Sen. Henry Bellmon, Ex-Rep. John Rarick Of La.

Bellmon and Rarick

Two recent passings of former lawmakers:

Henry Bellmon, who in 1962 was elected the first Republican governor in Oklahoma history and became a founder of the modern-day Oklahoma GOP, died on Sept. 29. He was 88.

Bellmon's victory in '62 "stunned" the state, noted the Oklahoman in its obituary:

During his first term, Bellmon showed Oklahomans his penchant for saying what he thinks, regardless of the political flak it could generate.

Oklahoma was suffering from a drought. But Bellmon opposed federal drought aid to Oklahoma farmers, saying it would destroy their self-reliance.

In his first term, he got the state's turnpike system refinanced, making it possible for the Muskogee Turnpike, a second leg of the Indian Nation Turnpike and the turnpike authority administrative offices to be built.

Limited to one term, he worked to have Dewey Bartlett, another Republican, succeed him as governor in 1966. Bellmon played a key and early role as national chairman for the Nixon for president campaign in 1968, but he left early to mount his own bid for the Senate where, in another upset, he ousted veteran Democrat Mike Monroney. Six years later, in the middle of the Watergate scandal that would severely cripple the GOP, Bellmon eked out a narrow re-election win over Rep. Ed Edmondson.

He retired from the Senate after 1980. Six years later, he returned to the governorship, where he angered Republicans by supporting tax increases. He retired after one term.

JOHN RARICK: Rarick, a Democrat and strong segregationist who served four terms in the House from Louisiana, died on Sept. 14 at 85. In 1966, he unseated Rep. Jimmy Morrison in the Democratic primary, one year after Morrison supported the Voting Rights Act. The following year, Rarick decided to run for governor, but he got trounced by incumbent John McKeithen in the Democratic primary.

In 1968, Rarick supported George Wallace's third-party bid for president and was promptly stripped of his seniority by congressional Democrats. Possessing one of the more hard-line anti-civil rights records in the House, he was beaten in the 1974 Democratic primary by Jeff LaCaze, who then lost in the general election to Republican Henson Moore.

In 1972 Rarick backed Rep. John Schmitz, a strong conservative congressman from California, in his third-party presidential bid. Rarick himself was the prez nominee of the American Independent Party in 1980. He received about 41,000 votes nationwide.

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