John Woodrow Bonner Colonel, United States Army, Governor, State of Montana

John W. Bonner, the thirteenth governor of Montana, was born in Butte, Montana on July 16, 1902.

His education was attained at Montana State University, where he earned an A.B. degree, as well as a LL.B. degree.

Bonner then established his legal career in Butte, serving as counsel for the Montana Highway Commission from 1929 to 1936. He also served as the attorney for the Railroad and Public Service Commission from 1936 to 1940.

Bonner first entered politics as the secretary treasurer of the State Democratic Central Committee. He also was chairman of the Lewis and Clark County Democratic Central Committee, and served as attorney general of Montana from 1941 to 1942.

His political career was temporarily interrupted with the outbreak of World War II. He served as a Major in the U.S. Army, was promoted to the rank of Colonel, and earned several medals for his courageous service.

After his military duty, he secured the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, and was elected governor by a popular vote in November 1948. During his tenure, a state home for the senile aged was established; highway construction was advanced; the pioneer veterans memorial building was initiated; the department of labor, industry and agriculture was restructured; and a veterans’ preference law was sanctioned.

After running unsuccessfully for reelection, Bonner left office, and returned to his legal practice. From 1968 to 1970, he served as a justice on the Montana State Supreme Court. Governor John W. Bonner passed away on March 28, 1970, and was buried in the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

John W. Bonner


John Woodrow Bonner was born July 16, 1902 in Butte, Silver Bow County, Montana. The family moved to a homestead near Perma in the Flathead Valley and later Bonner returned to Butte where he finished high school in 1921.

He took a teacher’s examination and at the age of 19 got a job in the elementary school at Perma. Later he taught in the junior high school there and coached football. Bonner worked his way through the University of Montana
and graduated in 1927 with a bachelor of arts degree and in 1928 with a law degree. After being admitted to the Montana Bar, he opened a law office in Butte.

He moved to Helena in 1929 to work in the State Highway Commission legal department as its first counsel and later worked as general counsel for the Montana Railroad and Public Service Commission for four years.

Bonner was elected attorney general in 1940, but resigned after 18 months to join the Army, which he entered on May 1, 1942. After separating from the service on April 4, 1946, Bonner returned to Montana.

Bonner was elected governor in 1948 and served one term. He then resumed his private law practice in Helena until he was elected to the Montana Supreme Court in 1968. He died in a Helena hospital March 28, 1970 before finishing his


  • Colonel, United States Army
  • DATE OF BIRTH: 07/16/1902
  • DATE OF DEATH: 03/28/1970


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