List of governors of Montana

Governor of Montana
Great Seal of Montana.svg
Steve Bullock by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Steve Bullock

since January 7, 2013
Style The Honorable
Residence Montana Governor's Residence
Term length Four years, renewable once (limited to eight years in a sixteen year period)
Constituting instrument Montana Constitution of 1889
Inaugural holder Joseph K. Toole
Formation November 8, 1889
(130 years ago)
Succession Every four years, unless re-elected.
Salary $108,167 (2013)[1]
Website Official website

The Governor of Montana is the head of the executive branch of Montana's state government[2] and the commander-in-chief of the state's military forces.[3] The governor has a duty to enforce state laws,[2] the power to either approve or veto bills passed by the Montana State Legislature,[4] to convene the legislature at any time,[5] and to grant pardons and reprieves.[6]

The current Montana Constitution, ratified in 1972, calls for a 4-year term for the governor, commencing on the first Monday in January following an election.[7] The governor is term-limited to 8 years in any 16-year period.[8] The constitution provides for the election of a lieutenant governor for the same term as the governor. The two offices are elected on the same ticket;[7] a provision which did not appear in the state's first constitution, ratified in 1889. In the event of a vacancy in the office of governor due to resignation, disqualification, or death, the lieutenant governor becomes governor for the remainder of the term. If the governor is unable to perform his duties for any other reason, the lieutenant governor may become acting governor at the discretion of the state legislature.[9] The 1889 constitution made the lieutenant governor president of the state senate,[10] but this provision was removed in the 1972 constitution.

Montana has had 24 governors (ten of whom were actually born within state boundaries), consisting of 9 Republicans and 15 Democrats. The longest-serving governor was Joseph Toole, who served from 1889 to 1893 and again from 1901 until his resignation in 1908 with 11 years in office. He is the only governor to serve nonconsecutive terms. The shortest-serving governor was Elmer Holt, who served less than 13 months when the previous governor died. The current governor is Democrat Steve Bullock, who took office on January 7, 2013.


Prior to the creation of Montana Territory (1864–1889), numerous areas of what is now Montana were areas of Oregon Territory (1848–1859), Washington Territory (1853–1863), Idaho Territory (1863–1864), and Dakota Territory (1861–1864).

Governors of Montana Territory

NOTE: Term dates are for the full, official term of office, see notes column for clarification of dates when men served as governor.


Dem Democratic (3) Rep Republican (6)

Governors of Montana Territory
# Image Governor Party Term start Term end Appointed by Notes
1 SEdgerton.jpg Sidney Edgerton Rep June 22, 1864 July 12, 1866 Abraham Lincoln Left for Washington, DC in September 1865 to settle federal accounts, obtain federal funding, and obtain reimbursement for personal funds spent on behalf of Montana's government. Resigned after funding issue remained unresolved.[11]
β€” Meagher4s.jpg Thomas Francis Meagher (acting) Dem September 1865 October 3, 1866 β€” As Secretary of the Territory, he acted as governor in place of Gov. Edgerton while he was out of the Territory. He also acted in place of Gov. Smith until he arrived to assume his duties.[12][13][14][15]
2 Green Clay Smith - Brady-Handy.jpg Green Clay Smith Dem October 3, 1866 April 9, 1869 Andrew Johnson Left Montana in July 1868 to settle federal accounts and obtain federal funds following Thomas F. Meagher's death; remained in Washington, DC. He was ordained as a Baptist minister and became a temperance activist. Officially resigned in April 1869.[16][17]
β€” James Tufts (Montana Governor).jpg James Tufts (acting) Rep March 1869 April 9, 1869 β€” Acted as governor from July 1868, when Green Clay Smith left for Washington, DC to April 1869 when James M. Ashley arrived.[18]
3 James Mitchell Ashley - Brady-Handy.jpg James Mitchell Ashley Rep April 9, 1869 July 12, 1870 Ulysses S. Grant Refusal to include Democrats in appointments made him unpopular; opponents then accused him of criticizing Grant administration policies, resulting in Grant removing him.[19][20]
β€” Wiley S. Scribner (Governor of Montana Territory).jpg Wiley Scribner (acting) Rep December 1869 August 1870 β€” Acted as governor until arrival of Benjamin F. Potts.[21]
4 Benjamin F Potts.jpg Benjamin F. Potts Rep July 13, 1870 January 14, 1883 Ulysses S. Grant Term expired, July 1882. Potts remained in office until successor J. Schuyler Crosby arrived in Montana in January 1883.[22][23]
5 John Schuyler Crosby.jpg John Schuyler Crosby Rep January 15, 1883 December 15, 1884 Chester A. Arthur Resigned to accept appointment as First Assistant Postmaster General.[24]
6 Benjamin Platt Carpenter (Montana Territorial Governor).jpg B. Platt Carpenter Rep December 16, 1884 July 13, 1885 Chester A. Arthur Replaced when Democrat Grover Cleveland succeeded Republican President Chester A. Arthur.[25]
7 Samuel Thomas Hauser.gif Samuel Thomas Hauser Dem July 14, 1885 February 7, 1887 Grover Cleveland Resigned in order to concentrate on management of business and banking interests.[26]
8 PHLeslie.jpg Preston Hopkins Leslie Dem February 8, 1887 April 8, 1889 Grover Cleveland Pro-temperance stance and policy disagreements with Republicans in territorial legislature caused legislators to request his replacement. Later served as Montana's U.S. Attorney and president of the state bar association.[27][28]
9 Benjamin Franklin White (Montana Territory Governor).jpg Benjamin F. White Rep April 9, 1889 November 8, 1889 Benjamin Harrison Term ended when Montana attained statehood. Later served as Speaker of the Montana House of Representatives and a member of the Montana Senate.[29]

Governors of Montana


Dem Democratic (15) Rep Republican (9)

Governors of Montana
# Image Governor Party Took office Left office Lt. Governor and Term Notes
1 JosephKToole.JPG Joseph Toole Dem November 8, 1889 January 1, 1893 [30]
2 John E Rickards.jpg John E. Rickards Rep January 2, 1893 January 3, 1897
  • Alexander C. Botkin (Rep) – 2
3 Robert Burns Smith (Montana Governor).jpg Robert Burns Smith Dem January 4, 1897 January 7, 1901
4 JosephKToole.JPG Joseph Toole Dem January 7, 1901 April 1, 1908 Resigned due to declining health.
5 Edwin L. Norris (Montana Governor).jpg Edwin L. Norris Dem April 1, 1908 January 5, 1913 As lieutenant governor, filled unexpired term, and was later elected in his own right.
6 Sam V. Stewart.jpg Sam V. Stewart Dem January 6, 1913 January 2, 1921
7 Joseph M. Dixon.jpg Joseph M. Dixon Rep January 3, 1921 January 4, 1925
  • Nelson Story, Jr. (Rep) - 9
8 John Erickson.jpg John E. Erickson Dem January 4, 1925 March 13, 1933 Resigned so that his successor would appoint him to the United States Senate.
9 Frank Henry Cooney.jpg Frank Henry Cooney Dem March 13, 1933 December 15, 1935
  • Tom Kane (Rep) - 12
  • Ernest T. Eaton (Rep) - 12
  • Elmer Holt (Dem) - 12
As lieutenant governor, filled unexpired term. Died in office while governor.
10 No image.svg Elmer Holt Dem December 15, 1935 January 4, 1937
  • William P. Pilgeram (Dem) - 12
As president of the state senate, filled unexpired term.
11 Roy E. Ayers.jpg Roy E. Ayers Dem January 4, 1937 January 6, 1941
  • Hugh R. Adair (Dem) - 13
12 Sam C. Ford.jpg Sam C. Ford Rep January 6, 1941 January 3, 1949
  • Ernest T. Eaton (Rep) - 14, 15
13 John W. Bonner.jpg John W. Bonner Dem January 3, 1949 January 5, 1953
  • Paul Cannon (Dem) - 16
14 J. Hugo Aronson.jpg J. Hugo Aronson Rep January 5, 1953 January 2, 1961
  • George M. Gosman (Rep) - 17
  • Paul Cannon (Dem) - 18
15 Donald G. Nutter.jpg Donald Grant Nutter Rep January 2, 1961 January 25, 1962 Died in office.
16 Tim Babcock.jpg Tim M. Babcock Rep January 25, 1962 January 6, 1969
  • David F. James (Dem) - 19
  • Ted James (Rep) - 20
As lieutenant governor, filled unexpired term, and was later elected in his own right.
17 No image.svg Forrest H. Anderson Dem January 6, 1969 January 1, 1973
18 No image.svg Thomas Lee Judge Dem January 1, 1973 January 5, 1981
19 No image.svg Ted Schwinden Dem January 5, 1981 January 2, 1989
20 No image.svg Stan Stephens Rep January 2, 1989 January 4, 1993
21 Marc Racicot 2008 (cropped).JPG Marc Racicot Rep January 4, 1993 January 1, 2001 [33][34]
22 Judy Martz 2003 (cropped).jpg Judy Martz Rep January 1, 2001 January 3, 2005 [35]
23 Brian Schweitzer official photo.jpg Brian Schweitzer Dem January 3, 2005 January 7, 2013
24 Steve Bullock by Gage Skidmore.jpg Steve Bullock Dem January 7, 2013 Incumbent Governor Bullock's term will expire on January 4, 2021; he will be subject to term limits


Other high offices held

This is a table of the equivalent or higher state and federal offices and other governorships held by governors. All representatives and senators represented Montana. * denotes cases where the governor resigned the governship to accept the other office.

Other high offices held by Montanans
Governor Gubernatorial term Higher offices held
Joseph Toole 1889–1893
Territorial Delegate
Joseph M. Dixon 1921–1925 U.S. Representative, U.S. Senator
John Edward Erickson 1925–1933 U.S. Senator*
Sam C. Ford 1929–1933 Montana Supreme Court Associate Justice
Sam V. Stewart 1933-1939 Montana Supreme Court Associate Justice
Roy E. Ayers 1937–1941 U.S. Representative
Forrest H. Anderson 1953–1956 Montana Supreme Court Associate Justice
John W. Bonner 1969-1970 Montana Supreme Court Associate Justice

Living former governors of Montana

As of October 2017, there are four former governors of Montana who are currently living at this time, the oldest former governor of Montana being Ted Schwinden (served 1981–1989, born 1925). The most recent death of a former governor of Montana, was Judy Martz (served 2001–2005, born 1943), on October 30, 2017. Martz is also the most recently serving former governor of Montana to die.

Living former governors of Montana
Governor Gubernatorial term Date of birth (and age)
Ted Schwinden 1981–1989 (1925-08-31) August 31, 1925 (age 95)
Stan Stephens 1989–1993 (1929-09-16) September 16, 1929 (age 91)
Marc Racicot 1993–2001 (1948-07-24) July 24, 1948 (age 72)
Brian Schweitzer 2005–2013 (1955-09-04) September 4, 1955 (age 65)

See also