Montana History:  Governor Biographies



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Robert B. Smith

Brief Biographical Sketch
quoted from Mt.Gov site

Governor Robert B. Smith, a Democrat-Populist, was born December 29, 1854, in Hickman County, Kentucky. A former delegate to the Constitutional Convention, Governor Smith served from 1897 to 1901. Under Montana's third governor, the State University at Missoula, the State Agricultural College in Bozeman, and the Normal (Teacher) School in Dillon were created.

Longer Biography
from Montana Capitol exhibit

Robert Burns Smith was born December 29, 1854 on a farm in Hickman County, Kentucky. He received an academic education in the public schools and completed his education in the high school at Milburn, Kentucky, at the age of twenty. After being employed one year as an instructor in the same institution, he went to Charleston, Missouri in September, 1876. Smith was elected principal of the Charleston Classical Academy and held this position until June, 1877. He then began the reading of law in Mayfield, Kentucky in the office of Colonel Edward Crossland. In October, 1877, he was admitted to the bar at Mayfield and engaged in the practice of law for three and a half years. He came to Dillon, Montana in September, 1882 and practiced law in Dillon until 1889, when he went to Helena and formed a law partnership with Hon. Samuel Word.

Smith was a member of the constitutional convention of 1884 and in 1885 was appointed United State District Attorney for Montana by President Cleveland. After serving four years as US District Attorney and one year as City Attorney of Helena, he was the unsuccessful nominee of the People’s party (Populist Party) for Representative in Congress from Montana in 1894.

In November, 1896 Smith was elected governor of Montana on the Democratic ticket through a coalition of democrats and populists. After serving one term as governor, he resumed the practice of law at Butte for 5 years. When failing health forced his retirement, Smith relocated to the east shore of Flathead Lake where he engaged in the orchard business.

He died November 16, 1908 in Kalispell, Montana.

Montana Governor Index

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