Conrad Burns: 1935-2016
April 29, 2016
Former U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns of Montana died April 28 of natural causes at his home in Billings, Montana, according to multiple news sources. He was 81.
The death was announced by Montana Republican Party Executive Director Jeff Essman.
The three-term senator won his seat in 1988 in a close election, but he was re-elected in a landslide in 1994, the first Republican U.S. senator to be re-elected in Montana.
Burns used his influence on the U.S. Senate's Appropriations Committee to bolster domestic energy production and manage public lands in the country's Western region.
Burns lost re-election in 2006 after he was linked to the lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who was convicted of fraud and served time in prison. Burns was never charged with any crime, however. He later became a lobbyist himself.
Burns, who served in the military as a Marine, was born Jan. 25, 1935, in Gallatin, Missouri. He studied agriculture at the University of Missouri. He came to Montana as a salesman for Polled Hereford World magazine. In 1968, he became a cattle auctioneer for the Billings Livestock Commission. He later managed the Northern International Livestock Expo.
Dennis Gaub, who monitored county government for the Billings (Montana) Gazette in 1986, recalled Burns' earlier days in politics in a Facebook post.
"I was covering Yellowstone County government for the Gazette in 1986 when we heard that he was going to run for country commissioner," Gaub recalled. "I wrote the story. He won. Two years later, he became Montana's junior U.S. senator. Didn't see eye to eye with Conrad on everything but he was as personable as anyone I've ever had the privilege of writing about and knowing."