LETTER: Correcting some mistakes about Hearnes' legacy

Monday, August 24, 2009 | 9:09 a.m. CDT; updated 10:00 a.m. CDT, Monday, August 24, 2009

I was saddened to learn, from The Associated Press report in the local press last week, that former Gov. Warren Hearnes has died. The story brought back memories of covering his inaugurations in January 1964 and 1968 — bone-chilling events because tradition insisted upon outdoor ceremonies.

But I have to take issue with the AP on two counts, both from the same sentence: "He became the first governor to be re-elected in 1968." Well, in Missouri, perhaps, but I imagine there were some other governors re-elected in 1968. But aside from that grammatical slip-up, there's also a factual error: Warren Hearnes was not the first Missouri governor to be re-elected. He was the first one to be re-elected to a second consecutive four year term.

Early in its history, when Missouri governors' terms were for two years, the fourth governor, John Miller, was elected in December 1825 and again in August 1828. Like his three predecessors, Miller was a "Jeffersonian Republican," a party we now would call Democrats; in fact, by the 1828 election, the party became the Democrat party.

Phil Donnelly was elected governor twice, but not consecutively: 1944 and 1952.

After Hearnes, Kit Bond also was twice elected governor, but not consecutively: 1972 and 1980. John Ashcroft and Mel Carnahan both were re-elected to second consecutive terms.

Rod Gelatt is a professor emeritus at the Missouri School of Journalism.

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