Former Gov. Hearnes inducted into Hall of Famous Missourians

Wednesday, September 15, 2010 | 5:43 p.m. CDT
Gov. Jay Nixon, left, and House Speaker Ron Richard, R-Joplin, applaud former first lady and state Rep. Betty Hearnes of Charleston during a ceremony to induct her husband, the late Gov. Warren Hearnes, in to the Hall of Famous Missourians on Wednesday morning in the House Chamber in Jefferson City.

JEFFERSON CITY — Warren Hearnes, the state's first governor to serve consecutive terms, was inducted posthumously Wednesday into the Hall of Famous Missourians.

Hearnes, who served as governor from 1965 to 1973, advocated for more state spending for mental health, education and social services. During his tenure, Missouri's budget for mental health increased from $26 million to $86 million. Higher education funding increased by 204 percent to $145 million, and K-12 education spending climbed 167 percent to $389 million.

To boost spending on education and mental health, Hearnes broke his campaign pledge not to raise taxes.

He also helped secure passage of the state constitutional amendment that allowed Missouri governors to serve back-to-back terms.

Hearnes died in August 2009 at his home in Charleston in southeastern Missouri.

Betty Hearnes said her husband served in public office because he wanted to help people. She called his career a "journey of public service" that took him through all three branches of state government. Hearnes started his political career in 1950 as a Democratic state representative before becoming secretary of state. He also was a circuit judge in southeast Missouri after being governor.

"I thank you for this tribute that you have bestowed upon Warren this morning," Betty Hearnes said. "To be recognized by your peers is an honor."

A bronze bust of Warren Hearnes was unveiled Wednesday during a ceremony in the House chamber that included family members and state elected leaders. Several dozen people have been inducted into the Hall of Famous Missourians, including Mark Twain, Harry S. Truman and George Washington Carver. Inductees are selected by the House speaker.

The bust of Hearnes was commissioned by former House Speaker Bob Griffin, who attended the ceremony.

Gov. Jay Nixon said Hearnes left a legacy of action and compassion while serving as governor during a time of turbulence in the 1960s. Nixon said Hearnes helped transform the state by improving education and mental health care and signing Missouri's first civil rights act.

"Warren Hearnes was a man who in rising to meet the challenges of his time became a leader of the ages," Nixon said.

The bust will be displayed permanently on the third floor of the Capitol.

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