Biographies and Photos of Series Participants
Biography of Ted Schwinden


Biography of Ted Schwinden



Ted Schwinden, Montana’s 19th Governor (1981-89), a Democrat, was deeply involved in the major transformational changes in Montana and its government between 1959 and 1989. From when he first went to the Legislature in 1959, though his tenure as State Lands Commissioner for both Governor Forrest Anderson and Governor Tom Judge, his four years as Lieutenant Governor with Governor Judge, and his own eight-year tenure as Governor, Ted Schwinden was present at the creation of much major change in Montana during that transformational period.

Schwinden served as Governor of Montana from January 1981 until January 1989. He was born in Wolf Point, Montana in 1925 and enlisted in the U.S. Army toward the end of WWII, serving until 1946. After returning home, Schwinden attended the University of Montana under the GI Bill where received bachelor's and master's degrees. He then attended the University of Minnesota pursuing his Ph.D until he was required because of family needs to return to the family farm in the Tule Creek area near Wolf Point. In 1958, he was elected a Democratic member of the Montana House of Representatives from Roosevelt County, where he served two terms. He was named to the Montana Legislative Council in 1959 and served as House minority whip during the 1961 session. In 1965, he was elected president of Montana Grain Growers Association. In 1969, he was named Commissioner of State Lands by newly-elected Democratic Governor Forrest Anderson. He was reappointed to that position in 1973 by newly-elected Democratic Governor Tom Judge. As commissioner of state lands, Schwinden was put in charge of the emerging coal industry regulation including coal strip mine reclamation. He served as Commissioner of State Lands until April 1976 when he resigned to become a candidate for lieutenant governor with Governor Judge as part of the first “team” elected to the positions as required under the new 1972 Montana Constitution. In the general election that year the Judge/Schwinden team received 195,420 votes (61.7%) while overwhelmingly defeating Republican Robert Woodahl and running-mate Toni Rosell, who had 115,848 votes (36.6%), with write-in candidate Charles Mahoney securing 5452 votes (1.7%). Schwinden then served as Montana’s 23rd lieutenant governor from January 1977 to January 1981, during which time he also served as Chair of the Montana Bicentennial Commission, which oversaw the state’s participation in that national celebration. He ran for Governor in the 1980 Democratic primary election, with George Turman (former Mayor of Missoula, state legislator and Public Service Commissioner) as his running mate. In that Democratic primary election, he defeated Governor Judge, who was attempting to be elected for a third term. The vote was 69,051 (50.6%) to 57,946 (42.5%). In the general election of 1980 he easily defeated Billings Republican legislator Jack Ramirez by a vote of 199,574 (55.4%) to 160,892 (44.6%). In January 1981 Ted Schwinden became governor of Montana. In 1984, he was reelected by a huge majority against Republican State Senator Pat Goodover of Great Falls, 266,578 (70.3%) to 100,070 (26.4%). Schwinden continued to serve as governor until January of 1989, when he retired. In retirement he taught for a while at Carroll College in Helena. He and his wife Jean moved in retirement to the Phoenix area where he still resides today. Jean passed away in 2007. Ted and Jean had/have two sons, Mike and Dore, and a daughter, Chrys.

Publication Date

Winter 2016

Biography of Ted Schwinden