Governor Tom Judge: Early Years - The Path to Becoming Montana's 18th Governor -- Sidney Armstrong, Larry Pettit & Kent Kleinkopf “In the Crucible of Change”

Sidney Armstrong
Lawrence K. Pettit Ph.D.
Kent Kleinkopf
Evan Barrett, Executive Producer

This interview/discussion is a segment of the series “In the Crucible of Change” - Montana’s Dramatic Period of Progressive Change [1965-1980] - From a Corporate Colony to a Citizens’ State and the Challenge of Keeping It That Way - An Evan Barrett Telefilm Series; Produced by: Highlands College/Montana Tech & Orphan Girl Productions (Evan Barrett); Executive Producers: Evan Barrett & John Garic; Host/Moderator: Evan Barrett; Produced in the studios of Helena Civic Television (HCTV) – Production unit: Kirsten Faubion, Stephen Maly, Dave Clarke, Kelsea Kimerly, Lauren Fredrickson, Jeanie McLean-Warden; Opening Voice Recording - Ian Hadley; Photos: Montana Historical Society Photo Archives - Tom Cook; Personal Photo Archives of Evan Barrett; Music: “Living Room Jam” & “Island Breeze” - Richard H. Kuschel - The Recording Center - Missoula, Montana; “Orphan Girl” used by permission of Headframe Spirits – John & Courtney McKee; Partially funded by Grants from Humanities Montana (an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities), Montana History Foundation, and The Greater Montana Foundation (encouraging communication on issues, trends and values of importance to Montanans).


The dramatic period of progressive change in Montana that is documented "In the Crucible of Change" series really exploded with the election of Governors Forrest Anderson and Tom Judge. Anderson's single term saw the dispatching of the sales tax as an issue for a long period, the reorganization of the executive branch of state government and the revision of Montana's Constitution. As a former legislator, county attorney, Supreme Court justice, and Attorney General, Anderson brought unmatched experience to the governorship when elected. Tom Judge, although much younger (elected MT’s youngest governor at age 38 immediately following Anderson), also brought serious experience to the governorship: six years as a MT State Representative, two years as a MT State Senator, four years is Lieutenant Governor and significant business experience. The campaign and election of John F. Kennedy in 1960 spurred other young Americans to service, including Tom Judge. First elected in 1960, he rose rapidly through MT’s political-governmental hierarchy until he took over the governorship in time to implement many of the changes started in Governor Anderson’s term. But as a strong progressive leader in his own right, Governor Judge sponsored and implemented significant advancements of his own for Montana. Those accomplishments, however, are the subject of other films in this series. This film deals with Tom Judge’s early years – his rise to the governorship from when he returned home after college at Notre Dame and newspaper experience in Kentucky to his actual election in November 1972.

That story is discussed in this episode by three major players in the effort, all directly involved in Tom Judge’s early years and path to the governorship: Sidney Armstrong, Larry Pettit and Kent Kleinkopf. Their recollections of the early Tom Judge and the period of his advancement to the governorship provide an insider’s perspective of the growth of this significant leader of the important period of progressive change documented “In the Crucible of Change.”

Sidney Armstrong, President of Sidney Armstrong Consulting, serves on the board and as the Executive Director of the Greater Montana Foundation. Formerly Executive Director of the Montana Community Foundation (MCF), she has served on national committees and participated in national foundation initiatives. While at MCF, she worked extensively with MT Governors Racicot and Martz on the state charitable endowment tax credit and other endowed philanthropy issues. A member of MT Governor Thomas L. Judge’s staff in the 1970s, she was also part of Governor Brian Schweitzer’s 2004 Transition Team, continuing to serve as a volunteer advisor during his term. In the 1980s, Sidney also worked for the MT State AFL-CIO and the MT Democratic Party as well as working two sessions with the MT Senate as Assistant Secretary of the Senate and aide to the President. A Helena native, and great granddaughter of pioneer Montanans, Sidney has served on numerous nonprofit boards, and is currently a board member for the Montana History Foundation. Recently she served on the board of the Holter Museum of Art and was a Governor’s appointee to the Humanities Montana board. She is a graduate of the International School of Geneva, Switzerland and the University of Montana. Armstrong's Irish maternal immigrant great-grandparents, Thomas and Maria Cahill Cooney, came to Virginia City, MT in a covered wagon in 1865, looking for gold. Eventually, they settled on the banks of the Missouri River outside Helena as ranchers. She also has roots in Butte, MT, where her journalist father's family, both of whom were newspaper people, lived. Her father, Richard K. O’Malley, is also the author of a well-known book about Butte, Mile High, Mile Deep, recently re-published by Russell Chatham. She is the mother of four and the grandmother of eight.

Dr. Lawrence K. Pettit (Larry Pettit) (b. 5/2/1937) has had a dual career in politics and higher education. In addition to being Montana’s first Commissioner of Higher Education (the subject of another film in this series); Pettit, of Lewistown, served as legislative assistant to U.S. Senators James E. Murray and Lee Metcalf, campaign manager, head of transition team and assistant to Montana Governor Thomas L. Judge; taught political science at The Pennsylvania State University (main campus), was chair of political science at Montana State University, Deputy Commissioner for Academic Programs at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Chancellor of the University System of South Texas (since merged with Texas A&M University), President of Southern Illinois University, and President of Indiana University of Pennsylvania from where he retired in 2003. He has served as chair of the Commission on Leadership for the American Council on Education, president of the National Association of (University) System Heads, and on many national and state boards and commissions in higher education. Pettit is author of “If You Live by the Sword: Politics in the Making and Unmaking of a University President.” More about Pettit is found at

Kent Kleinkopf of Missoula is co-founder of a firm with a national scope of business that specializes in litigation consultation, expert vocational testimony, and employee assistance programs. His partner (and wife of 45 years) Kathy, is an expert witness in the 27 year old business. Kent received a BA in History/Education from the University of Idaho and an MA in Economics from the University of Utah. The Kleinkopfs moved to Helena, MT in 1971 where he was Assistant to the Commissioner of State Lands (later Governor) Ted Schwinden. In early 1972 Kent volunteered full time in Lt. Governor Tom Judge’s campaign for Governor, driving the Lt. Governor extensively throughout Montana. After Judge was elected governor, Kent briefly joined the staff of Governor Forrest Anderson, then in 1973 transitioned to Judge’s Governor’s Office staff, where he became Montana’s first “Citizens’ Advocate.” In that capacity he fielded requests for assistance from citizens with concerns and information regarding State Agencies. While on the Governor’s staff, Kent continued as a travel aide with the governor both in Montana and nationally. In 1977 Kent was appointed Director of the MT Department of Business Regulation. That role included responsibility as Superintendent of Banking and Chairman of the State Banking Board, where Kent presided over the chartering of many banks, savings and loans, and credit unions. In 1981 the Kleinkopfs moved to Missoula and went into the business they run today. Kent was appointed by Governor Brian Schweitzer to the Board of the Montana Historical Society in 2006, was reappointed and continues to serve. Kathy and Kent have a daughter and son-in-law in Missoula.