Former Gov. Stan Stephens died Saturday in Kalispell at the age of 91 following an extended illness, according to the Associated Press.
Stephens, a Republican, served as governor from 1989 to 1993.“He was probably the most decent person you’d ever want to meet,” former state Sen. John Brendan told the AP; Brendan served as the co-chair of Stephens’ gubernatorial campaign. “He brought decency and honesty back to state government while he was governor.”
A biography posted on the National Governors Association website said Stephens was born in Alberta, Canada, and moved to Montana at the age of 19. The bio said he worked in broadcasting for 38 years and served with the U.S. Armed Forces Broadcast Network during the Korean War.
“In 1975, he earned the prestigious Edward R. Murrow award for journalistic excellence in editorials for uncovering a scandal in the Montana Workers’ Compensation Program,” according to the website, citing Montana Historical Society records.
In 1969, prior to being elected governor in 1988, Stephens was elected to the Montana State Senate. The bio said he served as floor whip, majority leader, and senate president.
“In 1986 he was recognized by the National Republican Legislators’ Association as one of the country’s 10 most outstanding state lawmakers,” said the bio.
In a statement, Gov. Greg Gianforte praised Stephens’ public service and said he and his wife, Susan, would keep his family in their prayers.
“A dedicated public servant, Governor Stan Stephens devoted his life to service, whether defending our country in the Korean War or serving Montana as a state senator and governor,” said Gianforte, a Republican, in the statement. “A kind and thoughtful leader, Governor Stephens was a central figure in our state’s politics for a quarter century, and his legacy and contributions to our state will endure.”
The AP said a private memorial service will be held in Kalispell on Friday. Stephens is survived by daughters Lannie Gilling and Carol Donaldson of Kalispell. His wife, Ann Stephens, died in 2017.