Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Conrad Burns became only the second Republican elected to the Senate from Montana after the 1913 passage of the Seventeeth Amendment providing for the direct election of Senators when he defeated incumbent Democrat John Melcher in 1989. Now in his third term, Burns is the longest-serving Republican Senator in Montana history.
Senator Burns sits on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee and is the chairman of its subcommittee on the Interior . He is also chair of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee's Communications subcommittee.
Burns was born on a farm near Gallatin, Missouri to Russell and Mary Frances (Knight) Burns. Graduating from Gallatin High School in 1952, Senator Burns enrolled in the College of Agriculture at the University of Missouri. Two years later Burns enlisted in the Marine Corps and was posted in East Asia.
Following his military service Burns began working for TWA and Ozark airlines until 1962, when he became a field representative for Polled Hereford World magazine in Billings, Montana. Named the first manager of the Northern International Livestock Expo in 1968, Burns began his career in radio and television broadcasting, reporting on agricultural market news and establishing his reputation as the voice of Montana agriculture.
In 1975, Burns founded four radio stations known as the Northern Ag Network, which grew to serve 31 radio and TV stations across Montana and Wyoming when he sold it in 1986.
Burns began his career in politics when he was elected to the Yellowstone County Commission, serving for two years before deciding to run for the U.S. Senate.
A controversial speaker
In 1994 Burns told the editorial board of the Bozeman Chronicle that when asked by a constituent, "how can you live back there Washington, DC with all those niggers?" he replied, "[It's] a hell of a challenge." About the use of the racial slur: "I never give it much thought."
His detractors would point out that Burns also has a legislative history of supporting measures and bills which would reduce (American) Indian tribal sovereignty, including a bill, co-sponsored with Slade Gorton, that would require tribes to waive sovereignty rights such as immunity from lawsuits, in addition to meeting means testing, before they could receive federal funds. He has also sponsored legislation that some say would violate treaties by eliminating Native jurisdiction of reservation land owned by non-Indians. According to State Representative Carol Juneau, (D) Browning, "Burns...has encouraged people to believe that Indians' rights can be terminated."
- Burns' Senatorial Homepage
- U.S. Politics Today
- "A political outsider wages a clever campaign" by Steve Thompson article from 2000 election which discusses the 'raghead' comment and Burns' then-opponent and current Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer.
- MHRN: Yet Another Land Grab in Indian Country
- Missoula Independent: Going Non-Native, by Ron Selden, New report tracks Montana’s anti-Indian movement
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