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Former governor Warren Hearnes dies at 86

Gov. Warren Hearnes
Gov. Warren Hearnes

By AP/Marshall Griffin, KWMU


Jefferson City, Mo. – Former Missouri Governor Warren Hearnes has died. A spokesman for his family says Hearnes passed away around 11 p.m. Sunday after being seriously ill for several days. He was 86 years old.

Hearnes served in the Legislature for a decade, and was Missouri secretary of State before becoming governor in 1965.

As governor, he advocated for more state spending on education and social services. Missouri's budget for mental health more than tripled while he was governor.

Rob Crouse was Hearnes' biographer. He says Hearnes proposed raising state income taxes during his second term, a move that hurt his popularity with voters.

"He knew at that point in time that state appropriations truly (were) going to have to have more revenue if all the services that Missourians needed and wanted were to happen," Crouse said.

Hearnes left office in 1973. He was succeeded by Republican Kit Bond.

Though the two men didn't run against each other, Bond was critical of Hearnes' policies as he campaigned to be Missouri's next governor.

"We disagreed on a lot...but after the election, when I succeeded him in office, nobody could have been a better friend...you talk about working in a bipartisan way, Warren Hearnes showed me how to do that...he was a true leader," Bond said.

Hearnes made several attempts to return to politics but was hampered by a lengthy federal investigation of his income taxes and potential corruption in state government.

He called the queries a "witch hunt" engineered by Republicans but eventually agreed in an out-of-court settlement to pay back taxes.

Warren Hearnes was the first Missouri governor to serve two consecutive terms.