Sen. Conrad Burns
1935 - 2016
US Senator from Montana
Auctioneer, broadcaster, county commissioner, football referee, livestock fieldman and Marine, Senator Conrad Burns became the first Republican in the history of Montana to be elected to a second term in November 1994. He won the election with more than 62 percent of the vote.
Burns became Montana's 19th United States Senator on January 2, 1989. In 1988, Burns defeated incumbent Senator John Melcher by a 52 to 48 percent margin, becoming only the second Republican Senator ever elected from his state. He was the only Republican challenger to defeat an incumbent that year.
Conrad Burns is a long-time friend and supporter of Shriners Hospitals. Equally important, he has been a member of Gallatin Lodge #106 since 1958, and is a member of the Scottish Rite, in which he received the honorary 33rd degree in 1995. He was created a Noble of Moila Shrine Temple in 1966 and has been affiliated with Al Bedoo Shrine Temple since 1971, where he has participated as a member of the Black Horse Patrol.
As a member of the United States Senate, he has gained five key committee assignments during his two terms in office: Appropriations; Commerce, Science and Transportation; Energy and Natural Resources; Small Business; and Aging.
He is the Senate co-chairman of the Congressional Internet Caucus; Senate co-chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus; co-chairman of the Senate Tourism Caucus; a member of the Senate Republican Health Care Task Force; and a founding member of the Senate Private Property Rights Caucus.
More importantly to the Shrine, his involvement on Capitol Hill has helped to give Shriners Hospitals, and the children we care for, a louder voice in health care legislation, making Senator Conrad Burns of Montana a deserving recipient of the Imperial Potentate's Award of Merit.
As Montana's representative, Burns has worked for a healthy job base for Montanans; effective, fiscally responsible government; tax reform; realistic health care reform; the expansion of Montana's agricultural industry and preservation of natural resource-based jobs; and increased individual opportunity through telecommunications.
Burns was born on a small farm near Gallatin, Missouri, on January 25, 1935, to Russell and Mary Frances (Knight) Burns. His mother was active in politics as a county chairman and state committeewoman for the Democratic Party. Burns attended Pleasant Grove, a country grade school. He graduated from Gallatin High School in 1952.
After two years in the College of Agriculture at the University of Missouri, Burns enlisted in the Marine Corps where he was a small arms instructor and served in the Far East. He then worked for TWA and Ozark airlines for three years. In 1962, he became a field representative for Polled Hereford World Magazine and moved to Billings. Burns was named the first manager of the Northern International Livestock Expo in 1968 and became involved in radio and television broadcasting of agricultural market news while working for the Billings Livestock Commission.
He was a farm and ranch news reporter for a Billings television station before creating the Northern Ag Network in 1975 with four radio stations. By 1986, when he sold his interest in the network, it served 31 radio and six television stations in Montana and Wyoming.
Prior to his election to the U.S. Senate, Burns served as Yellowstone County Commissioner for two years. Yellowstone County is Montana's most populous county.
Conrad Burns married Phyllis Kuhlmann of North Platte, Nebraska, in 1967. She graduated from Concordia Teachers College in Seward, Nebraska, and was a teacher at Trinity Lutheran Grade School in Billings from 1966 to 1970. Phyllis has also taught at Lutheran schools in the Washington, D.C., area.
Conrad and Phyllis are the proud parents of two. Their daughter, Keely, is a 28-year-old doctor who wants to practice medicine in rural Montana. Their 23-year-old son, Garrett, lives in Tucson, Arizona, with his wife, Kate, and he plans to continue his education. The Burns family belongs to Atonement Lutheran Church in Billings.