- The Washington Times - Friday, September 8, 2006

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Former Gov. Thomas L. Judge, who in two terms in the 1970s oversaw the creation of many of Montana’s environmental laws, died Sept. 8, his family said. He was 71.

Mr. Judge, who had pulmonary fibrosis, died at Chandler Regional Hospital in Chandler, Ariz., said sons Patrick and Thomas.

Mr. Judge, a Democrat, was a 38-year-old lieutenant governor when voters in 1972 made him the youngest man ever elected governor in Montana.

Voters simultaneously approved a new state constitution that included a provision that residents have a right to a “clean and healthful environment.”

With that mandate, Mr. Judge oversaw the creation of laws governing such areas as strip-mine reclamation, air- and water-pollution controls and a coal-severance tax that finances a state trust fund.

Mr. Judge said one of his proudest achievements was that he “brought government to the people” with 150 public forums around the state. His inaugural ball was the first that was open to all Montanans.

He served as lieutenant governor for four years. Mr. Judge represented the Helena area in the Montana House in 1961, 1963 and 1965 and in the state Senate in 1967.

But Mr. Judge also had a series of missteps, notably when he illegally shot an elk during the 1974 hunting season. Though he turned himself in, a justice of the peace fined him $300 and suspended his hunting privileges.

He lost the Democratic primary in 1980 when he sought a third term. His own lieutenant governor, Ted Schwinden, defeated him in the primary.

Mr. Judge tried again in 1988 and won the nomination, but lost the general election to Republican Stan Stephens.

After leaving the governor’s office in 1981, he became a managing partner in Mountain States Cos., a Salt Lake City-based venture capital and investment company.

Funeral arrangements were not immediately available.

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