Thomas Judge, 71; Pushed Clean-Air Laws as Montana’s Governor

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Thomas L. Judge, 71, who in two terms as Montana governor in the 1970s oversaw creation of many of the state’s environmental laws, died Friday at Chandler Regional Hospital in Chandler, Ariz., his family said. Judge suffered from pulmonary fibrosis.

Judge, a Democrat, was the 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, Judge oversaw 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.


But Judge also had a series of missteps, notably when he illegally shot an elk during the 1974 hunting season.

Even though he turned himself in, a justice of the peace fined him $300 and suspended his hunting privileges.

Judge lost the Democratic primary in 1980 when he sought a third term.

He tried again in 1988 and won the nomination but lost the election.


After leaving the governor’s office in 1981, Judge joined a venture capital and investment company.