About Robert Burns Smith, Governor
Robert B. Smith (December 29, 1854 – November 16, 1908) was a Democrat politician. He served as the third Governor of Montana from 1897 to 1901.
Smith was born on a farm in Hickman County, Kentucky, and educated in the local schools. At the age of twenty, he completed his education at the high school in Milburn, Kentucky, then taught in that school for one year. Moving to Charleston, Missouri in September 1876, he was elected principle of the Charleston Classical Academy until June 1877.
In June 1877, Smith began reading law in the office of Colonel Edward Crossland in Mayfield, Kentucky. In October, he was admitted to the bar in Mayfield and began practicing law. He married Catherine Crossland and they had two children, Mary and Edward.
Smith moved to Dillon, Montana and practiced law from September 1882 to 1889. Then he moved to Helena, Montana, and formed a law partnership with the Honorable Samuel Word. He was a member of the 1884 State Constitution Convention, U. S. District Attorney from 1885 to 1889, and city attorney of the city of Helena in 1890.
On the Democratic ticket through a coalition of democrats and populists, Smith won the election in November 1896, and served as Governor of Montana from 1897 to 1901. During his tenure, construction on the new state capital was initiated and roads were advanced. Under his governorship, the State University at Missoula, the State Agricultural College in Bozeman, and the Normal (Teacher) School in Dillon were created. When his term ended, he returned to his law practice in Butte.
Five years later failing health forced Smith to move to the east shore of Flathead Lake where he engaged in the orchard business. He died on November 16, 1908, and is interred at Conrad Memorial Cemetery, Kalispell, Flathead County, Montana USA.