Politics in Indiana: Governors of Indiana (Part 2)

*Post written by James Wethington, library assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.

After Robert Orr left office in 1989, the next three governors were Democrats: Evan Bayh (1989-1997), Frank O’Bannon (1997-2003), and Joe Kernan (2003-2005).


Evan Bayh was born in Terre Haute, Indiana in 1955. He attended Indiana University and graduated in 1978 with his degree in business economics; however, he graduated in 1981 with his law degree from the University of Virginia. Bayh worked as a clerk for the federal appeals court and his private law practice from 1981 to 1986; however, he was elected as Indiana’s Secretary of State in 1986.

In 1989, Bayh was elected the governor of Indiana in 1988 and was reelected in 1992. During his tenure as governor, he created the Department of Workforce Development (providing vocational and technical education, literacy programs, and many more), initiating the Buddy Project and Access Indiana (providing Internet to citizens in schools, libraries, and community centers by 2000), and supervised Indiana’s largest tax cuts and surplus in state history. After he left office, he was elected as Indiana Senator in 1998 and 2004.

Frank O’Bannon grew up in Corydon, Indiana. He graduated from Corydon High School in 1948. O’Bannon attended Indiana University and graduated in 1952 with a bachelor’s degree in government. Afterwards, he would serve in the United State Air Force for two years; however, he would return to Indiana University and gained a law degree in 1957.  O’Bannon served as a state senator from 1970 to 1989 and served as Evan Bayh’s lieutenant governor from 1989 to 1997. O’Bannon finally got his chance as governor in 1997, as he was elected as the next governor of Indiana.

During his tenure as governor, he created multiple programs in Indiana. The first was Hoosier Healthwise: a program that provided healthcare to children who do not have health insurance. The second was joining the Education Roundtable: this created new standards and accountability system for Indiana public schools. O’Bannon restructured Indiana’s tax system providing many benefits: property tax relief, job creation, and method of assessing property. He was known during his tenure for thinking about children. At his 1997 and 2001 inaugurations, O’Bannon invited fourth grade students from around Indiana to watch him be sworn in as governor at Indiana Statehouse in 1997 and the RCA Dome in 2001. Sadly, O’Bannon passed away due to a stroke at an international trade conference in Chicago, Illinois on September 8, 2003. His lieutenant governor, Joe Kernan, was sworn into office as the next governor.





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