Milward Simpson

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Milward Lee Simpson

In office
November 6, 1962 – January 3, 1967
Preceded by John J. Hickey
Succeeded by Clifford P. Hansen

In office
January 3, 1955 – January 5, 1959
Preceded by Clifford Joy Rogers
Succeeded by John J. Hickey

Wyoming State Representative
In office

Born November 12, 1897
Jackson, Wyoming
Died June 10, 1993 (aged 95)
Cody, Wyoming
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Lorna Kooi Simpson
Children Peter K. Simpson
Alan Simpson
Alma mater University of Wyoming at Laramie

Harvard Law School

Occupation Attorney; Businessman

Military Service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
Rank Second Lieutenant
Battles/wars World War I

Milward Lee Simpson (November 12, 1897 – June 10, 1993) was a United States Senator and the first governor of Wyoming to have been born in the state. He was inducted in 1985 into the Hall of Great Westerners of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.[1]


Simpson was born in the resort city of Jackson, Teton County (located in in northwestern Wyoming), the son of William Lee and Margaret Burnett Simpson. His father was a prosecutor who secured charges of grand larceny against the outlaw Butch Cassidy.[2] He attended the public schools in Meeteetse and Cody. In 1921, he graduated from the University of Wyoming at Laramie in Albany County, at which he was an athlete and a member of the debate team. During World War I, Simpson served as a second lieutenant in the United States Army infantry.

From 1921 to 1925, he attended Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Admitted to the bar in 1926, he practiced law in Cody until January 1955, when he became governor.

Political career

He served in the Wyoming House of Representatives from 1926 to 1927. Simpson also ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 1940.[3]

Governor of Wyoming

Simpson was elected governor in 1954, winning by merely a 1% margin.[4]

He signed into law in 1957 a statewide civil rights act which ended segregation in Wyoming.

A strong advocate of states' rights,[2] Simpson opposed federal land policies and advocated for all land belonging to the federal government to be returned to their respective states. His administration also established a mental health division and ensured authorization by the federal government to build uranium mills in the state.

Despite his mostly conservative positions, Gov. Simpson opposed the death penalty.[2] He commuted the death sentence of Herschel Clay Riggle, who murdered his fiancée.[5] Simpson stated on the matter:

I have always been opposed to capital punishment. I doubt that it is a deterrent to crime. Terrible and revolting and indefensible as was Riggle’s crime, taking his life cannot atone for the murders, nor lessen the grief of the victims’ survivors. It merely adds one more life to the toll of the tragedy.

Simpson lost his 1958 re-election bid to Democrat John J. Hickey by a very narrow margin, with the Economy Party candidate siphoning away several thousand votes.[6] Some partially attribute the general election results to Simpson's anti-death penalty stance, though this is disputed.[2]

U.S. Senate

Simpson was elected to the United States Senate in 1962.[7]

He voted against the final Senate passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964[8] because he favored state action on civil rights instead of the national government.[9] However, he did vote in favor of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.[10]

Simpson argued that the residents of Wyoming had a right to

...control of our water, our wildlife, our public education, and our other natural and spiritual resources.[2]

Due to arthritis, Simpson resigned from his Senate seat in 1967 before the end of his first term.[2] He was absent for 16% of all roll call votes during his tenure.[11]


His two sons, Peter K. Simpson and Alan Simpson, like their father, served in the Wyoming House. Alan Simpson served three terms in the U.S. Senate from 1979 to 1997. The sons were strongly in support of civil rights.

See also


  1. Hall of Great Westerners. National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Retrieved on November 22, 2019.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 The Associated Press (June 12, 1993). Milward Simpson, 95, Governor and Senator. Associated Press via The New York Times. Retrieved April 18, 2021.
  3. WY US Senate. Our Campaigns. Retrieved April 18, 2021.
  4. WY Governor. Our Campaigns. Retrieved April 18, 2021.
  5. Everett, Robin (July 15, 2020). Milward Simpson and the Death Penalty. Retrieved April 18, 2021.
  6. WY Governor. Our Campaigns. Retrieved April 18, 2021.
  7. WY US Senate - Special Election. Our Campaigns. Retrieved April 18, 2021.
  8. HR. 7152. PASSAGE.. Retrieved April 18, 2021.
  9. Billy Hathorn, Review of Dude Ranching in the Yellowstone Country: Larry Larom and Valley Ranch, 1915-1969 by W. Hudson Kensel, South Dakota History, Vol. 41, No. 4, pp. 458, 460.
  10. TO PASS S. 1564, THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT OF 1965.. Retrieved April 18, 2021.
  11. Sen. Milward Simpson. Retrieved April 18, 2021.

External links

  • Profile at
  • Profile at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  • Profile at the National Governors Association