Politician. He served as a US Congressman, Senator, and Secretary of the Treasury, however, he is best remembered to most Americans as the Democratic Party's Vice Presidential nominee during the 1988 Presidential election. Named Lloyd Millard Bentsen, Jr, after his father, in the small town of Mission, Texas. In his youth he was a Boy Scout, and earned the Eagle Scout rank, while attending public schools. He attended the University of Texas Law School, graduating in May 1942 with a law degree, and passed the bar exam shortly afterwards. With the US at war, he quickly joined the Army, and served as a Private doing intelligence work in Brazil. Desiring more excitement, he volunteered for flight training, and soon became a pilot, gaining a commission as a Second Lieutenant. In 1944, he was assigned to the 449th Heavy Bombardment Group, 15th Air Force, flying B-24 Liberators out of southern Italy. In 18 months of combat, Bentsen flew over 200 missions, including the raid on the Ploesti oil fields in Romania which resulted in heavy casualties, and was quickly promoted to Major and given command of a squadron of 600 men. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal (4 awards). At the end of the war, he left active military service and transferred to the Air Force Reserve, in which he would later be promoted to Colonel. From 1947 to 1954, he served as County Judge in his home area of Hidalgo County, Texas, then served three terms in the US House of Representatives. In 1954, he left public service to work in the private sector, and by 1970, he was President of Lincoln Consolidated, a financial holding institution, when he decided to return to politics. Unseating Democratic Senator Ralph Yarborough for the senate nomination, he then defeated Republican George H. W. Bush for Senator. Bentsen was subsequently reelected to the Senate in 1976, 1982 and 1988. Favoring abortion and women's rights, he was hawkish on military issues, and was a lukewarm supporter of the Vietnam War. Tending to support business interests, especially the oil and gas industry, he was soon appointed to the influential Senate Finance Committee. By 1988, he was considered one of the most respected voices in the Senate. In 1988, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis chose him to be his running mate for President / Vice President. In the ensuing campaign for the presidency, many people believed that Bentsen was more "presidential" than Dukakis. Despite the strength he brought to the ticket, the Democrats lost the 1988 election, and Bentsen returned to the Senate. In January 1993, newly elected Democratic President Bill Clinton selected Bentsen to be his Secretary of the Treasury, but he left the position in December 1994. In 1998, he retired following a stroke which left him partially disabled. The next year, President Clinton awarded Bentsen the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his support of democracy and for the good work he had done with the economy. Bentsen died at his home in Houston, Texas, at the age of 85.
Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson
Beryl Ann Longino Bentsen