Charles Thone, former Nebraska governor and congressman, died Wednesday at the age of 94. Born in Harrington, Nebraska on January 4, 1924, Thone graduated Harrington High School in 1940 and went on to serve three and a half years in the Army during World War II.
After his time in the war, he graduated from the UNL College of Law in 1950. From 1954 to 1970, he was the Administrative Assistant to US Senator Roman Hruska. In 1971, Thone joined Hruska in Congress as a member of the House of Representatives, representing Nebraska’s 1st congressional district.
One of Thone’s most notable moments in Congress came in 1977 as a member of a five-person House committee that investigated the assassination of John F. Kennedy and re-examined the conclusions of the 1964 Warren Commission. He earned praise from CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite as the “conscience of the committee” for insisting on open meetings. Ultimately the committee concluded that there was no conspiracy involved in Kennedy’s assassination.
In 1960, he led presidential write-in campaign for Richard Nixon in Nebraska. The campaign netted 74,000 write-in votes for Nixon, attracting national attention. Nebraska remained a Nixon stronghold, twice giving him his highest vote percentage in presidential elections. Thone did not stay with Nixon until the end, however, and announced that he would vote to impeach him for his role in the Watergate scandal.
Thone left Congress and immediately entered the Nebraska governor’s mansion in 1979, going to sleep a Congressman January 3 and waking up the 34th governor of Nebraska January 4. He was the first US governor to endorse Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential candidacy. However, Thone was not governor long. He was defeated by Bob Kerrey in 1982 and left office in 1983.
As with all Nebraska governors, Thone’s administrative files and papers are included in our government records collection.