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Robert D. Orr

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Title: Robert D. Orr  
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Subject: Evan Bayh, Lieutenant Governor of Indiana, List of Governors of Indiana, Jon Huntsman, Jr., Randall T. Shepard
Collection: 1917 Births, 2004 Deaths, Ambassadors of the United States to Singapore, American Military Personnel of World War II, Burials at Crown Hill Cemetery, Deaths from Surgical Complications, Governors of Indiana, Hanover College, Harvard Business School Alumni, Hotchkiss School Alumni, Indiana Republicans, Indiana State Senators, Lieutenant Governors of Indiana, People from Ann Arbor, Michigan, People from Evansville, Indiana, People from Indiana in World War II, Politicians from Evansville, Indiana, Recipients of the Legion of Merit, Republican Party State Governors of the United States, United States Army Officers, Yale University Alumni
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Robert D. Orr

Robert Orr
44th Lieutenant Governor of Indiana
In office
January 8, 1973 – January 12, 1981
Governor Otis R. Bowen
Preceded by Richard E. Folz
Succeeded by John Mutz
45th Governor of Indiana
In office
January 12, 1981 – January 9, 1989
Lieutenant John Mutz
Preceded by Otis R. Bowen
Succeeded by Evan Bayh
United States Ambassador to Singapore
In office
Preceded by Daryl Arnold
Succeeded by Jon Huntsman
Personal details
Born Robert Dunkerson Orr
(1917-11-17)November 17, 1917
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Died March 10, 2004(2004-03-10) (aged 86)
Indianapolis, Indiana
Resting place

Crown Hill Cemetery

Indianapolis, Indiana
Political party Republican Party
Spouse(s) Mary Kay Davis
Children 3 children
Alma mater Yale University
Harvard Business School
Military service
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1941–1946
Rank Major

World War II

Robert Dunkerson Orr (November 17, 1917 – March 10, 2004) was an American political leader and the 45th Governor of Indiana from 1981 to 1989. He was a member of the Republican Party.


  • Early life 1
  • Political career 2
  • Electoral history 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7

Early life

Robert D. Orr was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan,[1] where his family was vacationing, on November 17, 1917, the last of the three children of Samuel Lowery and Louise Dunkerson Orr. His father was an industrialist with interests in many companies whose holdings were centralized in the Orr Iron Company. Orr grew up in Evansville, Indiana where his father's company was headquartered. His family have lived in the area for three generations.[2]

He attended local public schools for most of his early education, but transferred to the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut before his final year of high school beginning in 1934. Upon graduation he was accepted to Yale University, enrolling in 1936. At Yale he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity (Phi chapter). He earned a bachelor's degree in 1940 and then enrolled in Harvard Business School.[3][4]

After the outbreak of World War II, he left Harvard without graduating to join the Army. He was admitted to Officer's Candidate School and after completing his course served as on the staff of the quartermaster's general staff in the Pacific Theater, eventually rising to the rank of major. For his service, he was awarded the Legion of Merit. He met Joanne "Josie" Wallace who served in the Women's Air Force Service Pilots, while he was serving. After their discharge in 1946 they married, settled in Evansville, and eventually had three children.[3]

After returning home, Orr entered into the family business, and became active in Republican politics of Vanderburgh County. Many Evansville factories had been creating war implements, and the end of the conflict led many of them to close. Orr began purchasing vacated factories, refurbishing them to produce goods, and selling them. Through his activity he became involved in a local economic development committee.[3] His business and holding expanded rapidly and by 1953 he was on the board of twenty local businesses including Erie Investments, Sterling Brewers, and Grand Junction, and was director of twelve other companies. He was on several civic boards including the Rotary Club, Evansville YMCA, Willard Library, Buffalo Trace Council or Boy Scouts of America, and the Presbyterian Church of Evansville. Because of his community service, he was awarded the Jaycees Young Man of the Year award in 1953. As a result of the award, he was invited to serve as a trustee of Hanover College, a position he held for decades.[5]

Political career

Orr first became involved in politics in 1950 as a member of a local Republican Party advisory board. In 1951 he became chairman of the local party; he served until 1954. He was a precinct committeeman for eight years, and in 1958 became treasurer for the Eight District Republican Committee, a position he held until 1960. In 1965 he was elected chairman of the Vanderburg County Republican Central Committee; he held that position for six years.[5]

In 1968 he was elected to the

Political offices
Preceded by
Richard E. Folz
Lieutenant Governor of Indiana
January 8, 1973 – January 12, 1981
Succeeded by
John Mutz
Preceded by
Otis R. Bowen
Governor of Indiana
January 12, 1981 – January 9, 1989
Succeeded by
Evan Bayh

  • Biography from the Indiana Historical Bureau
  • Robert D. Orr at Find a Grave
  • Biography from the Indianapolis Star
  • The New York Times: Robert D. Orr, 86, Governor Who Revamped Indiana Schools
  • National Governors Association
  • Appearances on C-SPAN

External links

  • Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections. Congressional Quarterly Inc. 1994.  
  • Gugin, Linda C. & St. Clair, James E, ed. (2006). The Governors of Indiana. Indianapolis, Indiana: Indiana Historical Society Press.  

Further reading

  1. ^ "Robert D. Orr, 86, Governor Who Revamped Indiana Schools". The New York Times. Retrieved October 9, 2012. 
  2. ^ Gugin, p. 368
  3. ^ a b c Gugin, p. 369
  4. ^ "Indiana Governor Robert D. Orr". National Governors Association. Retrieved October 9, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c Gugin, p. 370
  6. ^ a b Gugin, p. 371
  7. ^ Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections, 2005 edition
  8. ^ Congressional Quarterly, p. 406


See also

Indiana gubernatorial election, 1980[8]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Robert D. Orr 1,257,383 57.7
Democratic John Hillenbrand 913,116 41.9

Electoral history

Interstate 164 is named the "Robert D. Orr Highway" in his honor.

In 2000, he divorced his wife Joanne "Josie" Wallace. In 2001, at the age of eighty-three, he married Mary Kay Davis. Orr died at the age of eighty-six at the Indiana University Medical Center in Indianapolis from complications following kidney surgery. He is buried in Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis.

After he left his ambassadorship, Orr established a consulting firm called the Alliance for Global Commerce, which focused on international trade and export issues.

After his terms as governor, Orr was named by U.S. Ambassador to Singapore, a position that he held until 1992.

In 1986, Orr served as President of the Council of State Governments and as the Chairman of the Midwestern Governors Association.

As governor he oversaw the reform of the Indiana educational system. In 1984, he defeated State Senator Wayne Townsend of Hartford City to win a second term as governor: 1,146,497 (52.8 percent of the two-party vote) to 1,036,832 (47.2 percent). An ad from the 1984 campaign, which featured an actress playing a fortune teller and a singer with a Daryl Hall style mullet, was featured on an episode of CNN's Not Just Another Cable News Show. In the 1984 election, Orr polled 110,886 fewer votes than he had in 1980, and his overall percent dropped by 4.9.[7]

Orr was popular statewide because of his economic plans and for being associated with the tax reorganization plan. With Bowen's backing, he ran unopposed for the Republican nomination to run for Governor in 1980. In the general election he was opposed by Democrat John Hillenbrand. Orr focused on connecting himself with the popular Governor Bowen; his slogan was "Let's Keep a Good Thing Going."[6] He easily defeated Hillenbrand, 1,257,383 (57.7 percent) to 913,116 (41.9 percent) votes.


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