With the news of Conrad Burns’ passing late last week, Montanans lost a member of the family. From across the state, prayers were offered for Phyllis and the Burns family and fond memories were shared.
Conrad was a dedicated husband to Phyllis and father to Garrett and Keely. He was an auctioneer, a high school referee, an agriculture broadcaster and founder of Northern Ag Network, a county commissioner, a U.S. senator and always a U.S. Marine. He loved his family, he loved Montana and he loved his country. And last Thursday, Burns passed away with his boots on — active and engaged with his family and community until the very end.
Burns was a fierce fighter for Montana and rural America. He appreciated that folks in states like Montana don’t always have a loud voice in Washington, D.C., and he always put “MT” before the R or the D as he served our state in the U.S. Senate.
We see the impact of his commitment and leadership in telecommunications and his key role in authoring and passing legislation to improve broadband connectivity and connecting Montana to the rest of the world. As a U.S. senator, Burns was truly a pioneer; he could see to the future for Montana and knew the importance of telecommunications for rural Montana.
When I worked in the software business at RightNow Technologies headquartered in Bozeman, one of our early meetings was a global tele-meeting with our offices in Tokyo, Sydney, London and across the U.S. We held it at the Conrad Burns Telecommunications Center at Montana State University. We used the technology there to have a global meeting, and we can thank Burns for his vision and leadership in making that happen.
This is very much a lasting legacy. We are currently seeing, through the growing high tech economy in Montana, the fruit of Burns’ labor paying off in Montana.
A Montanan to the core, Burns was committed to agriculture and natural resources and understood like most Montanans that true wealth is created from the ground. He also knew we must work to conserve Montana’s beauty and outdoors heritage for future generations.
Montana’s longest serving Republican senator, Burns brought his great wit and his humility to Washington and was able to forge friendships and alliances across the aisle. The last time I saw Conrad was a month ago in Billings over a cup of coffee and, as was normal with Conrad, his cheery demeanor and thoughtful questions made for a very memorable conversation.
Montanans who didn’t know Burns personally can be grateful for his legacy of moving Montana forward through broadband connectivity and global communication, for his commitment to our men and women in uniform, and his great personal service to our state and our nation.
U.S. Sen. Steve Daines of Bozeman is a Montana Republican.