John Chandler Gurney

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Chan Gurney
John Chandler Gurney.jpg
Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee
In office
January 3, 1947 – January 3, 1949
Preceded byNone (position created)
Succeeded byMillard Tydings
Secretary of the Senate Republican Conference
In office
September 30, 1945 – January 3, 1946
LeaderWallace H. White Jr.
Preceded byHarold Hitz Burton
Succeeded byMilton Young
United States Senator
from South Dakota
In office
January 3, 1939 – January 3, 1951
Preceded byGladys Pyle
Succeeded byFrancis H. Case
Personal details
Born(1896-05-21)May 21, 1896
Yankton, South Dakota, U.S.
DiedMarch 9, 1985(1985-03-09) (aged 88)
Yankton, South Dakota, U.S.
Resting placeYankton Cemetery, Yankton, SD
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Evelyn Bordeno (m. 1917-1985, his death)
Military service
AllegianceUnited States of America
Branch/serviceUnited States Army
Years of service1917-1919
UnitCompany A, 34th Engineer Regiment
Battles/warsWorld War I

John Chandler "Chan" Gurney (May 21, 1896 – March 9, 1985) was an American businessman and politician from South Dakota. A Republican, he was most notable for his service as a U.S. Senator from 1939 to 1951.

Early life[edit]

Gurney was born in Yankton, South Dakota on May 21, 1896, a son of Deloss Butler Gurney and Henrietta (Klopping) Gurney.[1][2] He attended the public schools of Yankton and graduated from Yankton High School in 1915.[1] He became active in his father's business, Gurney's Seed and Nursery Company, of which was appointed secretary and treasurer.[1]

Military service[edit]

During World War I, Gurney volunteered for military service, though he was ineligible for the draft because he was married.[2] Assigned to the United States Army's Company A, 34th Engineer Regiment, he completed training at Camp Lewis, Washington.[2] He served in France in 1918 and 1919 and attained the rank of sergeant before being discharged for illness.[2]

Continued career[edit]

After returning to the United States, Gurney resumed working for the family seed business, where he remained until 1926.[1] A pioneer in commercial radio advertising, Gurney became the owner and operator of Yankton's (WNAX) in 1926.[2] In 1933, he moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where he became active in the wholesale gasoline and oil business and was a developer of gasohol.[1]

Gurney was a member of the Sons of the American Revolution.[2] He also belonged to the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars.[2] In addition, Gurney was a member of the Masons and Elks.[2]

U.S. Senator[edit]

In 1936, Gurney ran unsuccessfully for election to the United States Senate as a Republican. In 1938, he was the successful Republican nominee.[1] He was reelected in 1944, and served from January 3, 1939 to January 3, 1951.[1] He was chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services in the 80th Congress (1947-1949), the first chairman after the merger of the committees on Naval Affairs and Military Affairs.[2] Gurney was an unsuccessful candidate for renomination in 1950, losing the Republican primary to Francis Case, who went on to win the general election.

Civil Aeronautics Board[edit]

In 1951, Gurney was appointed to the Civil Aeronautics Board.[1] He served as chairman from 1954 to 1957, and served on the board until 1964.[1]

Retirement and death[edit]

In retirement, Gurney retired to Yankton.[1] He died there on March 9, 1985.[1] Gurney was buried at Yankton Cemetery in Yankton.[1]


Chan Gurney Municipal Airport in Yankton is named for Gurney.[3]


In 1917, Gurney married Evelyn Bordeno (1897-1993) in Kansas City, Kansas.[1] They were the parents of three children - Ida, John, and Deloss.[1][2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Former Sen. Chan Gurney Dies In Yankton at 88". Argus Leader. Sioux Falls, SD. March 10, 1985. p. 4C – via
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j U.S. Senate Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce (April 1, 1953). Nomination of Chan Gurney to be a member of the Civil Aeronautics Board. Washington, DC: US Government printing Office. p. 1 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ "Chan Gurney Municipal Airport". Private Jet Hire Air Charter. New York, NY: Airnetz Aviation Pvt. Ltd. 2020. Retrieved July 30, 2020.

External links[edit]

Additional reading[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
William H. McMaster
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from South Dakota
(Class 2)

Succeeded by
Harlan J. Bushfield
Preceded by
Gladys Pyle
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from South Dakota
(Class 3)

1938, 1944
Succeeded by
Francis H. Case
Preceded by
Harold Hitz Burton
Secretary of the Senate Republican Conference
Succeeded by
Milton Young
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Gladys Pyle
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from South Dakota
Served alongside: William J. Bulow, Harlan J. Bushfield, Vera C. Bushfield, Karl E. Mundt
Succeeded by
Francis H. Case
Preceded by
None (position created)
Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee
Succeeded by
Millard Tydings