February 17, 1949 – July 23, 2019
Dave Gorton, 70, died July 23 in Billings after a brief battle with cancer. Dave won election as the only Democrat on the Yellowstone County Commission in 1981, serving until 1987 while leading efforts to modernize county services to better serve residents. He was also elected President of the Breakfast Exchange Club of Billings in 1985. Before that he served as a Deputy County Attorney from 1975 to 1981, heading the Civil Division from 1978 to 1981.
Born Charles David Gorton in Missoula in 1949, Dave was the son of longtime Billings residents Lois and Robert ‘Bones’ Gorton. He attended area schools, graduating from Billings Senior High in 1967.
From an early age, Dave was a very active member of his community.
In high school he was elected class president, competed in football and track, was a member of the band, active in several clubs, and was a Rick Hutton Award recipient.
As a student at the University of Montana, Dave was instrumental in founding the ASUM Program Council and served as its first director. Program Council was born during the era of 1960’s student activism at the U of M. Student activity fees had been largely earmarked for the Athletic Department and the football team, until student leaders won more control over their fees to fund a more student-centered mix of activities, including a truly ground-breaking concept — a semi-autonomous, student-led corporation to program concert and lecture events. And it was a spectacularly successful endeavor. As a result, the campus became a nationally recognized stop for major concert tours and internationally renowned speakers, supplanting Spokane as the favored venue between Minneapolis and Seattle — while hosting major touring artists that have included Fleetwood Mac and The Rolling Stones and lectures by Truman Capote, Hunter Thompson, and Buckminster Fuller.
Dave earned his Juris Doctorate from the U of M Law School in 1975, creatively funding his schooling with a small cattle operation he did with some friends.
After his stint as a Yellowstone County Commissioner, Dave went on to private practice, based first in Chinook and later in Glasgow. He also served stints as a Blaine County Deputy Attorney, Harlem City Attorney and in Glasgow as Deputy County Attorney and City Attorney.
With all that, he still found time to train as an EMT and loved providing help to those who needed emergency attention and transport. During his time in Glasgow he served as the Frances Mahon Deaconess Hospital Ambulance Service Director and Valley County EMS Coordinator.
Dave had a dry sense of humor and enjoyed having a good time, even at his own expense. While serving as a county commissioner he even made a cameo appearance in a Magic City Singers production as a breezy ex-politician advertising wind and ‘hot air’ for sale.
In 2014 Dave returned to Billings where he was active in a number of community and political organizations. The move back to the home near Pioneer Park he had owned since 1976 also gave him an outlet for another of his passions — carpentry and building. Like other homes he had owned, this one was given a major remodel with Dave’s usual attention to detail.
A lifetime Democrat, Dave loved classical music and regretted that his two ‘short term goals for recovery’ would not be met: voting against Donald Trump in 2020 and returning to Tiny’s Tavern for broasted chicken.
Dave is survived by his four suitably pampered cats, his sister, Donna Crocker; brother, Jack Gorton; nieces and nephews, Ben, Kelcey, Kate, Aaron, Sara, and Sean, who delighted in his strong opinions and sardonic wit; littles, Grant Bones, David, Cove, and Shelby; and dear friends and kindred spirits, Perry and Linda.
Per Dave’s wishes there will be no formal services to mark his passing, however his sister and brother feel no harm could come from an entirely spontaneous gathering of friends and family at Tiny’s Tavern on Saturday, July 27th from 12 to 2 pm.
David left a major portion of his estate to the Northern Plains Resource Council and the Montana Environmental Information Center and the family encourages any remembrance of him to be directed there.