George A. Bukovatz

Photograph courtesy of Ray Bukovatz, Missoula, Montana

 

George A. Bukovatz, 26th U.S. Marshal for the District of Montana

George A. Bukovatz was born at Anaconda, Montana on December 4th, 1899. One of seven children, The Bukovatz family moved to Butte when young George was three, where his father found work as a miner. He graduated from Butte High School, excelling athletically as a football player. Following high school, Bukovatz played one season for Montana Tech but did not enroll at that institution. He also played in the Butte Independent League for Meaderville and Dublin Gulch teams, while working in the mines. In 1921, Bukovatz moved to Missoula, working at the Bonner lumber mill until 1929. He then drove truck for the U.S. Forest Service, Blair Transfer and Polley’s Lumber for four years.

Bukovatz began his law enforcement career in 1934 as a Missoula County Deputy Sheriff serving under Sheriff Jimmy Thompson for six years. After a break of two years, Bukovatz returned to again public service as Undersheriff for Sheriff Bob MacLean for the next 16 years. During this service to his county, Bukovatz oversaw, with Sheriff MacLean, the last legal execution of a prisoner by a sheriff’s office in 1943. Serial killer, Slim Coleman, after pleading guilty to the first degree murder of the Northern Pacific Railroad section foreman and his wife; confessed to eight separate slayings and many more he could not recall exact details, before his death (47 days after the murders). Several years later, Bukovatz directed the 1954 investigation of the vicious murder of Alice Abney, the young wife of a railroad crew foreman and the manhunt for her murderer, Raymond Hein. Bukovatz and MacLean retired from the sheriff’s office in 1958.

Bukovatz went on to work for a year at the Missoula County and Recorder’s office and unsuccessfully ran for sheriff in 1960 on the Democratic ticket. On August 15th, 1961, Bukovatz was appointed by President John F. Kennedy as U.S. Marshal for the District of Montana, moving the headquarters from Billings to Butte. He subsequently was re-appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson and served until April 2, 1969. Bukovatz remained on the marshal’s staff stationed at the newly created Missoula office until his 70th birthday as a deputy.

Bukovatz was married to the former Annie Konkell of Butte; they had one son, Raymond. Bukovatz passed away at the age of 75 at his home in Missoula in September of 1975 and was buried at St. Mary Cemetery Annex.

Sources:
1) George Bukovatz Papers, Courtesy of Ray Bukovatz (son), Missoula, Montana.
2) 8 Slayings Confessed By Coleman, Missoulian, 9/11/43:1.
3) Official Detective Stories Magazine, November 1954:24.
4) Hein Taken to Prison for 75 Year Term, Missoulian, 1954.
5) Veteran Lawmen, ibid, 1958.
6) Patronage Plums, Great Falls Tribune, 12/18/60:1.
7) Bukovatz Nominated, ibid, 8/4/61:13.
8) Senate OKs Bukovatz, ibid, 8/12/61:5.
9) Butte Gets New Arm of Federal Law, Montana Standard, 8/16/61:1.
10) New U.S. Marshal Assumes Duties, Missoulian, 8/1961.
11) U.S. Marshal Visits City, Billings Gazette, 1961.
12) Bukovatz sworn in for his second term as U.S. Marshal, Montana Standard, 8/21/65.
13) Bukovatz Renamed U.S. Marshal, Missoulian, 8/21/65:2.
14) George Bukovatz, 75, Veteran Lawman, Dies, Missoulian, 9/20/75.
15) Sheriffs of Missoula County, Montana and Their Times, 1860 to 1978, Sheriff John C. Moe and Deputy Robert Rafferty.