Graduated from Northwestern University Law School in 1951 and admitted to the Arkansas bar in 1952. Started practicing law in his hometown in that same year and served as Charleston city attorney from 1952-1970. Served as special justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court in 1968.
The previous Democratic governor had been defeated by a Republican reformer Winthrop Rockefeller. Bumpers ran for election against Rockefeller in 1970 as a new type of Democrat who would bring reform to the Democratic Party. Bumpers defeated Rockefeller and ushered in a new era of youthful reform minded Governors. Bumpers served as Governor of Arkansas from 1971 to 1975 when he was elected United States Senator. He served in the Senate from 1975 to 1999 where he served as chairman of the Committee on Small Business. Bumpers was known for his oratorial skills.
Bumpers and his wife Betty were both known for their dedication to the cause of childhood immunization.