Ramsey County History podcast

March of the Governors, Governor #31
Karl Fritjof Rolvaag
(Series Podcast #34)

Karl Fritjof Rolvaag (1913-1990) grew up in Northfield, the son of acclaimed novelist Ole Rolvaag. Upon his father’s untimely death in 1931, Rolvaag roamed the West for five years, working in the fields and forests and allying himself with that most radical of unions—Industrial Workers of the World. He graduated from St. Olaf College in 1942. He then began six years in the US Army that included combat service as a tank commander. After graduate work at the University of Minnesota, he became an organizer and frequent candidate for the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. He won election as lieutenant governor four times. In the 1962 election, Rolvaag defeated incumbent Governor Elmer L. Andersen by ninety-one votes. As governor, he pushed for a modern community college system, helped reapportion Minnesota’s legislative districts, oversaw the passage of a taconite amendment for the Iron Range, supported notable reforms in mental health, and protected the environment. In 1966, he lost his bid for reelection to Harold Levander. Rolvaag later served two years as ambassador to Iceland and as chair of the Minnesota Public Service Commission. He resigned to fight his alcoholism and spent the rest of his life lecturing and counseling others about the importance of treatment.

Direct download: rolvaag_for_posting.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:34am CDT

March of the Governors, Governor #30
Elmer L. Andersen
(Series Podcast #33)

For Elmer L. Andersen, his single term as governor (1961-1963) marked a brief episode in a life of remarkable accomplishment. From modest beginnings in Muskegon, Michigan, Andersen rose from salesman for HB Fuller Co. to the leader who made the company a giant. He served with distinction in the state legislature, then defeated the popular and effective governor Orville Freeman in 1960. His great accomplishment as governor was reform of taconite taxation. He was a Republican far to the left of his party. In 1962, he lost the closest election in Minnesota history. He moved on to a career in philanthropy and a very long life.

Direct download: AndersonEL_for_posting.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:34am CDT

March of the Governors, Governor #29
Orville Lothrop Freeman
(Series Podcast #32)

Orville Lothrop Freeman (1918-2003) was, like governors Floyd Olson and Luther Youngdahl before him, a product of the streets and schools of Minneapolis: His parents ran a clothing store on Lake Street. He attended the University of Minnesota, where he played football under the legendary Bernie Bierman, served as student council president, and was a champion debater. College was interrupted by World War II; he enlisted in the US Marines, where his one week in combat at Guadalcanal ended in a firefight and a bullet to the jaw. He returned to Minneapolis. There, his college debate partner, Hubert Humphrey, got him into DFL politics. Freeman proved to be a superb organizer. He ran for attorney general in 1950 and lost; he ran for governor in 1952 and lost. In 1954, he defeated incumbent governor C. Elmer Anderson and became Minnesota's first DFL governor. He spent the next six years modernizing and enlarging state government, largely in response to the postwar baby boom. He was a key figure in creating the modern, liberal Minnesota state government. In 1960, Freeman narrowly lost his try for an unprecedented fourth term, in part, due to his handling of a meatpackers' strike in Albert Lea. He served the next eight years as Secretary of Agriculture under presidents Kennedy and Johnson. He proved to be a superb organizer, helping build the new party statewide and expelling the far-left elements of the old Farmer-Labor party. 

Direct download: freeman_for_posting.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:38pm CDT

March of the Governors, Governor #28
C. Elmer Anderson
(Series Podcast #31)

Minnesota's twenty-eighth governor, C. Elmer Anderson (1912-1998), mostly aspired to be lieutenant governor, and at that he succeeded—elected six times in seven tries. He rose to governor in September 1951 with the resignation of Luther Youngdahl. Anderson won the governorship on his own in 1952, riding the ample coattails of Dwight Eisenhower. In this role, he tried to carry out Youngdahl's progressive policies, but the stars and the Minnesota senate were against him. He had beaten DFL candidate Orville Freeman handily in 1952; Freeman whipped him in their 1954 rematch, where Anderson's lifelong motto, "silence is golden," helped bring him down. He later served four years as mayor of Nisswa and ten years as mayor of his hometown, Brainerd. 

Direct download: anderson_ce_for_posting_2.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:50pm CDT

March of the Governors Special Edition: Billy Williams
March of the Governors Series Podcast #30

William F. (Billy) Williams never served as Minnesota's governor, but he served more Minnesota governors than any public servant in our state's history. He caught the eye of Governor John A. Johnson as a baseball player at the turn of the twentieth century. Johnson invited him to work at the capitol as his aide and messenger. Johnson died, but Williams stayed on, through the next thirteen governors—Eberhart, Hammond, Burnquist, Preus, Christianson, Olson, Petersen, Benson, Stassen, Thye, Youngdahl, Anderson, and Freeman—over fifty years. No one saw more of Minnesota government from the inside than did Billy Williams. 

Direct download: williams_for_posting_revised.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:40pm CDT

March of the Governors, Governor #27
Luther Youngdahl
(Series Podcast #29)

From his youth, Luther Youngdahl (b. 1896) aspired to be a judge, and he succeeded: Minneapolis Municipal Court (1930-1936), Hennepin County District Court (1936-1942), Minnesota Supreme Court (1942-1946), and US District Court for the District of Columbia (1951-1978.) Along the way, he found time to serve as Minnesota’s twenty-seventh governor (1947-1951.) A deeply committed Christian, Youngdahl found his signature issue in pushing for reforms of the state’s mental hospitals. Elected three times, the Republican cut short his third term to accept an appointment by Democrat Harry Truman (an appointment instigated by Hubert Humphrey), as a federal court judge in Washington DC. Youngdahl was the son of Swedish immigrants, a Minneapolis city kid like his contemporary Floyd Olson, and a graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College. He died in 1978.
Tom Beer, with host Paul Nelson.

Direct download: youngdahl_final_edit.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:10am CDT

March of the Governors, Governor #26
Edward John Thye
(Series Podcast #28)

Edward John Thye (1896-1969) was called Minnesota’s “farmer-governor,” and aptly so. He was born on a farm in South Dakota, grew up on a farm near Northfield, maintained his own Dakota County farm during his political career, concentrated on farm issues during his twelve years in the US Senate, and retired to the farm when his political career ended. Thye was the son of Norwegian immigrants, served in France during World War I, sold tractors, farmed, and got into politics through his friend Harold Stassen, who appointed him assistant commissioner of agriculture in 1939. Stassen then effectively chose Thye to succeed him when he left the governorship for the Navy in 1943. Thye finished Stassen’s term, won election easily in 1944, then moved on to the Senate in 1946. Eugene McCarthy defeated him in 1958.

Paul Nelson, with host Ken Peterson

Direct download: thye_for_posting.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:48am CDT

March of the Governors – Harold Stassen, Governor #25
Podcast #27

Harold Stassen, Minnesota’s twenty-fifth governor, is among our most intriguing. He sprang to national attention as the state’s “Boy Governor,” elected in 1938 at the age of thirty-one. Stassen was very popular in his over four years as governor because of success with the legislature and in administering state government. He went on to be a US Navy commander in WWII; one of eight US delegates to the 1945 UN Charter Assembly; a top presidential candidate in 1948; president of the University of Pennsylvania; and a member of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s cabinet. Stassen also is credited by many with leading and inspiring a long line of progressive leaders in Minnesota’s Republican Party. 

Today, however, Stassen is sometimes remembered not for his political accomplishments but for the many unsuccessful runs for political office in his last three decades. As a result, Stassen has become a joke to some political observers instead of the multitalented politician and public policy thinker that he was.

Direct download: stassen_for_posting.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:18pm CDT

March of the Governors
Podcast #26
The Farmer-Labor Party
Minnesota’s Farmer-Labor Party was the most successful third party in American history. Between 1930 and 1938, the party far outpaced both traditional parties in vote-getting, including successfully electing three Farmer-Labor governors. For this special episode, we assembled a panel of historians to reflect on the terms of Floyd Olson, Hjalmar Peterson, and Elmer Benson and this unique interlude in Minnesota political history.

Direct download: MOTG_special_edition_farmer_labor_panel_for_posting.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:05am CDT

March of the Governors, Governor #24
Elmer Austin Benson
(Series Podcast #25)

We are unlikely to see a politician like Elmer Benson ever again. The small-town, left-wing banker served briefly as a US Senator before becoming governor. He was a genuine political radical who advocated replacing capitalism in Minnesota with a "cooperative commonwealth." The first time he ran for governor of Minnesota in 1936, he won by a landslide. The next time, in 1938, he lost by a landslide. In between, he battled with the legislature, filled state jobs with Farmer-Labor party workers, and once endorsed an occupation of the state senate chambers by Farmer-Laborites demanding action. Benson lived a long life (1895-1985) and never repented of anything. 

Direct download: benson_ready_for_posting.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:16pm CDT

March of the Governors, Governor #23: Hjalmar Petersen
(Series Podcast #24)

Hjalmar Petersen (1890-1968) holds many distinctions as a governor of Minnesota: our only Dane, our only Hjalmar, our last immigrant (so far), our only governor from Askov (so far), and the one who served the shortest term (four months.) He served two terms in the legislature, one term as lieutenant governor, and eighteen years as a warehouse and railroad commissioner. He ran for governor four more times—three with the Farmer-Labor Party, one as a Republican. His political career began in 1930 and ended in 1967. He became governor in August 1936 upon the death of Floyd B. Olson. Passed over as Farmer-Labor candidate for governor in the primaries later that year, Petersen nurtured a grudge against the party for years to come. In 1938, he nearly upset Governor Elmer Benson in a primary. He tried again in 1942 and 1946. In 1956, he managed Estes Kefauver’s Minnesota presidential primary win over Adlai Stevenson. He served once more on the railroad and warehouse commission from 1955 to 1967.

Direct download: peterson_ready_for_posting.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:17pm CDT

March of the Governors, Governor #22
Floyd Bjornstjerne Olson
(Series Podcast #23)

By age thirty, Floyd Bjornstjerne Olson (1891-1936) had been a shabbos goy, a college dropout, a stevedore, and a Wobbly. By age forty, he had served ten years as Hennepin County attorney. In the next five years, he would become one of Minnesota’s most successful politicians – its first Farmer-Labor governor (elected three times), a powerful speaker, the force behind legislation to support suffering farmers and workers during the Depression, and the only Minnesota governor ever to proclaim, “I am a radical.” He toyed with the idea of leading a national Farmer-Labor Party and took aim at a seat in the US Senate in 1936. But it was not to be: Pancreatic cancer took him in his prime at age forty-four. 

Direct download: olson_for_posting_4jan23.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:36pm CDT