Trails to the Past

North Dakota

Admitted to the Union

November 2, 1889

File:Flag of North Dakota.svg




North Dakota State Governor's

Also to read short stories of their political careers click on the links

Name of Governor Term of Office Political Party
1 John Miller November 20, 1889-January 7, 1891 Republican 1843-1908
2 Andrew H. Burke January 7, 1891-January 3, 1893 Republican 1850-1918
3 Eli C. D. Shortridge January 3, 1893-January 10, 1895 Democratic-Independent 1830-1908
4 Roger Allin January 10, 1895-January 6, 1897 Republican 1848-1936
5 Frank A. Briggs January 6, 1897-August 15, 1898 Republican 1858-1898
6 Joseph M. Devine August 15, 1898-January 3, 1899 Republican 1861-1938
7 Frederick B. Fancher January 3, 1899-January 10, 1901 Republican 1852-1944
8 Frank White January 10, 1901-January 4, 1905 Republican 1856-1940
9 Elmore Y. Sarles January 4, 1905-January 9, 1907 Republican 1859-1929
10 John Burke January 9, 1907-January 8, 1913 Democratic 1859-1937
11 L. B. Hanna January 8, 1913-January 3, 1917 Republican 1861-1948
12 Lynn Frazier January 3, 1917-November 23, 1921 Republican/NPL 1874-1947
13 Ragnvald A. Nestos November 23, 1921-January 7, 1925 Republican/IVA 1877-1942
14 Arthur G. Sorlie January 7, 1925-August 28, 1928 Republican/NPL 1874-1928
15 Walter Maddock August 28, 1928-January 9, 1929 Republican/NPL 1880-1951
16 George F. Shafer January 9, 1929-December 31, 1932 Republican/IVA 1888-1948
17 William Langer December 31, 1932-June 21, 1934 Republican/NPL 1886-1959
18 Ole H. Olson June 21, 1934-January 7, 1935 Republican/NPL 1872-1954
19 Thomas H. Moodie January 7, 1935-February 2, 1935 Democratic 1878-1948
20 Walter Welford February 2, 1935-January 6, 1937 Republican/NPL 1868-1952
21 William Langer January 6, 1937-January 5, 1939 Republican/NPL 1886-1959
22 John Moses January 5, 1939-January 4, 1945 Democratic 1885-1945
23 Fred George Aandahl January 4, 1945-January 3, 1951 Republican 1897-1966
24 Clarence Norman Brunsdale January 3, 1951-January 9, 1957 Republican 1891-1978
25 John E. Davis January 9, 1957-January 4, 1961 Republican 1913-1990
26 William L. Guy January 4, 1961-January 2, 1973 Democratic-NPL 1919-
27 Arthur A. Link January 2, 1973-January 6, 1981 Democratic-NPL 1914-2010




John Miller (October 29, 1843 - October 26, 1908) served as the first Governor of North Dakota from 1889 to 1891. He was a member of the Republican Party.

John Miller was born in Dryden, New York. In 1878 he moved to the Dakota Territory with Jeremy W. Dwight and purchased 17,000 acres  of land in the Red River Valley land of Richland County, establishing the Dwight Farm and Land Company. In 1889 Miller participated in the constitutional convention; this was Miller's only political experience prior to becoming governor. He had no previous political aspirations, but ran for governor after being persuaded to do so. After serving his term Miller declined to run for re-election or other office. He returned to his bonanza farm business and organized the John Miller Land Company in 1896. Miller became president of the newly-incorporated Chaffee-Miller Milling Company in 1906.




Andrew Horace Burke (May 15, 1850 - November 17, 1918) was an American politician who was the second Governor of North Dakota from 1891 to 1892.  He was born in New York City in 1850 and orphaned at the age of four. Burke was adopted by a family of farmers near Noblesville, Indiana. He enlisted as a drummer boy with an Indiana regiment in the American Civil War. After returning to Indiana, he finished his education, attending what would become DePauw University for two years. In 1880, after marrying, he moved to Casselton, North Dakota and became a general store bookkeeper. He next became a cashier of the First National Bank of Casselton and then, for six years, the Treasurer of Cass County.


Andrew Horace Burke was elected to the governorship in 1890. During Burke's administration, it was discovered that North Dakota did not have any laws for the selection of presidential electors. Burke called for a special session of the legislature to convene on June 1, 1891, and attended to the law. The state participated in the 1892 U.S. presidential election, when Grover Cleveland was elected to a second term as President of the United States. (Based on the popular vote in North Dakota - narrowly won by Populist candidate James Weaver - one Republican elector and two electors from a fusion Democratic-Populist slate were selected. The Republican elector voted for the Republican candidate, incumbent President Benjamin Harrison, while other two electors split, one voting for Cleveland and one voting for Weaver.)  His political career ended when he lost favor with farmers of the state by vetoing a bill that would have forced railroads to lease sites near the tracks for building grain elevators and warehouses under conditions that were not acceptable to the railroads.  He died in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1918 at the age of 68.



Eli C. D. Shortridge (March 29, 1830 - February 4, 1908) was an American politician who was the third Governor of North Dakota from 1893 to 1895. Eli C. D. Shortridge was the first governor to live in the executive mansion.


Born Eli Charles Daniel Shortridge, eighth of nine children born to Levi and Elizabeth Love Shortridge, he grew up in Monroe County, Missouri, and completed his education at an academy located near Paris, Missouri. He moved to Larimore, North Dakota with his family, second wife Anna Burton and twin daughters, in 1882, and ran for governor ten years later in 1893 on a fusion ticket composed of Populists, Democrats, and the Farmers' Alliance, who merged into a single political party.

During his administration, He approved the issuance of $50,000 in bonds to construct the south wing of the state capitol and approved the purchase of an executive mansion for the governor's residence. He also supported an appropriation for a state elevator at Duluth, Minnesota. An out-of-state terminal elevator was not constructed largely due to a provision requiring North Dakota sovereignty over any elevator site. The bill passed, but the provision that Minnesota or Wisconsin would have to cede sovereignty over the site created an unacceptable situation for both states. Governor Shortridge retired from office after one term. He was appointed clerk of the General Land Office at Devils Lake, North Dakota.

After the death of Elizabeth, He married a third time to Dorcas Virginia Brady and they had 5 additional children.




Roger Allin (December 18, 1848 - January 1, 1936) was an American politician who was the fourth Governor of North Dakota from 1895 to 1897, and previously the second Lieutenant Governor of North Dakota from 1891 to 1893. He was a native of Devonshire, England.  He previously served in North Dakota's Territorial Council and as a delegate to its first Constitutional Convention.




Frank A. Briggs (September 15, 1858-August 9, 1898) was an American Republican elected official who served as the fifth Governor of North Dakota from January 6, 1897 until his death nineteen months later.

A native of Minnesota, Frank A. Briggs was born in the state's Hennepin County and was variously employed as a printer and journalist. Twenty-three years old in 1881, he moved to the city of Mandan, the county seat of North Dakota's Morton County, where he dealt in real estate. Campaigning for public office, he was elected county treasurer, serving from 1885 to 1887, gained the statewide post of auditor in 1894 and, finally, in November 1896, prevailed in the gubernatorial election. An activist executive, he participated in discussions of laws being drafted by the state legislature, including passage of the revenue bill as well as a general railway law which regulated movement of freight and passengers.

Having struggled with tuberculosis, Governor Briggs lost the battle in Bismarck five weeks before his 40th birthday. Lieutenant Governor Joseph M. Devine served the remaining four-and-a-half months of the governor's two-year term.




Joseph McMurray Devine (March 15, 1861 - August 31, 1938) was an American politician who was the Republican Governor of North Dakota from 1898 to 1899. He served as governor for less than one year as he finished the term after Governor Frank A. Briggs died in office



Frederick Bartlett Fancher (April 2, 1852 - January 10, 1944) was an American politician who was the seventh Governor of North Dakota from 1899 to 1901.




Frank White (December 12, 1856 - March 23, 1940) was the eighth Governor of North Dakota. A Republican, White also served as Treasurer of the United States from 1921 to 1928.

Colonel Frank Charles White was born on December 12, 1856, in Stillman Valley, Illinois, to Joshua and Lucy Ann (Brown) White. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Illinois in 1880. Soon after graduation, White worked for the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad. In 1882, he moved to the Dakota Territory, although his reasons for doing so are unclear. According to the book Barnes County History, White departed for North Dakota at his father's request to look after land he had acquired near Valley City; Clement Lounsberry's North Dakota History and People reports that White moved to North Dakota to look after land he himself had purchased. Nevertheless, while White was in Valley City he met Elsie Hadley, a native of Indiana who was a math teacher at Valley City State Normal School. The couple were married on September 19, 1894, in Indianapolis. The couple had one son, Mister Wobblesworth.


White's interests soon turned toward politics, and in 1890 he was elected to represent District 15 in the North Dakota House of Representatives. He served only one term before being elected to the State Senate in 1892. He was re-elected in 1896, but resigned from this post to become a commissioned major of the First North Dakota Volunteer Infantry, Spanish-American War.

White arrived in the Philippines on July 30, 1898, participating in the capture of Manila on August 13. Throughout his service in the war, White participated in over twenty engagements, was a highly respected leader, and was awarded the Silver Star for bravery during combat.

White returned to the United States in 1899, and purchased land near Litchville. In 1900, he opened a real estate and insurance office. That same year, he received the Republican nomination for Governor, and was victorious in the fall election.

Under White's two-term governorship, many needed reforms were implemented. A large amount of the school funds were not drawing interest, and White decided to invest the money in bonds and farm loans, earning interest in the lump sum. It was during his administration that North Dakota's first state bonds were redeemed. In fact, through his sound financial maneuvering, a $223,000 state deficit was eliminated.

In January 1905, however, White decided to retire from political office to return to private business. He organized the Middlewest Fire Insurance Company and served as its president until 1913, when the company merged with Twin City Fire Insurance Company. In 1914, White organized the Middlewest Loan & Trust Company and was its president until America's entry into World War I.


With the advent of World War I, White was commissioned once more, this time at the rank of colonel. He commanded the Second North Dakota National Guard Regiment, which later merged into the 41st Infantry Division. In 1918, he was sent to France, but due to his age he was not assigned to combat duty.


When the war ended, White returned to take up his position in Middlewest Loan & Trust Company. His career in politics was not finished, though, for in 1921 White was named United States Treasurer at the request of President Warren G. Harding. When Calvin Coolidge became President in 1924, he was asked to remain in the position. He resigned in May 1928 to become president of Southern Mortgage Guaranty Corporation at Chattanooga, Tennessee.


Elsie White died on July 13, 1925, in Washington, DC. Colonel Frank White died in Washington, D.C. on March 23, 1940. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.


Elmore Yocum Sarles (January 15, 1859 - February 14, 1929) was an American politician who was the ninth Governor of North Dakota from 1905 to 1907. Born in Wonewoc, Wisconsin, Sarles arrived in Hillsboro, North Dakota in 1881 where he founded a bank and a lumberyard and became the mayor of Hillsboro. Sarles served one term as mayor and then was elected Governor. "More business in government" was Sarles' motto. There was a surplus of $200,000 in the state treasury when he left the Governor's office.







John Burke (February 25, 1859 - May 14, 1937) was an American lawyer, jurist, and political leader from North Dakota.

Burke was born in Keokuk County, Iowa, and moved to the Dakota Territory. After North Dakota was admitted to the union, he served in the state's House of Representatives in 1891 and in its Senate from 1893 to 1896. He served three terms (1907-1913) as the tenth Governor of North Dakota.

At the 1912 Democratic National Convention in Baltimore, Burke enthusiastically supported the candidacy of Woodrow Wilson. Burke swung all of North Dakota's votes to Wilson on the first ballot. William Jennings Bryan, himself a supporter of Wilson and also a good friend of Burke's, wanted Burke to run for Vice-President. Burke demurred, however, due to a promise he had given Indiana delegates for their votes. As a result, Thomas Marshall of Indiana was chosen for Vice-President. Burke was named United States Treasurer following Wilson's election victory in November 1912. Burke held this office until the end of Wilson's presidency in 1921.

Burke ran for the United States Senate in 1916 but lost. From 1913 to 1921 Burke was Treasurer of the United States, under President Woodrow Wilson. He later served as a justice of the North Dakota Supreme Court from 1924 until his death on May 14, 1937. Burke County, North Dakota is named in his honor.

The State of North Dakota donated a statue of Burke to the United States Capitol's National Statuary Hall Collection in 1963.


Louis Benjamin Hanna (August 9, 1861 - April 23, 1948) was the eleventh Governor of the state of North Dakota.

Louis Benjamin Hanna was born in New Brighton, Beaver County, Pennsylvania. His parents, Jason R. and Margaret Hanna died when he was a small boy, leaving him to be raised by his aunts. Louis Hanna grew up and received his education in Massachusetts and New York. He came to the Dakota Territory in 1881 with his brother, Robert C. Hanna and began farming near what is now Hope, North Dakota. He sold his land in 1882 and moved to Page where he began his career as a businessman. He started a retail lumber company, then expanded into grain handling. Soon he needed banking facilities, so he opened a private bank at Page. The bank became a state bank, then became the First National Bank of Page, with Hanna as the president.


From 1895 to 1897, Hanna served in the North Dakota House of Representatives. Hanna moved to Fargo in 1899, serving as vice president of the First National Bank of Fargo. Hanna took on the North Dakota Senate from 1897 to 1901, and again from 1905 to 1909, representing the Fargo district this time.

In 1908, Louis Hanna was elected to represent North Dakota in the United States House of Representatives where he served two terms, from 1909 to 1913. Without any lapse between positions, he became the eleventh Governor of North Dakota in 1913. The four years in Bismarck as Governor of North Dakota were largely spent attacking the $300,000 debt inherited by Hanna upon assuming office. At the end of four years, the entire amount was paid off; in addition, the bonded debt of nearly one million dollars was reduced to $462,000.

During Hanna's term the governor, his family, and a committee went to Norway. On July 4, 1914 at Christiania (Oslo), they presented the people of Norway with a statue of Abraham Lincoln. The statue, by North Dakota sculptor Paul Fjelde, is located in Frogner Park in Oslo. Later, King Haakon VII decorated Gov. Hanna as a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav of the First Rank.

Governor Hanna served as chairman of the Liberty Loan drives in 1917 and 1918. During World War I he served in France as a captain in the American Red Cross. He was cited as an officer of the French Legion of Honor by the French government. Hanna continued his business interests in agriculture, banking, and other enterprises until his retirement. In 1924, Louis Hanna handled presidential campaign of Calvin Coolidge in North Dakota. He died in 1948, aged 86, in Fargo, North Dakota.


Lynn Joseph Frazier (December 21, 1874 - January 11, 1947) was a politician from North Dakota, serving as a U.S. Senator from 1923 to 1941 and the 12th Governor of North Dakota of that state from 1917 until being recalled in 1921. He was the first American governor ever successfully recalled from office. Aside from Frazier, the only other governor to have been successfully recalled is California Governor Gray Davis in October 2003.


Frazier was born in Medford, Minnesota. His family moved to North Dakota when he was six years old. Prior to his career in state and national politics, Frazier was a farmer and school teacher. He graduated from Grafton High School in 1892 and Mayville Normal School in 1895. He completed his bachelor's degree at the University of North Dakota, graduating with honors in 1902.

After running in the Republican primary as the Non-Partisan League candidate, Frazier was elected Governor in 1916 with 79% of the vote. Frazier was extremely popular and implemented several reforms such as the establishment of the Bank of North Dakota and the North Dakota Mill and Elevator. He was re-elected twice, in 1918 and 1920, but an economic depression hit the agricultural sector during his third term and resulted in a grassroots movement to press for his recall. The movement succeeded, and in 1921 the governor was successfully removed from office. Independent Voters Association member


Ragnvald A. Nestos was elected in his place.

After the recall, Frazier was elected in 1922 to the United States Senate, again as the NPL candidate on the Republican ticket. He served until losing a bid for re-election in 1940, being unseated in the Republican primary by William Langer. Frazier died in Riverdale, Maryland, on January 11, 1947, at the age of 72.



Ragnvald Anderson Nestos (April 12, 1877 - July 15, 1942) was the 13th Governor of the U.S. state of North Dakota from 1921 through 1925

Ragnvold Anderson Nestos was a native of Voss, Norway. He was the son of Andres R. Nestos and Herborg (Saue) Nestos. One of ten children, he was sixteen and spoke no English when he came to the United States (passenger on board the S.S. British Prince, which sailed from Liverpool, and arrived at the Port of Philadelphia, May 31, 1893) to live with his aunt and uncle at Buxton, North Dakota. He entered the first grade at Buxton and attended school in between working odd jobs and working at lumber camps out of state. Four years later, in 1897, he passed the teachers' examinations and taught in a country school. He completed studies at Mayville Normal School (teachers' college) while homesteading in Pierce County. In 1904 he graduated from the University of North Dakota and moved to Minot, where he began practicing law with attorney C. A. Johnson.


Nestos was a member of the Independent Voters Association, running on the Republican ticket. He was a member of North Dakota State House of Representatives, 1911-12; Ward County State's Attorney, 1913-16; and primary candidate for U.S. Senator from North Dakota, 1916. He gained office when Governor Lynn Frazier was defeated in the first successful attempt to recall a governor in U.S. history. Frazier's term was plagued with controversy and a grassroots movement had begun to press for his recall. The recall election that removed Governor Lynn Frazier had also removed two other members of the Industrial Commission from office. It was a time of bitter political discontent and bickering between the NPL (Nonpartisan League, which supported state-owned industry) and the IVA (Independent Voters Association, which opposed state ownership of Industries). Nestos worked hard to make the new state-owned businesses (State Mill and Elevator and the Bank of North Dakota) a success. He also campaigned against illiteracy. During his administration, North Dakota came into national compliance for registering births and deaths, and North Dakota had a full-time health officer for the first time. He ran for and completed a second term of office.

Nestos never married. He received national recognition for his work on behalf of the Boy Scouts of America. He was a Silver Buffalo Award Winner (1942). He was also active within the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America.



Arthur Gustave Sorlie (April 26, 1874 - August 28, 1928) served as the 14th Governor of North Dakota from 1925 until his unexpected death in 1928 at the age of 54.

Sorlie was born in Albert Lea, Minnesota and resided in Grand Forks, North Dakota. He was of Norwegian American heritage. He graduated from Luther Academy at Albert Lea, Minnesota in 1893. He worked in a bank and managed a general store in Buxton, North Dakota. In 1903, Sorlie opened a bread and cracker factory in Grand Forks, North Dakota. He became a successful businessman, owning car dealerships and gas stations. Sorlie first entered politics as a member of the Grand Forks City Council, a position he held two terms.


Sorlie defeated incumbent Ragnvald A. Nestos in the 1924 gubernatorial race. At that time, North Dakota politics involved the struggle between the Nonpartisan League (NPL) and the Independent Voters Association (IVA). The NPL membership (primarily farm and rural) bitterly opposed big business interests. They favored state-owned industries such as the Bank of North Dakota and the State Mill and Elevator. The IVA considered the NPL platform to be too radical and socialistic. They did not support state ownership of industry.

When NPL-backed Sorlie replaced IVA candidate Nestos, the Nonpartisan League returned to power in the state. However, Sorlie did not have complete support from the League. Some (such as his own lieutenant governor, Walter Maddock) opposed Sorlie because he was a conservative businessman. During the 1927 legislative session, Sorlie's political enemies conspired to embarrass him by publicly investigating the State Mill and Elevator and calling for its removal from the governor's influence because of inefficient management.


Governor Sorlie died in office in 1928. His body lay in state in the rotunda of the North Dakota State Capitol. The Sorlie Memorial Bridge in Grand Forks, North Dakota was named in his memory. The Arthur G. Sorlie Papers were deposited in the Orin G. Libby Manuscript Collection in the Chester Fritz Library at the University of North Dakota.




Walter Jeremiah Maddock (September 13, 1880 - January 25, 1951) was born in Grand Forks, North Dakota. He served in the North Dakota House of Representatives from 1914 to 1924, and became the 14th Lieutenant Governor of North Dakota in 1925. Maddock became the 15th Governor of North Dakota in 1928 when Arthur G. Sorlie died in office, and became the first North Dakota born governor. He served the remainder of Sorlie's term and sought re-election, but he failed to win the race against George F. Shafer. In the 1928 election, he did something rare when he switched parties from Republican to Democratic.

After being defeated in the election, Maddock returned to farming and was active in organizing farmers' cooperatives. Maddock was a very strong supporter of the Nonpartisan League, and he supported state-owned industries (Bank of North Dakota and the State Mill and Elevator).  In 1933, Maddock became senior administrative officer of the regional Agricultural Adjustment Administration. From 1937 until his retirement in 1950, he served as head of North Dakota's Farm Security Administration office.




George F. Shafer (November 23, 1888 - August 13, 1948) was born in Mandan, Dakota Territory. Shafer pursued a career in politics and became the State's Attorney for Mckenzie County from 1915 to 1919. He took on a more prominent role in 1922 when he became the North Dakota Attorney General prior to serving as the Assistant Attorney General from 1921 to 1922. He served this position until 1929, after defeating incumbent Walter Maddock in the 1928 gubernatorial election. He served as the 16th Governor of North Dakota from 1929 to 1933. During his term, many profound events in the history of North Dakota occurred. The most severe problems facing the state during Shafer's administration were drought and low prices for agricultural products. To his credit, the State Mill and Elevator showed a good profit for the state under Shafer's direction, despite the weather and economic conditions. In 1930, the state capitol (former territorial capitol) burned down. A capital commission was formed to oversee the design and construction of the new capitol, and he was at the groundbreaking ceremony in 1932. Shafer retired from public life after losing the 1932 election to William Langer. He died in Bismarck, North Dakota on August 13, 1948 at the age of 59.



William "Wild Bill" Langer (September 30, 1886 - November 8, 1959) was a prominent US politician from North Dakota. Langer is one of the most colorful characters in North Dakota history, most famously bouncing back from a scandal that forced him out of the governor's office and into prison. He served as the 17th and 21st Governor of North Dakota from 1933 to 1934 and from 1937 to 1939. Langer also served in the United States Senate from 1940 to 1959 when he died in office.

Langer was born on September 30, 1886 near Casselton, North Dakota to Frank and Mary (Weber) Langer. His father, Frank Langer, was a member of the first legislature of the state of North Dakota. William was valedictorian of Casselton High School upon graduation in 1904. He obtained a bachelor of laws from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, but was too young upon graduation to practice law. He therefore continued his undergraduate education at Columbia, where he graduated at the top of his class in 1910. Although he was offered a position at a prominent New York law firm, he elected to return to North Dakota, where he practiced law in the town of Mandan before starting his career in politics. He married Lydia Cady, the daughter of a New York architect, in 1918, and had four daughters, Emma, Lydia, Mary, and Cornelia (who became a wife of abstract impressionist painter Kenneth Noland).


In 1914, Langer was appointed state's attorney of Morton County, ND and was one of a few non-farmers on the Nonpartisan League Republican 1916 state ticket. He was elected state Attorney General as the newly-formed NPL party swept to victory in the 1916 election, but soon clashed with the party's founder and mercurial leader A.C. Townley. By 1920, Langer was publicly accusing Townley of Bolshevism, and failed in a primary campaign to replace the incumbent NPL governor Lynn Frazier as the party's gubernatorial candidate. Langer's break with the NPL leadership was a reflection of the infighting that limited the party's eventual influence on North Dakota politics.


Langer eventually mended his rift with the NPL and was elected governor of North Dakota in 1932.


As governor, Langer in 1933 required all state employees to donate part of their annual salaries to the NPL and to the Leader, a weekly newspaper owned by high-ranking officials in his administration. Collecting this money was not prohibited by state law and was a traditional practice. However, when donations were made by highway department employees, who were paid through federal relief programs, the US attorney charged that the donations constituted a conspiracy to defraud the federal government. Brought to trial in 1934, Langer and five co-conspirators were found guilty. The North Dakota Supreme Court ordered him removed from office due to his conviction on a felony charge, and on July 17, 1934, the Court declared Lieutenant Governor Ole H. Olson the legitimate governor. Langer gathered with about ten friends, declared North Dakota independent, declared martial law, and barricaded himself in the governor's mansion until the Supreme Court would meet with him. Langer eventually relented, and Olson served the remainder of Langer's term as Governor. In 1935 the convictions were overturned on appeal. The case against Langer was retried twice in 1935. The jury failed to reach a verdict in the first retrial, but the second retrial resulted in Langer's acquittal. Langer, a master of "political theater," claimed to have been a victim of a political vendetta, and was returned to the governorship in the 1936 election.

Langer's wife Lydia ran for governor in 1934, but lost.


Langer was elected governor again in 1936, and served one two-year term, from 1937 to 1939. In 1938 he ran for Senate as an independent, and received 42% of the vote; he was defeated by Republican Gerald P. Nye.

The 1940 election was another very dramatic one. Langer defeated incumbent Lynn Frazier in the Republican primary, and then faced both the Democratic candidate, Charles Vogel, and Republican/NPL Congressman William Lemke, who declined to run for reelection to Congress in order to run for Senate as an independent. Langer won the election with 38% of the vote.

Senator Langer was an isolationist, wanting to minimize America's involvement in World War II. At home, he concentrated on making life easier for the farmers of North Dakota by raising wheat prices and doling out government relief, although amidst rumors of great scandal. He was also very adamant about implementing affordable healthcare for everyone. As a senator, he served on the Post Office, Civil Service and Indian Affairs committees. He and Henrik Shipstead of Minnesota were the only Senators to vote against the United Nations Charter in 1945.

In 1950, "Wild Bill" filibustered for 29 hours, and 53 minutes on September 22 to 23. The filibuster was for the veto of a Communist registration bill.

Following the merger of the Nonpartisan League with the state Democratic party, Langer remained on the Republican ticket in the 1958 senate elections, and won without making a single campaign appearance in the state. Langer died in Washington, DC on November 8, 1959.

Political offices

1914-1916: State's Attorney for Morton County

1916-1920: Attorney General of North Dakota

1933-1934: Governor of North Dakota (removed from office)

1937-1939: Governor of North Dakota

1941-1959: United States Senate




Ole H. Olson (September 19, 1872 - January 29, 1954) was born in Mondovi, Wisconsin. After graduating from Concordia College, in Moorhead, Minnesota, he moved to North Dakota and eventually was elected to the North Dakota House of Representatives and later was elected to the North Dakota State Senate. Olson was elected the 16th Lieutenant Governor of North Dakota. In 1934, governor William Langer was removed from office following a scandal, and Olson was sworn in as the 18th Governor of North Dakota. Olson served the remainder of the term of his predecessor, William Langer, when Langer was removed from office and sentenced to prison. Olson died in New Rockford, North Dakota on January 29, 1954 at the age of 81




Thomas H. Moodie (May 26, 1878-March 3, 1948) was born in Winona, Minnesota. He served a brief term of less than a month as the 19th Governor of North Dakota in 1935. After he was inaugurated in January 1935, it was revealed that he had not officially been a resident of North Dakota for the mandatory five years, and he was removed from office in February 1935.


A native of Winona, Minnesota, Thomas H. Moodie left school at the age of sixteen. He moved to Wadena, Minnesota, and began his career as a newspaperman in the printing department of the Wadena Pioneer. He also worked as a brakeman for the Northern Pacific Railroad. He moved to North Dakota and was a cub reporter for the Bismarck Tribune. He became a journeyman printer, reporter, and editor of newspapers throughout the state, and also served as an editorial writer for the Minneapolis Tribune. In 1933 President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed him to a committee on federal grants to public buildings. In 1934 Moodie received the Democratic nomination for governor, and beat his Republican opponent, Lydia Langer (wife of William Langer). As soon as the election was over, there was talk of impeachment, but no charges were filed.

After Moodie's inauguration on January 7, 1935, it was revealed that he had voted in a 1932 municipal election in Minnesota. In order to be eligible for governor, an individual has to have lived in the state for five consecutive years before the election. The State Supreme Court determined that Governor Moodie was ineligible to serve, and he was removed from office on February 16, 1935. After his five-week stint as governor, Moodie became an administrator for the North Dakota Federal Housing Administration. He also served as deputy administrator for the State War Finance Committee in Montana. Finally he served as financial editor and confidential agent for the publisher of the Spokane Chronicle. Moodie died in Spokane, Washington on March 3, 1948 at the age of 69.




Walter Welford (May 21, 1868 - June 28, 1952) was born in Bellerby, Yorkshire, England. He was inaugurated as the 20th Governor of North Dakota on February 2, 1935 after Thomas H. Moodie was removed from office after it was determined he was ineligible to hold the office. He served until 1937, having lost the 1936 race to former governor William Langer.


Walter Welford served as township clerk at Pembina for twenty years. He also served in the North Dakota House of Representatives and Senate. As Lieutenant Governor of North Dakota, Welford became governor after Thomas H. Moodie was disqualified. Welford was a staunch supporter of the Nonpartisan League (NPL), a farmers' political group. During Welford's administration the state was caught in the grip of the Great Depression. The 1936 crop yield was disastrously low because of drought. Welford met with President Franklin Roosevelt and obtained federal aid for drought-stricken farmers. In 1936, Welford decided to run for office again. He beat former Governor William Langer for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, but Langer refused to drop out, and entered the general election as an independent. Welford lost the three-way governor's election to Langer. (The third-place candidate was Democrat John Moses, who became North Dakota's twenty-second governor, following Langer's second term.) Welford died in Altona, Manitoba, Canada (or in Pembina County, North Dakota) on June 28, 1952 at the age of 84.



John Moses (June 12, 1885 - March 3, 1945) was the 22nd Governor of North Dakota from 1939 to 1945, and served in the United States Senate in 1945 until his death that year.

Born in Strand in Rogaland county, Norway in 1885. He was the son of Reverend Henrik B. and Isabella (Eckersberg) Moses. He attended public school in Norway, and graduated from the high school at Kongsvinger in 1900 and from junior college in Oslo in 1903. He came to the United States in 1905 and worked for the Great Northern Railway from 1906 to 1911. He entered the University of North Dakota in 1912, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1914. He entered the University of North Dakota Law School and graduated with a Juris Doctor degree in 1915. He began practicing law at Hazen, North Dakota in 1917.


From 1919 until 1923, and later from 1927 until 1933, Moses served as State's Attorney for Mercer County. In 1936 he came in third in the three-way governor's race, behind former governors William Langer and Walter Welford. Moses became governor in 1939, following William Langer's second term in the office. Moses worked hard to reduce Langer's influence. He sought to cut government spending and to balance the state's budget. Moses was in office during World War II. He tried to encourage war-time industries to locate in the state, but North Dakota ranked last in the nation for receiving war spending. Despite the lack of wartime appropriations, Moses' administration was a time of prosperity for the state. Rainfall was plentiful and there was a ready market for agriculture products. Moses was a popular governor. During his election campaign he gave speeches in English, German, or Norwegian, depending on his audience. A Democrat, Moses was noted for his support from both political parties. In 1944 Moses defeated Gerald P. Nye for a seat in the United States Senate. He died on March 3, 1945, shortly after taking his place in the Senate




Fred George Aandahl (April 9, 1897 - April 7, 1966) was a Republican politician from North Dakota. He served as the 23rd Governor of North Dakota from 1945 to 1951 and as a U.S. Representative from 1951 to 1953.


Aandahl was born in Litchville, Barnes County, North Dakota, the son of Norwegian emigrants Soren "Sam" J. and Mamie C. (Lawry) Aandahl. He graduated from Litchville High School, and then from the University of North Dakota in 1921 and became a farmer. He was superintendent of Litchville's schools from 1922 to 1927. On June 28, 1926 he married Luella Brekke. In 1931, 1939 and 1941 he was member of the North Dakota State Senate. From 1945 to 1951 he was governor of the state. He was elected as a Republican to the Eighty-second United States Congress (January 3, 1951-January 3, 1953). He was not a candidate for the Eighty-third Congress in 1952, but was an unsuccessful candidate for the United States Senate, running as an independent against incumbent William Langer, a fellow Republican, and Democrat Harold A. Morrison with Langer winning in a landslide and Aandahl receiving third place and 10% of the vote. From 1953 to 1961 he was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Interior. Aandahl died in Fargo, North Dakota and was interred in Hillside Cemetery, Valley City, North Dakota.



Clarence Norman Brunsdale (July 9, 1891 - January 27, 1978) was the 24th Governor of North Dakota and United States Senator of the state of North Dakota.


Clarence Norman Brunsdale was born in Sherbrooke, Steele County, North Dakota. He was educated in public schools and the Bruflat Academy at Portland, North Dakota. In 1913, he graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. He returned to Portland, teaching at Bruflat Academy and worked the family farm operations in Traill and Steele counties.

Brunsdale served in the North Dakota State Senate, as Governor of North Dakota from 1951 to 1957 and as U.S. Senator from November 19, 1959 to August 7, 1960. As governor, Brunsdale was an avid supporter of water development projects. During his administration Garrison Dam was completed and the Legislature established the Garrison Diversion Conservancy District. The early 1950s also saw the establishment of the Highway Department and the passage of major highway legislation. Education, agriculture, and mental health issues were also important to Governor Brunsdale.

In 1959, Brunsdale was appointed to the United States Senate upon the death of Senator William Langer. Quentin N. Burdick was narrowly elected to the seat in a 1960 special election.

Brunsdale died at Mayville, North Dakota in 1978.  He was buried in Mayville Cemetery, Mayville, Traill County, North Dakota.




John Edward Davis (April 18, 1913 - May 12, 1990) was a North Dakota politician who served as the 25th Governor of North Dakota. He was elected in 1956, and served one term before losing the election to William L. Guy in 1960. Davis died in 1990 at the age of 77.

John E. Davis was born in Goodrich, North Dakota. After attending several years of high school in Fargo, Davis graduated from Bismarck High School in 1931. Later that fall, Davis enrolled at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. While at the University, Davis pledged for Beta Theta Pi, and was active in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). He was the ranking officer in Scabbard and Blade, an organization of select Senior ROTC cadet officers. He graduated from UND with a Bachelor of Science degree in Commerce in 1935. Davis returned to Goodrich and took over management of his family's ranch and farm.


In May 1941, he was drafted into the United States Army. He reported first to Fort Snelling, Minnesota, before being sent to Camp Robinson, Arkansas, where he became commander of Company C, 1st Battalion, 134th Infantry. He saw extensive combat duty in the European Theater, and was awarded a Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and Silver Star. He separated from the United States Army on July 31, 1945, from Camp McCoy, Wisconsin.


In 1946, Davis was elected mayor of McClusky, North Dakota, serving until 1952. That year, he successfully ran for a position in the North Dakota State Senate. He served in the Senate until 1956, when he was nominated for Governor on the Republican ticket. He defeated the Democratic candidate, Wally Warner, in the fall election. He was re-elected in 1958, and served until 1960.

He was a candidate for the United States Senate in 1960, but was narrowly defeated by Quentin N. Burdick. He was again a candidate in 1964, but lost the Republican primary to Tom Kleppe.

In 1966, Davis was honored with the Sioux Award, the University of North Dakota Alumni Association's highest honor.

Davis was elected the American Legion national commander from 1967 to 1968, and was appointed Director of the Office of Civil Defense by President Richard Nixon in 1969. The agency was renamed in 1972 as the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency. Following his retirement in 1976, he was awarded the Department of Defense Service Medal.


In 1977, Davis returned to North Dakota to operate the family ranch and resume presidency of the First National Bank of McClusky. In 1978, he received the Greater North Dakota Award from the Greater North Dakota Association. He was active in many organizations, including the Elks, Masons, and the Scottish Rite and the Shrine.


John Davis married Pauline Huntley in 1938. The couple had three children: John, Jr., Richard, and Kathleen. The couple divorced after forty years of marriage in 1978, after which he married Marilyn R. Westlie in 1980.


Davis died on May 12, 1990, in Rancho Mirage, California.



William Lewis Guy (born September 30, 1919) was the governor of the U.S. state of North Dakota from 1961 to 1973. At 92, he is the oldest of the six living current or past governors of North Dakota.

Guy was born in Devils Lake, North Dakota. After receiving his B.S. degree from North Dakota Agricultural College (NDAC), where he was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, he served in the U.S. Navy in World War II as a gunnery officer, achieving the rank of lieutenant. He received a master's degree from the University of Minnesota, and then became the assistant county agent for Cass County. With his wife Jean, Guy began farming at Amenia, North Dakota, in 1948 and taught agricultural economics at NDAC during the winter quarters. He served in the North Dakota House of Representatives for one term from 1959 to 1961. In the legislature Guy served as assistant minority leader.


His election as governor on the Democratic-Non Partisan League ticket finally established the two-party system in North Dakota. As governor, Guy served two two-year terms and two four-year terms. He began modernizing state government by implementing the new Office of Management and Budget. During his terms, the state hospital's patient load was reduced from 2,600 to 600 and eight regional mental health districts were established. Guy organized the five-state Old West Trail Tourist Loop. The interstate highway system, 350 Minuteman missiles, the anti-ballistic missiles site, and Garrison Diversion were large federal projects that came to North Dakota during Guy's watch. He was instrumental in bringing three sugar beet refineries and large scale coal-fired electrical generation to North Dakota. Governor Guy was selected by President Lyndon B. Johnson to observe the first presidential elections in South Vietnam. He originated the concept of an interpretive North Dakota Heritage Center and promoted its construction. The Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award was established by Governor Guy as North Dakota's highest recognition. Guy organized and served as the first chairman of the Midwest Governors' Conference in 1962. In 1966 he was elected chairman of the National Governors' Conference. He was an unsuccessful candidate for the United States Senate in 1974.




Arthur Albert Link (May 24, 1914 - June 1, 2010) was an American politician for the North Dakota Democratic Party, and later the Democratic-NPL. He was elected as a one-term congressman in 1970 and as the 27th Governor of North Dakota in 1972, and served two terms until 1981.

Link was born in Alexander, North Dakota. He attended the McKenzie County schools, and North Dakota Agricultural College. He was elected to the North Dakota House of Representatives in 1946 as a Democrat, serving fourteen years as minority floor leader and speaker of the house, 1965. He was also a member of the Randolph Township Board, 1942-1972; McKenzie County Welfare Board, 1948-1969; Randolph School Board, 1945-1963; county and State Farm Security Administration committee, 1941-1946; and delegate, North Dakota State conventions, 1964-1968.

In 1970, Link was persuaded to run for U.S. Congress from the western district of North Dakota, a job with little security as it appeared certain the state would be consolidated into a single congressional district after the census. He was elected as a Democrat NPL to the Ninety-second Congress (January 3, 1971 - January 3, 1973); was not a candidate for reelection in 1972 but was a successful candidate for Governor of North Dakota; reelected in 1976 and served from January 2, 1973, until January 7, 1981.

Link was well liked and well respected as a governor. Those of all political persuasions found common ground with him. Some considered him a social conservative who was staunchly pro-life, deeply religious and willing to stand for principle even when political wisdom dictated otherwise, vetoing a bill to lower the state drinking age to 19 years and providing leadership against legalizing gambling in the state. Others viewed him as a moderate as he was also astute fiscally, managing to avoid raising taxes of one of the poorer states in the nation. Still others saw him as a progressive, since he was still able to maintain and grow an excellent education system with affordable universities and students who consistently achieve some of the top test scores in the United States.

He was also a leader among governors from neighboring states. When the western United States suffered a severe drought in the mid-1970s, and other western governors called for Federal Aid, Link called for a day of fasting and prayer instead. Some believe that in answer to the many prayers, rain followed. With the rain, Federal Aid in North Dakota became a non-issue.

Even his political opponents could find little to criticize about his governing style. Some in his own party considered him too religious, too ethical, too colorless and too unwilling to compromise for the sake of political expediency. Nevertheless, he was nominated to run for a third term. He narrowly lost re-election in 1980 only due to a perfect storm of circumstances working against him, namely (1) a tradition of turnover in the governor's office (only Link's immediate predecessor in the office had served more than six years), (2) continuous occupation of the governor's mansion since 1961 by Dem-NPLers in a solidly Republican state, (3) a highly unpopular President Jimmy Carter running for re-election at the top of the ticket, (4) a highly popular opponent Ronald Reagan running on the Republican side, (5) a national feeling of pessimism brought about by the Iran hostage crisis and an unprecedented combination of double-digit unemployment, inflation and gas lines, even though North Dakota fared far better than most other places in the United States.


After his defeat for re-election, Link remained active in public life, leading a successful fight against a state lottery in 1984. He also remained a strong force for historical preservation and writing of local histories. He and his wife Grace, lived in Bismarck, North Dakota.

He is fondly remembered by North Dakotans and former North Dakotans, Dem-NPLers and Republicans alike as one of the best governors the state ever enjoyed. Ironically, the Democratic-NPL, able to elect only one governor since Link vacated the office in 1981, has managed to occupy all the seats in the state's federal congressional delegation in Washington from 1987 until January 2011, with every member therein having served during the Link Administration.

A movie was made of the Links' lives in 2008, entitled: "When the Landscape is Quiet Again".

Link died on June 1, 2010 in Bismarck, just eight days after his 96th birthday.



The information on Trails to the Past Copyright   may be used in personal family history research, with source citation. The pages in entirety may not be duplicated for publication in any fashion without the permission of the owner. Commercial use of any material on this site is not permitted.  Please respect the wishes of those who have contributed their time and efforts to make this free site possible.~Thank you!