March of the Governors: Orville Freeman
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.