Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has ordered flags to be lowered to half-staff today to mark the passing of former Governor Wendell Anderson; he was 83. According to a statement by Anderson’s family, he was “surrounded by his family and friends when he passed, at Our Lady of Peace hospice care in Saint Paul, Minnesota.”
Anderson was just 37 years old when he was elected to office in 1970, making him the youngest governor in Minnesota history. He served as governor from 1971-1976.
Anderson was born on February 1, 1933 in St. Paul, Minnesota. In 1954, he received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota. After participating as a member of the 1956 Olympic Hockey Team in Cortina, Italy, he enlisted in the U.S. Army as an infantry officer in 1956 and served until 1957. In 1958, he was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 1958, serving from 1959-1963, then served as a state senator from 1963-1971.
During his time in the Minnesota Legislature, Anderson earned a LL.B. from the University of Minnesota, after which he practiced law starting in 1960 until being elected as governor in 1970. He also served on the Democratic National Committee’s Executive Committee (’74-’75), the National Governors’ Conference Executive Committee (1971-1972) and he chaired the Democratic Governors’ Conference (1974-1975).
Anderson is known for changing education funding from property taxes to statewide sales and income taxes and eliminating income taxes for the poor during his terms in office. He created controversy in 1976 when he resigned as governor to appoint himself to the newly opened Senate seat that was formerly held by Walter Mondale. The seat became vacant when Jimmy Carter tapped Mondale to be his VP running-mate. He served in Congress until 1978 when he failed to win re-election. Afterward, he served for 12 years on the University of Minnesota Board of Regents.
Governor Dayton issued the following statement about Anderson:
“Governor Anderson was one of Minnesota’s greatest governors. His transformational ‘Minnesota Miracle’ – which he achieved through one of the most momentous bipartisan agreements in our state’s history – has dramatically improved the quality of our state’s public education.“I offer my deepest condolences to his family and many friends.”
“Wendell Anderson was many things: A kid from East St. Paul. A Gopher. An Olympian. An elected public servant of the highest order. But above all else he was a Minnesotan. His love for the state and its citizens was second only to his love for his family.”