GOVERNORS OF MINNESOTA
J. A. A. (Joseph Alfred Arner) Burnquist
Nineteenth State Governor
December 30, 1915 - January 5, 1921
Twentieth Lieutenant Governor
January 7, 1913 - December 30, 1915 (Lieutenant Governor Burnquist became governor upon the death of Governor Winfield S. Hammond)
Born: July 21, 1879
in Dayton, Iowa
Died: January 12, 1961
in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Married to: Mary Louise Cross (1906)
Ethnic Background: Swedish
Occupation: Lawyer, legislator, attorney general, lieutenant governor
J. A. A. Burnquist was a formidable figure, physically and politically. His athletic prowess served him well on the Carleton College football team, and his patriotic zeal made him a forceful, if controversial, wartime governor. Conservative Republicans had such faith in Burnquist's leadership that they urged him to run for governor a third time in 1956, nearly 40 years after he had left office. The 77-year-old retiree said no, preferring to reflect upon a long, often tumultuous public career that ended after eight terms as state attorney general.
Burnquist practiced law briefly in St. Paul before entering politics as a state legislator in 1908. During his second term as lieutenant governor, he succeeded Governor Winfield Hammond, who died in office.
Turbulent times surrounded America's entrance into World War I in 1917. Not all Americans supported U.S. involvement in a European war, and this feeling was heightened in Minnesota because of dissatisfaction among farmers and laborers, who were more concerned with domestic policy than with the conflict overseas. Supporters of the war, suspicious of radicals, pacifists, and the foreign-born, acted quickly to stifle dissent. Through the Public Safety Commission—which Burnquist created in 1917 to monitor public sentiment toward the war—he quashed pacifist demonstrations and denounced in his final inaugural message those "few socialistically and anarchistically inclined" who questioned America's involvement in "the world's baptism of blood." The commission, ostensibly nonpartisan, firmly opposed any action its conservative members considered suspect or un-American.
While primarily concerned with war issues, Burnquist also initiated legislation that improved the state highways, disaster assistance programs, labor relations, and, especially the welfare of children. After leaving office he practiced law for 17 years before beginning his lengthy tenure as state attorney general in 1936. Until his death at 81, Burnquist maintained the bearing and manner of a strong-willed senior statesman.