GOVERNORS OF MINNESOTA
Luther W. (Wallace) Youngdahl
Twenty-seventh State Governor
January 8, 1947 - September 27, 1951
Born: May 29, 1896
in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Died: June 21, 1978
in Washington, D.C.
Married to: Irene Annet Engdahl (1923)
Ethnic Background: Swedish
Occupation: Lawyer, justice, judge
When scoffers called him a "Sunday School governor," Luther Youngdahl turned a deaf ear. Minnesota's twenty-seventh governor was determined to rid the state of its pernicious gambling problem and he began, during the first of his three terms, by outlawing slot machines. The action was typical of Youngdahl: swift, purposeful, and based upon a firm moral conviction.
Soon after dealing a sharp blow to racketeering, Youngdahl launched his "humanity in government" program. Appalled by the conditions of state mental hospitals, Youngdahl introduced a more humane concept of care. His sincere efforts to improve the lot of troubled youth, enhance public education, and give returning World War II veterans a financial boost earned this Republican administrator bipartisan respect and support. So popular was Youngdahl that he won each successive gubernatorial election by an ever-larger margin. That some conservatives found him "too liberal" didn't diminish his appeal or effectiveness.
One of ten children of a Minneapolis grocer, Youngdahl was a promising student at Gustavus Adolphus College, where he excelled in athletics and oratory and was active in campus government. In 1930 Governor Theodore Christianson appointed the young lawyer to a municipal judgeship, the first of several judiciary positions he would hold before and after governing the state.
Although Youngdahl, on the advice of his doctor, chose not to seek a fourth term as governor in 1952, he continued in public service as a federal district judge in Washington, appointed by President Harry Truman. Long a believer in the benefits of rigorous exercise, Judge Youngdahl was still hearing cases and hiking four miles a day in his early eighties.