GOVERNORS OF MINNESOTA
Harold (Karl Harold Phillip) LeVander
Thirty-second State Governor
January 2, 1967 - January 4, 1971
Born: October 10, 1910
in Swede Home, Nebraska
Died: March 30, 1992
in St. Paul, Minnesota
Married to: Iantha Powrie (1938)
Ethnic Background: Swedish
Occupation: Lawyer, teacher, business executive
In 1966, a little-known Republican Party activist named Harold LeVander organized his first campaign for elected office and aimed immediately for the governor's chair. His victory over Karl Rolvaag, a DFLer whose campaign had suffered from party infighting in the primary season, made him the thirty-second governor of Minnesota.
LeVander, originally from Nebraska, went to high school in Watertown, Minnesota, and graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College in 1932 with honors. He went on to get his law degree from the University of Minnesota and began a thirty-year run practicing law at a firm in South St. Paul owned by future governor Harold Stassen and future U.S. Representative Elmer Ryan, including a stint from 1935-1939 as an assistant county attorney for Dakota County. While at Stassen & Ryan (as the firm was then known), LeVander also taught speech and coached debate at Macalester College until 1940, and he served as President of South St. Paul's Chamber of Commerce from 1952 to 1954 and as President of the South St. Paul United Federal Savings and Loan Association from 1953 until his inauguration.
LeVander rode into office with the highest vote total ever received by a Republican up to that point. When he first entered office, the state legislature levied Minnesota's first sales tax, overriding two gubernatorial vetoes. This led many Minnesotans to refer unfairly to the three percent tax assessed on many purchases as "LeVander pennies." Soon after he lost that battle, LeVander began to use his talent for speaking effectively to get his desired results, shedding his initial label as "indecisive." For instance, he created the Metropolitan Council, the Pollution Control Agency, and the country's first Human Rights Department, three bodies that remain important to Minnesota's well-being to this day. Under his leadership, Minnesota also became the first state to ratify the twenty-sixth amendment, which extended the right to vote to U.S. citizens eighteen and older.
Then, less than a month before the primary election of 1970, LeVander surprised everyone by announcing that he would not seek reelection. Instead, he chose to return to his law firm, now called LeVander, Gillen & Miller after changes in its ownership and partnership. He later became director of The St. Paul Companies (1973-1981), the Billy Graham Evangelical Association (1974-1981), and the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce (1975-1978) as well and continued to live a quiet and private life until his death in 1992.