Gaylord Nelson: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Gaylord Nelson

In office
January 8, 1963 – January 3, 1981
Preceded by Alexander Wiley
Succeeded by Bob Kasten

In office
January 4, 1959 – January 4, 1963
Lieutenant Philleo Nash (1959-1961), Warren P. Knowles (1961-1963)
Preceded by Vernon Wallace Thomson
Succeeded by John W. Reynolds

Born June 4, 1916(1916-06-04)
Clear Lake, Wisconsin
Died July 3, 2005 (aged 89)
Kensington, Maryland
Nationality U.S. Citizen
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Carrie Lee Dotson
Children Gaylord, Jeffrey, Tia
Alma mater San Jose State College, University of Wisconsin Law School
Occupation politician, activist, lawyer, veteran

Gaylord Anton Nelson (June 4, 1916 – July 3, 2005) was an American Democratic politician from Wisconsin. He was the principal founder of Earth Day. In 1970, he called for Congressional hearings on the safety of combined oral contraceptive pills, which were famously called "The Nelson Pill Hearings." As a result of the hearings, side-effect disclosure was required for the pill in patient inserts – the first such disclosure for a pharmaceutical drug.[1]


Early life

Gaylord Nelson was born in Clear Lake, Wisconsin in 1916. In 1939 he received a Bachelor of Arts from San Jose State College in California and graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1942. He was a brother of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity.

In the same year he enlisted in the U.S. Army and fought in World War II for nearly four years, serving as a First Lieutenant during the Battle of Okinawa. After returning to Madison, Wisconsin, Nelson stood for office in 1946 but was not elected. He married Carrie Lee Dotson in 1947 and practiced law from 1946 to 1958.[2]

Elected office

Nelson was elected to the Wisconsin State Senate in 1948. During that time, he served a term as Minority Leader in the 1951 and 1952 sessions. In 1954 he made a respectable race for the U.S. Congress, losing to 2nd district Republican incumbent Glenn Robert Davis, by a 54-46% margin. In 1958, after ten years in the state senate, he was elected as the 35th Governor of Wisconsin – the first Democrat to hold that office in 25 years. He defeated incumbent Governor Vernon W. Thomson, riding the heavily anti-GOP tide to victory.

In 1960, he narrowly defeated Philip G. Kuehn by a three-point margin for a second term, even as Richard Nixon carried the state in the presidential election. In 1962, he declined to run for a third two-year term as Governor, but was instead elected to the U.S. Senate. The 46-year old Nelson unseated 78-year old, 24-year Republican incumbent Alexander Wiley. This would be the first time Wisconsin would have two Democratic U.S. Senators in the popular vote era, and before that, not since 1893 when the legislature elected them.

Nelson would serve three terms from January 8, 1963 until January 3, 1981. He was caught up in the anti-Carter/anti-Democratic landslide of 1980 attempting to run for a fourth term, losing to former Republican Congressman Bob Kasten.

Nelson was always passionate about the environment. In 1963 he traveled on the Conservation Tour [link] with President John F. Kennedy and was the principal founder of Earth Day, the first of which was held in 1970.

Nelson was also a noted advocate of small business. While chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee, he led successful efforts to authorize the first modern White House Conference on Small Business, create the system of Small Business Development Centers at U.S. universities, and improve the way that federal agencies regulate small businesses and other small entities, the Regulatory Flexibility Act.

In 1973, Nelson was one of the three senators to oppose the nomination of Gerald Ford to be Vice President. (The other two were Thomas Eagleton and William Hathaway).

Life after politics

After Nelson's 1980 defeat for reelection, he became counselor for The Wilderness Society in January 1981. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in September 1995 in recognition of his environmental work.

Nelson viewed the stabilization of the nation's population as an important aspect of environmentalism. In his words:

The bigger the population gets, the more serious the problems become…. We have to address the population issue. The United Nations, with the U.S. supporting it, took the position in Cairo in 1994 that every country was responsible for stabilizing its own population. It can be done. But in this country, it's phony to say "I'm for the environment but not for limiting immigration."[3]

He also rejected the suggestion that economic development should take precedence over environmental protection:

The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, not the other way around.[4]

In 2002 Nelson appeared on To Tell the Truth as a contestant, with his founding of Earth Day highlighted.

Nelson died on July 3, 2005, of cardiovascular failure at age 89. A biography of him by journalist Bill Christofferson, "The Man from Clear Lake," was published by the University of Wisconsin Press, 2004.

The Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison is named after Gaylord Nelson in recognition of his love for nature. In addition, the Gaylord Nelson Wilderness in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, comprising over 80% of the land area of the park, was named after him in honor of his efforts at having the park created.[5][6] Governor Nelson State Park near Waunakee, Wisconsin, is also named after him.


External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Vernon Wallace Thomson
Governor of Wisconsin
Succeeded by
John W. Reynolds
Preceded by
Alan Bible
Chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee
Succeeded by
Lowell P. Weicker, Jr.
United States Senate
Preceded by
Alexander Wiley
United States Senator (Class 3) from Wisconsin
Served alongside: William Proxmire
Succeeded by
Bob Kasten

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address