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Orville Lothrop Freeman

State of Minnesota's official oil painting of governor Orville Lothrop Freeman

In office
January 5, 1955 – January 2, 1961
Lieutenant Karl Rolvaag
Preceded by C. Elmer Anderson
Succeeded by Elmer L. Andersen

Born May 9, 1918(1918-05-09)
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minnesota United States

Died February 20, 2003 (aged 84)
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minnesota United States

Political party Farmer-Labor
Spouse(s) Jane C. Shields
Alma mater University of Minnesota, University of Minnesota Law School
Profession Marine, politician
Religion Lutheran
Military service
Service/branch USMC
Rank Major
Battles/wars World War II
* Battle of Bougainville

Orville Lothrop Freeman (May 9, 1918 – February 20, 2003) was an American Democratic politician who served as the 29th Governor of Minnesota from January 5, 1955 to January 2, 1961, and as the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture from 1961 to 1969 under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. He was one of the founding members of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and strongly influential in the merger of the pre-DFL Minnesota Democratic and Farmer-Labor Parties.




Early years

Born in 1918 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, from Swedish and Norwegian ancestry, Freeman is best remembered for initiating the Food Stamp Program for under-resourced people which is still in use today.[1] Freeman was a 1940 graduate of the University of Minnesota, where he met his life-long friend and political ally, Hubert Humphrey. During World War II, he served as a combat officer in United States Marine Corps, achieving the rank of major.

Marine Corps service

Figuring that the United States was going to be getting involved in World War II, Freeman signed up for the Marine Reserves in late 1940 with the understanding he could finish law school before fulfilling his required service. The attack on Pearl Harbor changed all that and on December 31, 1941 he received orders to report to Officer Candidate School at Marine Corps Base Quantico.[2]

After graduating OCS and follow on training to be an infantry officer he reported to Camp Elliot which was just outside of San Diego, California. He was soon assigned to the 9th Marine Regiment, more specifically Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines. His unit would eventually ship out overseas for a periods of training in New Zealand and later Guadalcanal.[2]

On November 1, 1943 he saw his first combat when his unit came ashore at Torokina on Bougainville in what would turnout to be the first battles of the Bougainville Campaign. A few days later, while leading a patrol, he came across a group of 5 or 6 Japanese soldiers in a clearing. He was able to shoot a few with his weapon but was also shot himself in the jaw and left arm. Eventually he was evacuated to an Army hospital on New Caledonia and later a Naval hospital on Noumea. He returned back to the United States in 1944 but was never able to recover enough movement in his arm to pass a Marine Corps physical and get back to combat.[2]

Post-war and governorship

He earned his LL.B. from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1946. Freeman went on to practice law in Minneapolis.[3] He ran unsuccessfully for attorney general of Minnesota in 1950 and for governor in 1952.[3]

Freeman was elected Governor in 1954 and re-elected in 1958, resigning to serve as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. As governor, Freeman took the unusual action of declaring martial law in the city of Albert Lea on December 11, 1959, to maintain law and order during a strike at the Wilson Packing Company. After twelve days, a federal court ruled that the Governor's imposition of martial law was inappropriate. [4] Also while serving as governor, on November 13, 1955, Freeman was a guest on the variety show Toast of the Town (which would later be called The Ed Sullivan Show).

After his service as Secretary of Agriculture, Freeman headed two consulting businesses and later practiced law in Washington, D.C.[3]

He died from complications of Alzheimer's disease in 2003 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.[3]

His son Mike Freeman ran unsuccessfully for Governor in 1998, and has served non-consecutive terms as County Attorney for Hennepin County, Minnesota (1991 to 1999, and from 2007 to the present).

Awards and Decorations

Known decorations and medals include:

Bronze star
Purple Heart Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal w/ service star World War II Victory Medal

See also


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ a b c Berry (1982), p.149-162.
  3. ^ a b c d Stout, David (2003-02-22). "Orville Freeman, 84, Dies; 60's Agriculture Secretary". The New York Times: p. B6. Retrieved 2010-01-30. 
  4. ^ "Martial Law Ordered in Meat Strike", Oakland Tribune, December 11, 1959, p1; "Court Ends Wilson Closure", December 23, 1959, p4


  • Berry, Henry (1982). Semper Fi, Mac - Living Memories of the U.S. Marines in World War II. New York, N.Y.: William Morrow and Company. ISBN 0-68814-956-1. 

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
C. Elmer Anderson
Governor of Minnesota
1955 – 1961
Succeeded by
Elmer L. Andersen
Preceded by
Ezra Taft Benson
Secretary of Agriculture
1961 – 1969
Succeeded by
Clifford M. Hardin


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