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William Langer

In office
January 3, 1941 – November 8, 1959
Preceded by Lynn Frazier
Succeeded by Clarence Norman Brunsdale

In office
January 6, 1937 – January 5, 1939
Lieutenant Thorstein H.H. Thoresen (1937-1938)
Preceded by Walter Welford
Succeeded by John Moses

In office
December 31, 1932 – June 21, 1934
Lieutenant Ole H. Olson (1933-1934)
Preceded by George F. Shafer
Succeeded by Ole H. Olson

In office
1917 – 1920
Preceded by Henry Linde
Succeeded by William Lemke

Born September 30, 1886
Casselton, North Dakota
Died November 8, 1959
Washington, D.C.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Lydia Cady Langer

William "Wild Bill" Langer (September 30, 1886  – November 8, 1959) was a prominent American politician from North Dakota. Langer is one of the most colorful characters in North Dakota history, most famously bouncing back from a scandal that forced him out of the governor's office and into prison. He served as the 17th and 21st Governor of North Dakota from 1933 to 1934 and from 1937 to 1939. Langer also served in the United States Senate from 1940 to 1959 when he died in office.


Personal life

Langer was born on September 30, 1886 near Casselton, North Dakota to Frank and Mary (Weber) Langer. His father, Frank Langer, was a member of the first legislature of the state of North Dakota. William was valedictorian of Casselton High School upon graduation in 1904. He obtained a bachelor of laws from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, but was too young upon graduation to practice law. He therefore continued his undergraduate education at Columbia, where he graduated at the top of his class in 1910. Although he was offered a position at a prominent New York law firm, he elected to return to North Dakota, where he practiced law in the town of Mandan before starting his career in politics. He married Lydia Cady, the daughter of a New York architect, in 1918[1], and had four daughters, Emma, Lydia, Mary, and Cornelia (who became a wife of abstract impressionist painter Kenneth Noland).


In 1914, Langer was appointed state's attorney of Morton County, ND and was one of a few non-farmers on the Nonpartisan League Republican 1916 state ticket. He was elected state Attorney General as the newly-formed NPL party swept to victory in the 1916 election, but soon clashed with the party's founder and mercurial leader A.C. Townley. By 1920, Langer was publicly accusing Townley of Bolshevism, and failed in a primary campaign to replace the incumbent NPL governor Lynn Frazier as the party's gubernatorial candidate. Langer's break with the NPL leadership was a reflection of the infighting that limited the party's eventual influence on North Dakota politics.

Langer eventually mended his rift with the NPL and was elected governor of North Dakota in 1932. However, he was removed from office by the North Dakota Supreme Court for allegedly pressuring recipients of governmental aid to donate money to his private newspaper and for allegedly forcing state employees to give funds to the state Republican party. [2]. He was found guilty of fraud in 1934, in a trial presided over by Andrew Miller, a longstanding political rival.[3] The North Dakota Supreme Court ordered him removed from office due to his conviction on a felony charge, and on July 17, 1934, the Court declared Lieutenant Governor Ole H. Olson the legitimate governor. Langer gathered with about ten friends, declared North Dakota independent, declared martial law, and barricaded himself in the governor's mansion until the Supreme Court would meet with him. [4] Langer eventually relented, and Olson served the remainder of Langer's term as Governor.

Governor William Langer

Langer's wife Lydia ran for governor in 1934, but lost. [5]. However, Langer was acquitted of fraud charges after a new trial in 1935, and successfully ran for governor in 1936 and eventually was elected to the U.S. Senate[6]. The 1940 election was a very dramatic one. Langer defeated incumbent Lynn Frazier in the Republican primary, and then faced both the Democratic candidate, Charles Vogel, and Republican/NPL Congressman William Lemke, who declined to run for reelection to Congress in order to run for Senate as an independent. Langer won the election with 38% of the vote.

Senator Langer was an isolationist, wanting to minimize America’s involvement in World War II. At home, he concentrated on making life easier for the farmers of North Dakota by raising wheat prices and doling out government relief, although amidst rumors of great scandal. He was also very adamant about implementing affordable healthcare for everyone. As a senator, he served on the Post Office, Civil Service and Indian Affairs committees. He and Henrik Shipstead of Minnesota were the only Senators to vote against the United Nations Charter in 1945.[5]

In 1950, "Wild Bill" filibustered for 29 hours, and 53 mintues on September 22nd to 23rd. The filibuster was for the veto of a Communist registration bill.

Following the merger of the Nonpartisan League with the state Democratic party, Langer remained on the Republican ticket in the 1958 senate elections, and won without making a single campaign appearance in the state. Langer died in Washington, DC on November 8, 1959.

Political offices


  • "The Famine in Germany", Published by U.S. Govt. print. off., 1946[7]

See also

External links


  1. ^ "Attorney General of North Dakota weds New York Girl". Chicago Daily Tribune. 1918-02-27. 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ John M. Holzworth, The Fighting Governor: The Story of William Langer and the State of North Dakota‎ (1938), p. 66.
  4. ^ [2]
  5. ^ a b [3]
  6. ^ [4]
  7. ^ Google books
Legal offices
Preceded by
Henry Linde
Attorney General of North Dakota
Succeeded by
William Lemke
Political offices
Preceded by
George F. Shafer
Governor of North Dakota
Succeeded by
Ole H. Olson
Preceded by
Walter Welford
Governor of North Dakota
Succeeded by
John Moses
Preceded by
Pat McCarran
Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee
Succeeded by
Harley M. Kilgore
United States Senate
Preceded by
Lynn Frazier
United States Senator (Class 1) from North Dakota
Served alongside: Gerald Nye, John Moses, Milton Young
Succeeded by
C. Norman Brunsdale


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