Interview With Rilie Morgan

September 14, 1933

Rilie Morgan is an avowed political enemy of Governor William Langer and his Nonpartisan League. Morgan is the editor of the Walsh County Record in Grafton and has often spoken out against Langer.

Tell us, what don’t you like about Governor Langer?

I don’t like the way he treats the rank and file of good Nonpartisans who have stood by their party through thick and thin, in poor seasons and good seasons. I don’t like the way he orders everyone around; I don’t like his craving for the limelight; I don’t like the kind of clothes he wears or the way he parts his hair. In fact, I get so mad every time, I gnash my teeth, froth at the mouth, have fallen arches, and am threatened with apoplexy.

How do you evaluate his leadership qualities?

In spite of my feelings toward Governor Bill politically, I just can’t help but admire him in a lot of ways. Regardless of what we may think of him, we all have to admit that he has a way of getting things done as he wants them. He is tirelessly energetic. He knows the value of publicity and the limelight. And in addition to all this, he has a natural talent for leadership.

Could you give us an example?

Take the last session of the legislature, as an example. It was made up mostly of farmers. These farmers think progressively along political lines. They believe in hitting the big fellow and protecting the little man. I venture to say that nine out of ten of them, deep down in their own hearts, were opposed to the sales tax. Yet Governor Bill finally wheedled it through the legislature. The passage of this measure was a glowing tribute to the dominant personality and leadership of Governor Langer and I doff my hat to him for it.

Is Langer an ambitious politician?

There are some people who criticize Governor Bill because he is ambitious. Being ambitious is no crime in my eyes. In fact, I call it a virtue and I do not hesitate to say that I, too, am imbued with some of the spirit which animates Governor Bill. I do not mind confessing that I would like to be governor of North Dakota some day. It is a worthy ambition for any man to hold. I would like to be governor because of the personal glory and satisfaction which it would bring to me, but more especially I would like to be governor because of the wide opportunities it offers to serve a large number of people.

Is there any one thing you admire about the governor?

Another thing which one has to admire about Governor Bill is his tenacity of purpose. Langer was starting his political career just about the time I came to North Dakota in 1914. He was the state attorney of Morton County then which is just across the river from Bismarck. From the very beginning he had a great and consuming desire to be governor of his native state. The way in which he stuck to his purposes, through all the years and under the most adverse circumstances, speaks volumes for his bulldog determination.

Governor Langer will be in Grafton next week. Any thoughts about what you might say to him?

I don’t know whether he will come around to the Record office or not. If he does, I will probably tell him what a rotten governor I think he is. At the same time I will be secretly admiring some of the qualities which have taken this rather remarkable man so far.

By Dr. D. Jerome Tweton


Originally published as The North Star Dakotan student newspaper, written by Dr. D. Jerome Tweton and supported by the North Dakota Humanities Council.

Grade Level

4, 7, 9-12

Subject Matter

Social Studies

North Star Dakotan:

Journals and Art Work: The Indian People, The Trade, and The Land

The Indian People

The Purchase and Exploration of Louisiana

The Fur Trade

Dakota Territory

The Military Frontier

The Reservation System

George Armstrong Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn

The Great Dakota Boom, 1878-1890

Reservation Troubles, 1886-1890

The Making of a State and a Constitution

The North Dakota Economy, 1890-1915

Life on the Indian Reservations

The North Dakota National Guard and the Philippines

North Dakota, The Great War and After

The Nonpartisan League's Rise to Power

The Nonpartisan League in Power

The Nonpartisan League's Decline

The 1920s

1930s: North Dakota's Economic and Political Climate

The New Deal in North Dakota

The Road to World War II

North Dakota and American Society

North Dakota Optimism and Economic Developments

North Dakota and Political Change

Related Links

“United States v. Langer, et al.: The U.S. District Attorney’s Files,” Centennial Anthology of North Dakota History: Journal of the Northern Plains (Spring 1984), pp. 194-199. By Lawrence H. Larsen.

Unequal Contest: Bill Langer and His Political Enemies by Robert Vogel (2004). A legal perspective on the Langer trials, written by a lawyer, judge, and the son of one of Langer’s co-defendants.

North Dakota’s Former Governors’ Mansion: Its History and Preservation, edited by Virginia L. Heidenreich (State Historical Society of North Dakota, 1990). A chronicle of the tumultuous period of North Dakota’s political history when four men served as governor in a period of seven months.