Meet Your New Governor - William L. Guy: A Profile

It was during World War II. William Guy had completed the Navy’s midshipman school at Notre Dame University and, as an ensign, was assigned to the destroyer, the USS William D. Porter in January 1943. While in the Pacific, one day Guy looked up and saw a Japanese airplane zeroing in on his ship. It smashed into the destroyer, tossing Guy 20 feet in the air. He was shaken but not injured. His ship, however, sank.

This was a harrowing experience for the young North Dakotan who would become the state’s 26th governor. The war had interrupted his studies at the University of Minnesota where he was pursing a master’s degree in agricultural economics. Agriculture seemed to be in the Guy family blood. His father became Cass County’s agricultural extension agent in 1922 when William was two years old. The Guys lived close to the Agricultural College, and his father became the school’s foremost sports fan.

Governor William Guy is pictured with famous bandleader Lawrence Welk. Courtesy of State Historical Society of North Dakota (0962-16).

In 1926 the senior Guy took the position as manager of the Chaffee estate which consisted of 26 farms. Young William Guy grew up in and around the small town of Amenia. After graduating from high school in 1937, Guy headed off to the Agricultural College where he, of course, studied agriculture.

After the war he and his wife, Jean, settled down to farm near Amenia. Even though there were not many Democrats around Amenia, in 1958 he won election to the North Dakota House of Representatives where he served as assistant minority leader in a legislature where there were not many Democrats.

When in 1960 at age 40 he received the gubernatorial nomination on the newly merged Democratic-Nonpartisan League ticket, most people did not give him much of a chance against the well-organized and well-financed Republican party. But he won, demonstrating that North Dakota had become a two-party state.

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

4-5, 7-8

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

“The Builder: William L. Guy" North Dakota History, edited by Gerald G. Newborg. Volume 71, nos. 1&2, 2004, pp. 2-49.