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.
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.