Dakota Datebook: Lynn Joseph Frazier

Dakota Datebook
January 10, 2008


In 2003 California Governor Gray Davis was forced out of office as a result of a recall election. He was replaced by the body-builder, turned-actor, turned-politician Arnold Schwarzenegger. Governor Davis was the second person ever removed from government as the result of a recall election. The first was the 12th governor of North Dakota, Lynn Joseph Frazier, who passed away this week in 1947.

In 1881, at the age of seven, Lynn Frazier moved with his parents to a homestead in Pembina County, Dakota Territory. He graduated from Grafton High School in 1892, and three years later was among the first graduating class of Mayville State Normal School. He finished his bachelor’s degree at UND and settled down for a life of farming and teaching. However, he was soon to feel another calling as well.

At the turn of the nineteenth century there arose a new movement in North Dakota. Its main concern was the growing influence of out-of-state corporations in the economy and state government of North Dakota. As a result, a number of different organizations appeared that sought to return control of public institutions to North Dakotans. The strongest was the Nonpartisan League, or NPL, created in 1915. In one year the group came to dominate the North Dakotan Republican party, and by 1916 elected its first governor to office, Lynn Frazier.

Influenced by his association with the progressive NPL, Governor Frazier implemented sweeping reforms during his three terms in office. In 1918 he signed legislation giving women the right to vote. He approved bills that reorganized and expanded state services such as education and health care. He signed into existence state-owned organizations, such as the Bank of North Dakota, and the State Mill and Elevator. Furthermore, he created an Industrial Commission to oversee these organizations’ operations.

Governor Frazier’s sweeping government reorganization were generally popular, but created enemies among those who believed the reforms threatened business interests. The groups who felt threatened by the governor’s actions coalesced into the Independent Voters Association. In 1921 the IVA began a petition to recall the governor, accusing Frazier of mismanaging the state-owned industries. Faced with a dire state economy and a drought hurting western North Dakotan farmers, Governor Frazier was unable to mount a successful resistance. He was replaced in the election by a governor selected by the Independent Voters Association.

Although Governor Frazier was defeated in the 1921 recall, his political life did not end in 1921. One year later he was elected to the United States Senate, where served as an influential spokesman for agricultural interests until 1941. Lynn Frazier, North Dakota farmer, teacher, governor and senator, died this week in 1947, and was buried in Hoople, North Dakota.

Written by Lane Sunwall
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
National Governors Association
New York Times
North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party
North Dakota State Government
Prairie Public


Dakota Datebook, Prairie Public. (2008) http://www.prairiepublic.org/radio/

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