Elmer Austin Benson
|Elmer Austin Benson|
|24th Governor of Minnesota|
January 4, 1937 – January 2, 1939
|Preceded by||Hjalmar Petersen|
|Succeeded by||Harold Stassen|
|United States Senator
December 27, 1935 – November 3, 1936
|Preceded by||Thomas D. Schall|
|Succeeded by||Guy V. Howard|
September 22, 1895|
|Died||March 13, 1985
|Spouse(s)||Francis Lillian Miller|
|Alma mater||William Mitchell College of Law|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1918–1919|
|Battles/wars||World War I|
Elmer Austin Benson (September 22, 1895 – March 13, 1985) was an American lawyer and politician from Minnesota.
Born in 1895 in Appleton, Minnesota, he studied law at William Mitchell College of Law (then the St. Paul College of Law) and served for a year in the U.S. Army during World War I. Benson never practiced law after returning from active duty, choosing instead to pursue a banking and business career.
He was a close ally of Governor Floyd B. Olson, another member of the Farmer-Labor Party, who helped orchestrate Benson's political rise. Olson appointed Benson state Commissioner of Securities before choosing him to replace Thomas D. Schall in the United States Senate after Schall's death in December 1935. Benson served in the 74th congress, until November 3, 1936.
After Olson's premature death from cancer in 1936 and the interregnum of Lieutenant Governor Hjalmar Petersen, Benson stepped into the breach and was elected the 24th Governor of Minnesota by the largest margin in state history. He served as the 24th Governor of Minnesota from January 4, 1937, to January 2, 1939. He lost his bid for reelection in 1938. His defeat by a record margin in 1938 is seen as the end of the Farmer-Labor Party as an independent political force, and a setback for progressive politics in Minnesota. In 1940, he ran for the United States Senate against Henrik Shipstead, an incumbent senator who defected from the Farmer Labor Party to join the Republicans. Benson took second place, receiving 25% of the vote, in a race that also involved a Democrat, while Shipstead was reelected. He ran for the Senate for the last time in 1942, and was defeated by Republican Joseph H. Ball in a 4-way race.
Before ill health drove him from the public arena, Benson became a force within the short-lived Progressive Party, managing the 1948 presidential campaign of its candidate, Henry Wallace. This was the last hurrah of an outspoken statesman who lived to see many of his once-radical ideas enacted into law. He died in 1985 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and is buried at the Appleton Cemetery in the town of his birth, Appleton, Minnesota.
- Benson, Elmer A. "Politics in My Lifetime." Minnesota History 47 (1980): 154-60. online
- Haynes, John Earl. Dubious alliance: the making of Minnesota's DFL Party (U of Minnesota Press, 1984)
- Lovin, Hugh T. "The Fall of Farmer-Labor Parties, 1936-1938." Pacific Northwest Quarterly (1971): 16-26. in JSTOR
- Sofchalk, Donald G. "Union and Ethnic Group Influence in the 1938 Election on the Minnesota Iron Ranges." Journal of the West (2003) 42#3 pp: 66-74.
- Elmer Austin Benson at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress Retrieved on 2009-5-18
|United States Senate|
Thomas D. Schall
|U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Minnesota
Served alongside: Henrik Shipstead
Guy V. Howard
|Governor of Minnesota
F. Ryan Duffy
|Most Senior Living U.S. Senator
(Sitting or Former)
August 16, 1979 – March 13, 1985