List of Governors of Wisconsin
|Governor of Wisconsin|
|Residence||Wisconsin Governor's Mansion|
|Term length||4 years, no term limit|
|Inaugural holder||Nelson Dewey|
|Formation||June 7, 1848|
The Governor of Wisconsin is the head of the executive branch of Wisconsin's state government  and the commander-in-chief of the state's army and air forces. The governor has a duty to enforce state laws, and the power to either approve or veto bills passed by the Wisconsin Legislature, to convene the legislature, and to grant pardons, except in cases of treason and impeachment.
Forty-four individuals have held the office of governor of Wisconsin since the state's admission to the Union in 1848, one of whom—Philip La Follette—served non-consecutive terms. Nelson Dewey, the first governor, took office on June 7, 1848. The longest-serving governor was Tommy Thompson, who took office on January 5, 1987 and resigned on February 1, 2001, a total of 14 years and 28 days. Arthur MacArthur, Sr. had the shortest term: he was governor for a total of just 5 days—from March 21, 1856 to March 25, 1856. The current governor is Scott Walker, who took office on January 3, 2011 and survived a recall election on June 5, 2012.
Initially after the American Revolution, parts of the area now known as Wisconsin were claimed by Virginia, Massachusetts and Connecticut; however, Virginia ceded its claim in 1784, Massachusetts in 1785 and Connecticut in 1786. On July 13, 1787, the Northwest Territory, including the area now called Wisconsin, was formed; Wisconsin remained part of the territory until 1800. The territorial governor during this period was Arthur St. Clair. As parts of the Northwest Territory were admitted to the Union as states, Wisconsin became part of first the Indiana Territory (1800–1809), then the Illinois Territory (1809–1818), and then the Michigan Territory (1818–1836); see the lists of governors of Indiana, of Illinois, and of Michigan for these periods.
Governors of Wisconsin Territory
Wisconsin Territory was formed on July 3, 1836. During the time of its existence, the Wisconsin Territory had three territorial governors, one of whom served non-consecutive terms, and one who continued on as acting governor after the territory had officially ceased to exist.
|Henry Dodge||April 30, 1836||September 13, 1841||Andrew Jackson|
|James Duane Doty||September 30, 1841||June 21, 1844||John Tyler|
|Nathaniel P. Tallmadge||June 21, 1844||April 8, 1845||John Tyler|
|Henry Dodge||April 8, 1845||June 23, 1848||James Polk||[note 2]|
|John Catlin||June 23, 1848||March 3, 1849||none
Governors of the State of Wisconsin
Wisconsin was admitted to the Union on May 29, 1848. Since then, it has had 45 governors, one of whom served non-consecutive terms.
Originally, governors of Wisconsin served for two-year terms, but in 1967 the state constitution was amended to change this to four. Jeremiah McLain Rusk served one three-year term in the 1880s as the constitution was amended during his first term to move elections from odd to even years, and all officers were allowed to serve an extra year, rather than have their terms cut a year short. Patrick Lucey, elected in the 1970 election, was the first governor to serve a four-year term. Governors of Wisconsin are not term limited.
The state constitution provides for the election of a lieutenant governor; originally, the governor and lieutenant governor were elected on different tickets, and thus were not necessarily of the same party. Since the 1967 amendment, however, the two have been nominated, and voted on, together. Originally, if the office of the governor was vacant for any reason, "the powers and duties of the office . . . devolve[d] upon the lieutenant governor." In 1979, the constitution was amended to make this more specific: if the governor dies, resigns, or is removed from office, the lieutenant governor becomes governor, but becomes acting governor if the governor is absent from the state, impeached, or unable to carry out of duties. If any of these events occur while the office of lieutenant governor is vacant, the secretary of state becomes either governor or acting governor. Two Wisconsin governors have died while in office, one has died after being elected but before taking office, and four have resigned.
|#||Governor||Took office||Left office||Party||Lt. Governor[note 3]||Terms
|1||Nelson Dewey||June 7, 1848||January 5, 1852||Democratic||John E. Holmes||2|
|Samuel W. Beall|
|2||Leonard J. Farwell||January 5, 1852||January 2, 1854||Whig||Timothy Burns
|3||William A. Barstow||January 2, 1854||March 21, 1856||Democratic||James T. Lewis||1 1⁄3
|Arthur MacArthur, Sr.|
|4||Arthur MacArthur, Sr.||March 21, 1856||March 25, 1856||Democratic||vacant||1⁄3
|5||Coles Bashford||March 25, 1856||January 4, 1858||Republican||Arthur MacArthur, Sr.||1⁄3
|6||Alexander W. Randall||January 4, 1858||January 6, 1862||Republican||Erasmus D. Campbell||2|
|Butler G. Noble|
|7||Louis P. Harvey||January 6, 1862||April 19, 1862||Whig||Edward Salomon||1⁄2
|8||Edward Salomon||April 19, 1862||January 4, 1864||Republican||vacant||1⁄2
|9||James T. Lewis||January 4, 1864||January 1, 1866||Republican||Wyman Spooner||1|
|10||Lucius Fairchild||January 1, 1866||January 1, 1872||Republican||Wyman Spooner||3|
|Thaddeus C. Pound|
|11||Cadwallader C. Washburn||January 1, 1872||January 5, 1874||Republican||Milton H. Pettit
|12||William Robert Taylor||January 5, 1874||January 3, 1876||Democratic||Charles D. Parker||1|
|13||Harrison Ludington||January 3, 1876||January 7, 1878||Republican||Charles D. Parker||1|
|14||William E. Smith||January 7, 1878||January 2, 1882||Republican||James M. Bingham||2|
|15||Jeremiah McLain Rusk||January 2, 1882||January 7, 1889||Republican||Sam S. Fifield||3
|George W. Ryland|
|16||William D. Hoard||January 7, 1889||January 5, 1891||Republican||George W. Ryland||1|
|17||George W. Peck||January 5, 1891||January 7, 1895||Democratic||Charles Jonas||2|
|18||William H. Upham||January 7, 1895||January 4, 1897||Republican||Emil Baensch||1|
|19||Edward Scofield||January 4, 1897||January 7, 1901||Republican||Emil Baensch||2|
|20||Robert M. La Follette, Sr.||January 7, 1901||January 1, 1906||Republican||Jesse Stone
|James O. Davidson|
|21||James O. Davidson||January 1, 1906||January 2, 1911||Republican||vacant||2 1⁄2
|William D. Connor|
|22||Francis E. McGovern||January 2, 1911||January 4, 1915||Republican||Thomas Morris||2|
|23||Emanuel L. Philipp||January 4, 1915||January 3, 1921||Republican||Edward F. Dithmar||3|
|24||John J. Blaine||January 3, 1921||January 3, 1927||Republican||George F. Comings||3|
|Henry A. Huber|
|25||Fred R. Zimmerman||January 3, 1927||January 7, 1929||Republican||Henry A. Huber||1|
|26||Walter J. Kohler, Sr.||January 7, 1929||January 5, 1931||Republican||Henry A. Huber||1|
|27||Philip La Follette||January 5, 1931||January 2, 1933||Republican||Henry A. Huber||1|
|28||Albert G. Schmedeman||January 2, 1933||January 7, 1935||Democratic||Thomas J. O'Malley||1|
|29||Philip La Follette||January 7, 1935||January 2, 1939||Wisconsin
|Thomas J. O'Malley
|Henry A. Gunderson
|Herman L. Ekern|
|30||Julius P. Heil||January 2, 1939||January 4, 1943||Republican||Walter S. Goodland||2|
|—||Orland S. Loomis||did not take office||Wisconsin
|Walter S. Goodland||—
|31||Walter S. Goodland||January 4, 1943||March 12, 1947||Republican||vacant||2 1⁄2
|32||Oscar Rennebohm||March 12, 1947||January 1, 1951||Republican||vacant||1 1⁄2
|George M. Smith|
|33||Walter J. Kohler, Jr.||January 1, 1951||January 7, 1957||Republican||George M. Smith||3|
|Warren P. Knowles|
|34||Vernon W. Thomson||January 7, 1957||January 5, 1959||Republican||Warren P. Knowles||1|
|35||Gaylord A. Nelson||January 5, 1959||January 7, 1963||Democratic||Philleo Nash||2|
|Warren P. Knowles|
|36||John W. Reynolds, Jr.||January 7, 1963||January 4, 1965||Democratic||Jack B. Olson||1|
|37||Warren P. Knowles||January 4, 1965||January 4, 1971||Republican||Patrick J. Lucey||3|
|Jack B. Olson|
|38||Patrick J. Lucey||January 4, 1971||July 6, 1977||Democratic||Martin J. Schreiber||1 1⁄2
|39||Martin J. Schreiber||July 6, 1977||January 3, 1979||Democratic||vacant||1⁄2
|40||Lee S. Dreyfus||January 3, 1979
|January 3, 1983||Republican||Russell A. Olson||1|
|41||Anthony S. Earl||January 3, 1983||January 5, 1987||Democratic||James T. Flynn||1|
|42||Tommy Thompson||January 5, 1987||February 1, 2001||Republican||Scott McCallum||3 1⁄2
|43||Scott McCallum||February 1, 2001||January 6, 2003||Republican||Margaret A. Farrow||1⁄2
|44||Jim Doyle||January 6, 2003||January 3, 2011||Democratic||Barbara Lawton||2|
|45||Scott Walker||January 3, 2011||Incumbent||Republican||Rebecca Kleefisch||2
Other high offices held
This is a table of other governorships, congressional and other federal offices, and ranking diplomatic positions in foreign countries held by Wisconsin governors.
- * Denotes those offices for which the governor resigned the governorship.
- † Denotes those offices from which the governor resigned to take the governorship.
Living former governors
As of August 2014[update], five former governors are alive, the oldest being Anthony S. Earl (1983–1987, born 1936). The most recent death of a former governor was that of Patrick Lucey (1971–1977) on May 10, 2014.
|Governor||Gubernatorial term||Date of birth|
|Martin J. Schreiber||1977–1979||April 8, 1939|
|Anthony S. Earl||1983–1987||April 12, 1936|
|Tommy Thompson||1987–2001||November 19, 1941|
|Scott McCallum||2001–2003||May 2, 1950|
|Jim Doyle||2003–2011||November 23, 1945|
- Absent any other sources, it is assumed the governor left office when his successor was appointed.
- When the State of Wisconsin was formed, part of Wisconsin Territory was not included in the state. This portion likely became unorganized territory; however, the Wisconsin territorial government continued to function there until the land was assigned to Minnesota Territory on March 3, 1849. Henry Dodge ceased to be territorial governor when he took his seat as a U.S. Senator from the state of Wisconsin on June 23, 1848. In the absence of a governor, John Catlin, as Secretary of Wisconsin Territory, acted as governor until the organization of Minnesota Territory.
- Vacancies in the office of the lieutenant governor are only listed if they lasted for the entire term. For a full list of vacancies, see List of Lieutenant Governors of Wisconsin.
- The fractional terms of some governors are not to be understood absolutely literally; rather, they are meant to show single terms during which multiple governors served, due to resignations, deaths and the like.
- Died in office.
- Initially, Barstow was declared the winner of the 1855 election, but soon resigned amid claims that he had won through fraudulent means. MacArthur, as lieutenant governor, acted as governor for five days, until the Wisconsin Supreme Court declared Barstow's opponent, Bashford, the legitimate governor. Bashford completed the term, with MacArthur continuing to serve as lieutenant governor.
- As lieutenant governor, acted as governor for remainder of unexpired term.
- During Rusk's first term, the Wisconsin Constitution was amended to say that all elections of state and county officers would henceforth take place in even-numbered years. By the provisions of the amendment, the terms of all officials who would have left office in 1884, including Rusk, were extended by one year.
- Resigned to take an elected seat in the United States Senate.
- Resigned to take an appointment to the state tax commission.
- Loomis was elected in the 1942 election, but died before taking office. Per a ruling of the Wisconsin Supreme Court Goodland, who had been re-elected lieutenant governor in the same election, acted as governor for the term.
- As per a 1967 amendment to the Wisconsin Constitution, Lucey's first term was the first gubernatorial term to last 4 years
- Resigned to become Ambassador to Mexico
- Contemporary newspaper sources indicate that Dreyfus was sworn in on January 3; the Wisconsin Blue Book, however, states that he was sworn in on January 1.
- Resigned to become United States Secretary of Health and Human Services
- As lieutenant governor, served as governor for remainder of unexpired term.
- Governor Walker's second term began January 5, 2015.
- "Annotated Wisconsin Constitution". Wisconsin Legislature. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
- "CSG Releases 2013 Governor Salaries". The Council of State Governments. June 25, 2013. Retrieved November 23, 2014.
- Wisconsin Constitution article V, § 1
- Wisconsin Constitution article V, § 4
- Wisconsin Constitution article V, § 10
- Wisconsin Constitution article V, § 6
- "Wisconsin Governors since 1848". State of Wisconsin Blue Book 2005–2006 (PDF). p. 724. Retrieved October 5, 2007.
- Beck, J. D. (ed.) (1911). The blue book of the state of Wisconsin. Madison, Wisconsin: Democrat Printing Company. p. 512. Retrieved December 11, 2007.
- "Significant Events in Wisconsin History". State of Wisconsin Blue Book 2005–2006 (PDF). p. 696. Retrieved December 11, 2007.
- "St. Clair, Arthur". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Government Printing Office. 2005. Retrieved December 11, 2007.
- Manual for the use of the assembly, of the state of Wisconsin, for the year 1853. Madison, Wisconsin: Brown and Carpenter, Printers. 1853. p. 74. Retrieved December 11, 2007.
- Butterfield, C.W. (1880). The history of Columbia County, Wisconsin. p. 49. Retrieved December 17, 2007.
- The History of Racine and Kenosha Counties, Wisconsin. Racine County, Wisconsin: Western Historical Company. 1879. pp. 54–56. Retrieved January 24, 2008.
- Wisconsin Constitution article V, § 7
- Wisconsin Constitution article V, § 8
- "Wisconsin Constitutional Officers; Lieutenant Governors". State of Wisconsin Blue Book 2005–2006 (PDF). p. 725. Retrieved October 9, 2007.
- McCann, Dennis (December 10, 1998). "3 governors held office within weeks. Corruption charges helped spark power struggle, office turnover in 1856". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- "Inaugural Caps Dreyfus Miracle". Ironwood Daily Globe (Ironwood, Michigan). January 4, 1979. p. 3.
- "Dodge, Henry". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Clerk of the United States House of Representatives and Historian of the United States Senate. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
- "Doty, James Duane". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Clerk of the United States House of Representatives and Historian of the United States Senate. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
- "Tallmadge, Nathaniel Pitcher". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Clerk of the United States House of Representatives and Historian of the United States Senate. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
- "Biographical Directory of Federal Judges". Federal Judicial Center. Retrieved July 7, 2007.[dead link]
- "Bashford, Coles". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Clerk of the United States House of Representatives and Historian of the United States Senate. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
- "Randall, Alexander Williams". Wisconsin Historical Society. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
- "Former U.S. Ambassadors and Presidential Representatives to Spain". Spanish Embassy of the United States. Archived from the original on May 27, 2010. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
- "Washburn, Cadwallader Colden". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Clerk of the United States House of Representatives and Historian of the United States Senate. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
- "Rusk, Jeremiah McLain". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Clerk of the United States House of Representatives and Historian of the United States Senate. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
- "La Follette, Robert Marion". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Clerk of the United States House of Representatives and Historian of the United States Senate. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
- "Blaine, John James". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Clerk of the United States House of Representatives and Historian of the United States Senate. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
- "Chiefs of Missions to Norway". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
- "Thomson, Vernon Wallace". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Clerk of the United States House of Representatives and Historian of the United States Senate. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
- "Nelson, Gaylord". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Clerk of the United States House of Representatives and Historian of the United States Senate. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
- "Biographical Directory of Federal Judges". Federal Judicial Center. Retrieved July 7, 2007.[dead link]
- "Chiefs of Missions to Mexico". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
- "Historical Highlights". U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
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