Joseph A. A. Burnquist

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Joseph Alfred Arner Burnquist
21st Attorney General of Minnesota
In office
January 2, 1939 – January 3, 1955
Preceded by William S. Ervin
Succeeded by Miles W. Lord
19th Governor of Minnesota
In office
December 30, 1915 – January 5, 1921
Lieutenant George H. Sullivan
Thomas Frankson
Preceded by Winfield Scott Hammond
Succeeded by J. A. O. Preus
20th Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota
In office
January 7, 1913 – December 30, 1915
Governor Adolph O. Eberhart
Winfield S. Hammond
Preceded by Samuel Y. Gordon
Succeeded by George H. Sullivan
Personal details
Born (1879-07-21)July 21, 1879
Dayton, Iowa
Died January 12, 1961(1961-01-12) (aged 81)
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Mary Louise Cross
Alma mater University of Minnesota Law School
Profession Lawyer, politician

Joseph Alfred Arner Burnquist (July 21, 1879 – January 12, 1961) was an American Republican politician. He served in the Minnesota State Legislature from 1909 to 1911, was elected the 20th Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota in 1912, and then served as the 19th Governor of Minnesota from December 30, 1915 to January 5, 1921. He became governor after the death of Governor Winfield Scott Hammond.

After leaving government for nearly 18 years to practice law, Burnquist returned to serve as Minnesota Attorney General from January 2, 1939 until January 3, 1955 — the second longest tenure of any individual to hold that position.

Early years[edit]

Joseph Alfred Arner Burnquist was born in Dayton, Iowa of Swedish descent and earned his law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1905.[1]

After a brief time practicing law in St. Paul, he entered politics as a state legislator in 1908.

Political career[edit]

During his second term as lieutenant governor, he succeeded Governor Hammond, who died in office.

1918 election poster

Turbulent times surrounded America's entrance into World War I in 1917. Not all Americans supported U.S. involvement in a European war, and this feeling was heightened in Minnesota because of dissatisfaction among farmers and laborers, who were more concerned with domestic policy than with the conflict overseas. Supporters of the war, suspicious of radicals, pacifists, and the foreign-born, acted quickly to stifle dissent. Through the Minnesota Commission of Public Safety — which Burnquist created in 1917 to monitor public sentiment toward the war — he quashed pacifist demonstrations and denounced in his final inaugural message those "few socialistically and anarchistically inclined" who questioned America's involvement in "the world's baptism of blood."[citation needed] The commission, ostensibly nonpartisan, firmly opposed any action its conservative members considered suspect or un-American.

While primarily concerned with war issues, Burnquist also initiated legislation that improved the state highways, disaster assistance programs, labor relations, and, especially the welfare of children.

After leaving office he practiced law for 17 years before beginning his lengthy tenure as state Attorney General in 1939. At 16 years and 1 day, he was narrowly surpassed by Skip Humphrey, who served 16 years and 3 days at the end of his tenure in 1999, for longest served Minnesota Attorney General. During the 1920s, he wrote several works in the series "Minnesota and its People" at his home in St. Paul.[2]

Death and legacy[edit]

Burnquist's home at 27 Crocus Place in St. Paul

Burnquist died on January 12, 1961 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Until his death at the age of 81, Burnquist maintained the bearing and manner of a strong-willed senior statesman.


  1. ^ Jessica Thompson, Minnesota's Legal Hall of Fame, Law & Politics, Accessed November 28, 2010.
  2. ^ Melo, Frederick (April 8, 2015). "St. Paul Crocus Hill home demolition gets court's OK". Pioneer Press. St. Paul, Minnesota. Retrieved 2015-04-09.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Winfield Scott Hammond
Governor of Minnesota
Succeeded by
J. A. O. Preus
Preceded by
Samuel Y. Gordon
Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota
Succeeded by
George H. Sullivan
Legal offices
Preceded by
William S. Ervin
Minnesota Attorney General
Succeeded by
Miles Lord