Leo Hoegh

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Leo Hoegh
Leo Hoegh.png
Director of the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization
In office
July 1, 1958 – January 20, 1961
President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by John S. Patterson (Acting)
Administrator of the Federal Civil Defense Administration
In office
July 19, 1957 – July 1, 1958
President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Preceded by Lewis Berry (Acting)
Succeeded by Position abolished
33rd Governor of Iowa
In office
January 13, 1955 – January 17, 1957
Lieutenant Leo Elthon
Preceded by Leo Elthon
Succeeded by Herschel C. Loveless
Attorney General of Iowa
In office
February 1953 – January 13, 1955
Governor William S. Beardsley
Leo Elthon
Preceded by Robert L. Larson
Succeeded by Dayton Countryman
Personal details
Born Leo Arthur Hoegh
(1908-03-30)March 30, 1908
Audubon, Iowa, U.S.
Died July 15, 2000(2000-07-15) (aged 92)
Colorado Springs, Colorado, U.S.
Political party Republican
Education University of Iowa (BA, LLB)
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Army
Unit 104th Infantry Division
Awards Bronze Star (with oak leaf cluster)
Croix de Guerre (with palm)
Legion of Honour

Leo Arthur Hoegh (pronounced hoyg;[1] March 30, 1908 – July 15, 2000) was a decorated U.S. Army officer, lawyer, and politician served as the 33rd Governor of Iowa from 1955 to 1957.

His record of public service included important contributions to his home state and to his country.[2] His career in elective office came to an early end, after his willingness to raise taxes to jump-start improvements to Iowa's roads and schools alienated his conservative Republican allies, and handed Democratic gubernatorial nominee Herschel C. Loveless an issue to exploit.[3]

Personal background[edit]

Hoegh's grandfather, Nels Peder Hoegh, left a farm in Denmark in 1866 to search for gold in Colorado.[3] He invested much of his newfound fortune in farmland in Audubon County, Iowa, became a community leader, and upon his death left separate farms for each of his thirteen children.[3]

When Leo was born to Nels' son William in 1908, the household spoke Danish, and it was not until Leo attended school that he began to speak English.[3] While his father ran a bank in nearby Elk Horn, Iowa, Leo decided to become a lawyer. He received a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Iowa in 1929,[4] where he distinguished himself as a captain of the water polo team and as the founding president of Gamma Nu Chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha.[2] He lettered in swimming and was selected for membership in A.F.I., forerunner to the national honor society, Omicron Delta Kappa.[2] As Leo graduated from the University of Iowa College of Law in 1932, his father sold all of his assets in an unsuccessful effort to prevent the Elk Horn bank from failing.[3] Leo started private practice in Chariton, the county seat of Lucas County in south central Iowa.

State legislative career[edit]

In 1936, Hoegh was elected as a Republican to the first of his three terms in the Iowa House of Representatives,[3] where he exhibited leadership and rose successively to become Republican Floor Leader and chairman of the Judiciary Committee.[2] He also developed "a solid, orthodox reputation as an unrelenting penny pincher."[3]

World War II service[edit]

Hoegh resigned from the Iowa legislature when he was called up for duty as a junior officer in the Iowa National Guard in 1942.[1] Rising quickly in the U.S. Army, he became a lieutenant colonel and the operations officer for the 104th Infantry Division, nicknamed the Timberwolf Division, and wrote the operations orders that carried the 104th through to the Rhine and into Germany.[3] For his gallant action during World War II, Hoegh received several decorations, including the Bronze Star with cluster, Croix de Guerre with palm, and Legion of Honor.[3] It was during those months that he first came to the attention of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, then serving as the supreme allied commander.[1] At war's end, when the 104th linked up with the Soviet forces in Germany, Lieut. Colonel Hoegh was in a group that flew behind the Soviet lines in a Piper Cub to establish liaison with Marshal Ivan Konev's advancing army.[3] He wrote a history of the division, Timberwolf Tracks.[5]

Post-war activities[edit]

After the war, Hoegh returned to Iowa to resume his law practice in Chariton, and was elected to many civic and business leadership posts. Eager to return to public service at a higher level, he ran in the 1948 Republican primary against incumbent Republican Congressman Karl LeCompte. LeCompte defeated him by a 2-to-1 margin.[3]

Putting himself at odds with the more conservative factions that controlled the Iowa Republican Party in the decade after the end of the war, Hoegh became an active supporter of Minnesota Governor Harold Stassen in his bid for the 1948 Republican nomination for president, and former General Dwight Eisenhower in his bid for the 1952 Republican nomination for president.[3]

In 1953, he was appointed Iowa Attorney General by Governor William Beardsley, filling a position created by Beardsley's appointment of Robert L. Larson to the Iowa Supreme Court. There, he earned a reputation as a strict law enforcer,[2] especially of Iowa's widely ignored law against sale of liquor by the drink.[3]

One term as Iowa Governor[edit]

In 1954, Hoegh was elected Governor of Iowa, winning a close contest over Democrat Clyde Edsel Herring, son of the former Iowa Governor and U.S. Senator, Clyde LaVerne Herring.

As chief executive, he championed the cause of education and orchestrated a major increase in funding for the state universities and the public schools.[2][3] He also worked to improve the state's mental institutions, changing the focus from custody to caring for and curing the mentally ill.[2][4] He urged recognition of the union shop, legislative reapportionment to 'reduce the control of rural areas over the cities,' funds to promote industrial expansion, and a reduction in the voting age from 21 to 18.[3] In 1955, he appointed Iowa's first "Commission to Study Discrimination in Employment." The Commission's report, issued the following year, identified by name the employers and supervisors alleged to have discriminated on the basis of race or religion, and recommended adoption of a state fair employment practices act.[6]

To balance the budget while accomplishing his ambitious agenda, Hoegh sought to increase revenues by more than $31 million, to be collected through proposed increases in the taxes on beer, cigarettes and gasoline, a capital-gains tax and extension of the sales tax to include services.[3] The Republican-controlled General Assembly approved enough tax increases to bring in $22 million a year, and Hoegh found himself labelled by his Democratic opponents as "High-Tax Hoegh."[3] Meanwhile, his support for a union shop alienated a traditional ally of Iowa Republicans, the Iowa Manufacturers Association, without disturbing labor's allegiance to the Iowa Democratic Party.[3]

In his race for re-election in 1956, Hoegh won the Republican primary but ran behind Democratic opponent Herschel C. Loveless, mayor of Ottumwa, Iowa. Two weeks before his electoral defeat, Time Magazine placed Hoegh's face on its cover.[7] The cover story ended with this prediction:

His principal problem is that he has caught the spirit of an era that is beginning to recognize the need for a resurgence of good local and state government—and. in doing so. he has perhaps stirred his quiet state too much. But if he has gone too far too fast, he can take a governor's small comfort from the conviction that one year—if not this year—his state will forget the anthills and look with satisfaction on the considerable movements of home-grown progressive government.[3]

The rest of his career[edit]

Hoegh had hardly left the governor's chair, however, when President Eisenhower named him federal administrator of civil defense in July 1957. One year later, in 1958, Eisenhower appointed Hoegh director of the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization.[2] He was a member of the National Security Council, and represented the United States at emergency planning meetings of NATO.[2]

After Eisenhower was replaced by John F. Kennedy, Hoegh moved into the private sector, heading the backyard bomb-shelter division of Wonder Building Corporation of Chicago.[8] However, when the Kennedy Administration elected to stress large-scale, community shelters over backyard bunkers, interest for such products waned,[9] and he returned to practicing law.

In 1964, Hoegh moved his law practice to Chipita Park, Colorado,[2] where he practiced until his retirement in 1985.[1] He died in Colorado Springs, Colorado in 2000, and was interred there at the Evergreen Cemetery.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Obituary, Leo Hoegh, 92, Civil Defense Chief for Eisenhower, New York Times, 2000-07-24, accessed June 15, 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Distinguished Alumni Award, University of Iowa Alumni Association, 1989, accessed June 15, 2008.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s "Against the Anthills,"Time Magazine, October 22, 1956.
  4. ^ a b Biographical Note, Papers of Leo A. Hoegh - Special Collections - University of Iowa Libraries.
  5. ^ Hoegh, Leo; Howard J. Doyle (1946). Timberwolf Tracks:the history of the 104th Infantry Division, 1942-1945. Washington, D.C.: Infantry journal Press. OCLC 5267581. 
  6. ^ Report of the Commission to Study Discrimination in Employment, December 27, 1956. By the time the Commission's report was issued, Hoegh had been defeated, and thus could take no action as governor in response to it.
  7. ^ TIME Magazine Cover: Gov. Leo Hoegh.
  8. ^ "Shelter Skelter," Time Magazine, September 1, 1961.
  9. ^ "Boom to Bust," Time Magazine, May 18, 1962.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Robert L. Larson
Attorney General of Iowa
Succeeded by
Dayton Countryman
Party political offices
Preceded by
William S. Beardsley
Republican nominee for Governor of Iowa
1954, 1956
Succeeded by
William G. Murray
Political offices
Preceded by
Leo Elthon
Governor of Iowa
Succeeded by
Herschel C. Loveless
Preceded by
Lewis Berry
Administrator of the Federal Civil Defense Administration
Position abolished
New office Director of the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization
Succeeded by
John S. Patterson