|16th United States Secretary of Agriculture|
January 21, 1961 – January 20, 1969
|President||John F. Kennedy|
Lyndon B. Johnson
|Preceded by||Ezra Taft Benson|
|Succeeded by||Clifford M. Hardin|
|29th Governor of Minnesota|
January 5, 1955 – January 2, 1961
|Preceded by||C. Elmer Anderson|
|Succeeded by||Elmer L. Andersen|
Orville Lothrop Freeman
May 9, 1918
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
|Died||February 20, 2003 (aged 84)|
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
|Resting place||Lakewood Cemetery|
|Children||2, including Michael|
|Education||University of Minnesota (BA, LLB)|
|Branch/service||United States Marine Corps|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
• Battle of Bougainville
Orville Lothrop Freeman (May 9, 1918 – February 20, 2003) was an American Democratic politician who served as the 29th governor of Minnesota from 1955 to 1961, and as the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture from 1961 to 1969 under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. He was one of the founding members of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and strongly influential in the merger of the pre-DFL Minnesota Democratic and Farmer-Labor Parties. Freeman nominated Kennedy for president at the 1960 Democratic Party national convention.
Freeman was born on May 9, 1918, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the son of Orville and Frances (Schroeder) Freeman. He attended Central High School in Minneapolis. In 1940, Freeman graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Minnesota, where he met his lifelong friend and political ally Hubert Humphrey. He also met his wife, Jane Charlotte Shields, in college. They married on May 2, 1942, and had two children.
Figuring that the United States would eventually become involved in World War II, Freeman signed up for the Marine Reserve in 1940 with the understanding he could finish law school before he fulfilled his required service. The attack on Pearl Harbor ended that arrangement, and on December 31, 1941, he received orders to report to Officer Candidate School at Marine Corps Base Quantico.
After graduating and following training to be an infantry officer, Freeman reported to Camp Elliot, just outside San Diego, California. He was soon assigned to the 9th Marine Regiment, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines. His unit shipped out overseas for periods of training in New Zealand and Guadalcanal.
On November 1, 1943, Freeman saw his first combat when his unit came ashore at Torokina on Bougainville in what were the first battles of the Bougainville Campaign. A few days later, while he was leading a patrol, he encountered a group of five or six Japanese soldiers in a clearing. An exchange of gunfire followed, and Freeman was wounded in the jaw and left arm. He was evacuated to a US Army hospital on New Caledonia and then to a Naval hospital on Nouméa. He returned to the U.S. in 1944 but never recovered enough movement in his arm to pass a Marine Corps physical to return to combat.
Freeman earned his LL.B. from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1946. He then practiced law in Minneapolis. He ran unsuccessfully for attorney general of Minnesota in 1950 and for governor in 1952.
Freeman was elected governor in 1954 and reelected in 1956 and 1958. He took the unusual action of declaring martial law in the city of Albert Lea on December 11, 1959, to maintain law and order during a strike at the Wilson Packing Company. After 12 days, a federal court ruled that martial law was inappropriate. On November 13, 1955, Freeman was a guest on the variety show Toast of the Town, which was later called The Ed Sullivan Show.
Following his defeat for reelection as governor in 1960, Freeman was appointed as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture by the newly elected President Kennedy, and he was retained in that post by President Lyndon B. Johnson. He served until January 21, 1969.
Freeman’s name was mentioned in a 1963 episode of The Beverly Hillbillies. In the Season 2 episode “Granny’s Garden”, the main characters are about to mule-plow their estate's front lawn in order to plant a garden. The character Jane Hathaway drives up and exclaims “What in the name of Secretary Freeman are you doing?!”
Awards and decorations
Freeman's decorations and medals include:
|Purple Heart||Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal w/ service star||World War II Victory Medal|
- Onofrio, Jan (January 2000). Minnesota Biographical Dictionary: People of All Times and Places Who Have Been Important to the History and Life of the State. ISBN 9780403096749.
- Brandt, S. (July 3, 2013). "Central alums mark alma mater's centennial". Star Tribune. Minneapolis-St. Paul. Retrieved May 24, 2020.
- "Jane Freeman, mother of Mike Freeman and a founding force of the DFL Party, dies at 96". Star Tribune.
- Berry (1982), p.149-162.
- Stout, David (February 22, 2003). "Orville Freeman, 84, Dies; 60's Agriculture Secretary". The New York Times. p. B6. Retrieved January 30, 2010.
- "Martial Law Ordered in Meat Strike", Oakland Tribune, December 11, 1959, p1; "Court Ends Wilson Closure", December 23, 1959, p4
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): A Short History of SNAP Archived November 6, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, United States Department of Agriculture.