Rudy Boschwitz

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Rudy Boschwitz
Official portrait, 1983
United States Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights
In office
March 17, 2005 – June 16, 2006
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
Preceded byRich Williamson
Succeeded byoffice abolished[a]
United States Senator
from Minnesota
In office
December 30, 1978 – January 3, 1991
Preceded byWendell Anderson
Succeeded byPaul Wellstone
Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee
In office
January 3, 1987 – January 3, 1989
Preceded byJohn Heinz
Succeeded byDon Nickles
Personal details
Rudolph Ely Boschwitz

(1930-11-07) November 7, 1930 (age 93)
Berlin, Weimar Republic (now Germany)
Political partyRepublican
Ellen Loewenstein
(m. 1956)
Alma materNew York University (BS, JD)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/serviceUnited States Army
Years of service1954–1955
RankPrivate First Class
UnitSignal Corps

Rudolph Ely “Rudy” Boschwitz (born November 7, 1930)[1] is an American politician and businessman who served as a United States senator from Minnesota from 1978 until 1991. Boschwitz is a member of the Republican Party.

He was born in Berlin to a Jewish family. When Boschwitz was two years old, he and his family fled the country due to Adolf Hitler's rise to power. Boschwitz grew up in New Rochelle, New York, and graduated with a J.D. degree from New York University School of Law in 1953. Boschwitz moved to Minnesota where he started a retail lumber store chain named Plywood Minnesota (later renamed Home Valu). He grew the lumber chain into a successful business with 70 stores. Boschwitz became well-known for starring in Plywood Minnesota's television commercials, wearing his signature plaid flannel shirts.[2]

He first ran for elected office in Minnesota's 1978 U.S. Senate election and defeated Democratic incumbent Wendell Anderson. He was reelected in 1984 by a landslide margin. While serving in the U.S. Senate, he was the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee from 1987 until 1988. Boschwitz ran for reelection to a third term in the 1990 election against Democrat Paul Wellstone. Boschwitz significantly outspent and was expected to defeat Wellstone. However, Boschwitz lost in an upset. He was defeated again by Wellstone in a rematch in 1996. Boschwitz was later appointed to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights by then-President George W. Bush. He served on the commission from 2005 until 2006.

Early life and education[edit]

Boschwitz with Ronald Reagan and Gretchen Carlson in 1988
Boschwitz makes a point at the 61st Commission on Human Rights in 2005

Boschwitz was born November 7, 1930, in Berlin, Germany, the son of Lucy (née Dawidowicz) and Eli Boschwitz.[3] In 1933, when he was three years old, his Jewish family fled from Nazi Germany to the United States, settling in New Rochelle, New York, where he grew up. A graduate of the Pennington School, he attended Johns Hopkins University and graduated from the New York University Stern School of Business in 1950 and the New York University School of Law in 1953.


He was admitted to the New York State bar in 1954 and the Wisconsin bar in 1959. He served in the United States Army Signal Corps in 1954–1955 where he became a private first class.[4] He was the founder and chairman of a plywood and home improvement retailer, Plywood Minnesota, which later became Home Valu Interiors. He returned to the company after his political career, and led it until it went out of business in 2010.[5]

Boschwitz was elected as a Republican to the United States Senate in November 1978 and was subsequently appointed on December 30, 1978, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Wendell Anderson, who was appointed to fill the seat after Walter Mondale was elected Vice President two years earlier. Boschwitz was well known in Minnesota for operating a "flavored milk" booth at the Minnesota State Fair.[6]

Boschwitz voted in favor of the bill establishing Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a federal holiday and the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987 (as well as to override President Reagan's veto).[7][8][9] Boschwitz voted in favor of the nomination of Robert Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Boschwitz is known for one of the more interesting campaign buttons in Minnesota politics; the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party alleged that Boschwitz's donors were "fat cats", so Boschwitz's campaign created a "skinny cat" campaign button to be worn by those who had donated less than $100 to his campaign.[10]

After his defeat in 1990 by Paul Wellstone, Boschwitz ran against Wellstone again in 1996 but lost.

In 1991 he traveled to Ethiopia as the emissary of President George H. W. Bush. The negotiations Boschwitz led in Ethiopia resulted in Operation Solomon. Over 14,000 Jewish people were airlifted from Ethiopia to Israel.[11] Operation Solomon took twice as many Beta Israel émigrés to Israel as Operation Moses and Operation Joshua combined.[12]

He was a top "Bush Pioneer" in 2000, fund-raising $388,193, and a "Bush Ranger" in 2004, raising at least $200,000 for George W. Bush's campaign fund in that election cycle.[13]

In 2005, Bush named Boschwitz as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, which met at the U.N. in Geneva, Switzerland.

He also supported John McCain in the 2008 presidential election.[14]

He presently serves on the board of directors of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, is an AIPAC Board Member, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Electoral history[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Eileen Donahoe as ambassador to the Human Rights Council


  1. ^ "Boschwitz, Rudolph Eli (Rudy)". Retrieved March 4, 2020.
  2. ^ Feyder, Susan (January 12, 2010). "Final nail in Plywood Minnesota". Star Tribune. Retrieved August 25, 2022.
  3. ^ "Boschwitz, Rudolph Eli – Dictionary definition of Boschwitz, Rudolph Eli". Retrieved December 5, 2016.
  4. ^ "A Legacy of Leadership: Rudy Boschwitz and the Rise of the modern Conservative Movement in Minnesota", Freedom Foundation of Minnesota, page 6 (see photo o top right of page).
  5. ^ Feyder, Susan (January 12, 2010). "Final nail in Plywood Minnesota". Star Tribune. Retrieved June 12, 2023.
  6. ^ "Boschwitz gets reprieve; will have milk at fair". Post-Bulletin Company, LLC. Retrieved March 4, 2020.
  7. ^ "To Pass H.R. 3706. (Motion Passes) See Notes(s) 19. Senate Vote #293, Oct 19, 1983".
  8. ^ "To Pass S 557, Civil Rights Restoration Act, A Bill to ... Senate Vote #432 – Jan 28, 1988".
  9. ^ "To Adopt, Over the President's Veto of S 557, Civil ... Senate Vote #487 – Mar 22, 1988".
  10. ^ "The Skinny Cats of Minnesota Politics". Hennepin History Museum. February 27, 2016. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
  11. ^ "New Ethiopian Regime Will Allow Remaining Jews to Leave, Says Envoy". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. June 5, 1991. Retrieved April 23, 2021.
  12. ^ Rozen-Wheeler, Adam (July 22, 2017). "Operations Moses, Joshua, and Solomon (1984–1991)". Retrieved April 23, 2021.
  13. ^ "". Archived from the original on October 4, 2007.
  14. ^ Scheck, Tom (July 15, 2008). "McCain's Minnesota bundlers". Retrieved March 4, 2020.

External links[edit]

U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. senator (Class 2) from Minnesota
Served alongside: David Durenberger
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by
Phil Hansen
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Minnesota
(Class 2)

1978, 1984, 1990, 1996
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee
Succeeded by
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded byas Former US Senator Order of precedence of the United States
as Former US Senator
Succeeded byas Former US Senator