William Lemke

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William Frederick Lemke
William Frederick Lemke
11th Attorney General of North Dakota
In office
Governor Howard R. Wood
Preceded by William Langer
Succeeded by Sveinbjorn Johnson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from North Dakota's at-large district
In office
March 4, 1933 – January 3, 1941
Preceded by Olger B. Burtness
Succeeded by Charles R. Robertson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from North Dakota's at-large district
In office
January 3, 1943 – May 30, 1950
Preceded by Charles R. Robertson
Succeeded by Fred G. Aandahl
Personal details
Born (1878-08-13)August 13, 1878
Albany, Minnesota
Died May 30, 1950(1950-05-30) (aged 71)
Fargo, North Dakota
Resting place Riverside Cemetery
46°50′46.2″N 96°47′10.6″W / 46.846167°N 96.786278°W / 46.846167; -96.786278 (William Lemke Burial Site)
Political party Nonpartisan League
Spouse(s) Isabelle McIntyre
Children William F. Lemke, Jr., Robert Lemke, Mary Lemke Ely
Alma mater
  • University of North Dakota
  • Georgetown University
  • Attorney
  • U.S. Politician

William Frederick Lemke (August 13, 1878 – May 30, 1950) was a United States politician.[1]

Life and career[edit]

He was born in Albany, Minnesota, and raised in Towner County, North Dakota, the son of Fred Lemke and Julia Anna Klier, pioneer farmers who had accumulated some 2,700 acres (11 km2) of land. As a boy, Lemke worked long hours on the family farm, attending a common school for only three months in the summers. However, the family did reserve enough money to send him to the University of North Dakota, where he was a superior student. Graduating in 1902, he stayed at the state university for the first year of law school but moved to Georgetown University, then to Yale Law School, where he finished work on his law degree and won the praise of the dean. He returned to his home state in 1905 to set up practice at Fargo.

Lemke was the attorney general of North Dakota from 1921 to 1922. He later was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1932, an NPLer. He served four two-year terms in Congress.

While in Congress, Lemke earned a reputation as a progressive populist and supporter of the New Deal, championing the causes of family farmers and co-sponsoring legislation to protect farmers against foreclosures during the Great Depression.

In 1934, Lemke co-sponsored the Frazier–Lemke Farm Bankruptcy Act, restricting the ability of banks to repossess farms. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the act into law on June 28, 1934.

Later in 1936, Lemke accepted the nomination of the Union Party, a short-lived third party, as their candidate for President of the United States.[2] He received 892,378 votes, or just under 2% nationwide, and no electoral votes in the 1936 election. Simultaneously, he was reelected to the House of Representatives as a Republican. Many believe Lemke's acceptance of the Union Party nomination in 1936 was out of bitterness toward Roosevelt over the farm mortgage issue.

In 1940, after having already received the Republican nomination for a fifth House term, he withdrew from that race to launch an unsuccessful run as an independent for the U.S. Senate. He ran again for Congress in 1942 as a Republican and served four more terms, until his death in 1950.

Lemke died of a heart attack in Fargo, North Dakota and is buried in Riverside Cemetery.[1][3] Former Atlanta Braves baseball player Mark Lemke is Lemke's second cousin twice removed.



  1. ^ a b United Press (May 31, 1950). "William Lemke, 71, Congressman, Dies. North Dakota Republican Was Candidate for President on Union Party Slate in '36". New York Times. Retrieved 2015-01-14. Representative William Lemke, Republican of North Dakota, died on the way to a hospital tonight soon after he collapsed in the Power Hotel in downtown Fargo. He was 71 years old. 
  2. ^ Lubell, Samuel (1956). The Future of American Politics (2nd ed.). Anchor Press. pp. 151–152. 
  3. ^ "Lemke, House Veteran, Dies of Heart Attack" (PDF). Binghamton Press. May 31, 1950. 

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
William Langer
Attorney General of North Dakota
Succeeded by
Sveinbjorn Johnson
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Olger B. Burtness
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from North Dakota's at-large congressional district

Succeeded by
Charles R. Robertson
Preceded by
Charles R. Robertson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from North Dakota's at-large congressional district

Succeeded by
Fred G. Aandahl