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List of governors of Wisconsin

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Governor of Wisconsin
Privy Seal of Wisconsin.svg
Gubernatorial seal
Tony Evers

since January 7, 2019
ResidenceWisconsin Governor's Mansion
Term lengthFour years, no term limits
Inaugural holderNelson Dewey
FormationJune 7, 1848 (1848-06-07)
DeputyLieutenant Governor of Wisconsin

The Governor of Wisconsin is the head of the executive branch of Wisconsin's state government [2] and the commander-in-chief of the state's army and air forces.[3] The governor has a duty to enforce state laws,[3] and the power to either approve or veto bills passed by the Wisconsin Legislature,[4] to convene the legislature,[3] and to grant pardons, except in cases of treason and impeachment.[5]

Forty-four individuals have held the office of governor of Wisconsin since the state's admission to the Union in 1848, one of whom—Philip La Follette—served non-consecutive terms. Nelson Dewey, the first governor, took office on June 7, 1848. The longest-serving governor was Tommy Thompson, who took office on January 5, 1987 and resigned on February 1, 2001, a total of 14 years and 28 days. Arthur MacArthur, Sr. had the shortest term: he was governor for a total of just 5 days—from March 21, 1856 to March 25, 1856.[6] The current governor is Tony Evers, a Democrat who took office on January 7, 2019. [6]


Initially after the American Revolution, parts of the area now known as Wisconsin were claimed by Virginia, Massachusetts and Connecticut; however, Virginia ceded its claim in 1784, Massachusetts in 1785 and Connecticut in 1786.[7] On July 13, 1787, the Northwest Territory, including the area now called Wisconsin, was formed; Wisconsin remained part of the territory until 1800.[8] The territorial governor during this period was Arthur St. Clair.[9] As parts of the Northwest Territory were admitted to the Union as states, Wisconsin became part of first the Indiana Territory (1800–1809), then the Illinois Territory (1809–1818), and then the Michigan Territory (1818–1836);[8] see the lists of governors of Indiana, of Illinois, and of Michigan for these periods.

Governors of Wisconsin Territory

Wisconsin Territory was formed on July 3, 1836. During the time of its existence, the Wisconsin Territory had 3 territorial governors, 1 of whom served non-consecutive terms,[8][10] and 1 who continued on as acting governor after the territory had officially ceased to exist.

# Governor Appointed Left office
[note 1]
Appointed by Notes
Portrait of a well-dressed nineteenth-century man
  Henry Dodge April 30, 1836 September 13, 1841[11] Andrew Jackson
Portrait of a well-dressed nineteenth-century man
  James Duane Doty September 30, 1841 June 21, 1844 John Tyler
Portrait of a well-dressed nineteenth-century man
  Nathaniel P. Tallmadge June 21, 1844 April 8, 1845 John Tyler
Portrait of a well-dressed nineteenth-century man
  Henry Dodge April 8, 1845 June 23, 1848 James Polk [note 2]
John Catlin (Wisconsin).jpg
  John Catlin June 23, 1848 March 3, 1849 none
(acting governor)
[note 2]

Governors of the State of Wisconsin

Wisconsin was admitted to the Union on May 29, 1848. Since then, it has had 45 governors, one of whom served non-consecutive terms.[6]

Originally, governors of Wisconsin served for two-year terms, but in 1967 the state constitution was amended to change this to four.[2] Jeremiah McLain Rusk served 1 3-year term in the 1880s as the constitution was amended during his first term to move elections from odd to even years, and all officers were allowed to serve an extra year, rather than have their terms cut a year short. Patrick Lucey, elected in the 1970 election, was the first governor to serve a 4-year term.[6] Governors of Wisconsin are not term limited.

The state constitution provides for the election of a lieutenant governor; originally, the governor and lieutenant governor were elected on different tickets, and thus were not necessarily of the same party. Since the 1967 amendment, however, the two have been nominated, and voted on, together.[2] Originally, if the office of the governor was vacant for any reason, "the powers and duties of the office . . . devolve[d] upon the lieutenant governor." In 1979, the constitution was amended to make this more specific: if the governor dies, resigns, or is removed from office, the lieutenant governor becomes governor, but becomes acting governor if the governor is absent from the state, impeached, or unable to carry out of duties.[13] If any of these events occur while the office of lieutenant governor is vacant, the secretary of state becomes either governor or acting governor.[14] Two Wisconsin governors have died while in office, one has died after being elected but before taking office, and four have resigned.[6]


  Democratic (12)   Republican (31)   Whig (1)   Wisconsin Progressive (2)

# Governor Took office Left office Party Lt. Governor[15][note 3] Term(s)
[note 4]
Nelson Dewey.jpg
  Nelson Dewey June 7, 1848 January 5, 1852 Democratic   John E. Holmes 2
  Samuel W. Beall
LeonardJFarwell extracted.jpg
  Leonard J. Farwell January 5, 1852 January 2, 1854 Whig   Timothy Burns
[note 5]
William A Barstow by William F Cogswell, c1850s.jpg
  William A. Barstow January 2, 1854 March 21, 1856 Democratic   James T. Lewis 1 13
[note 6]
  Arthur MacArthur Sr.
Arthur macarthur sr.png
  Arthur MacArthur Sr. March 21, 1856 March 25, 1856 Democratic vacant 13
[note 6]
Coles Bashford - Brady-Handy.jpg
  Coles Bashford March 25, 1856 January 4, 1858 Republican   Arthur MacArthur Sr. 13
[note 6]
  Alexander W. Randall January 4, 1858 January 6, 1862 Republican   Erasmus D. Campbell 2
  Butler G. Noble
Louis P. Harvey.jpg
  Louis P. Harvey January 6, 1862 April 19, 1862 Republican   Edward Salomon 12
[note 5]
Wisconsin Governor Edward Salomon.jpg
  Edward Salomon April 19, 1862 January 4, 1864 Republican vacant 12
[note 7]
James T. Lewis Cropped.jpg
  James T. Lewis January 4, 1864 January 1, 1866 Republican   Wyman Spooner 1
Lucius Fairchild.png
  Lucius Fairchild January 1, 1866 January 1, 1872 Republican   Wyman Spooner 3
  Thaddeus C. Pound
Cadwallader Colden Washburn.jpg
  Cadwallader C. Washburn January 1, 1872 January 5, 1874 Republican   Milton H. Pettit
[note 5]
William Robert Taylor.jpg
  William Robert Taylor January 5, 1874 January 3, 1876 Democratic   Charles D. Parker 1
Harrison Ludington.jpg
  Harrison Ludington January 3, 1876 January 7, 1878 Republican   Charles D. Parker 1
William E. Smith.jpg
  William E. Smith January 7, 1878 January 2, 1882 Republican   James M. Bingham 2
Jeremiah McLain Rusk - Brady-Handy.jpg
  Jeremiah McLain Rusk January 2, 1882 January 7, 1889 Republican   Sam S. Fifield 3
[note 8]
  George W. Ryland
William D. Hoard.jpg
  William D. Hoard January 7, 1889 January 5, 1891 Republican   George W. Ryland 1
George W. Peck.jpg
  George W. Peck January 5, 1891 January 7, 1895 Democratic   Charles Jonas 2
William H Upham.jpg
  William H. Upham January 7, 1895 January 4, 1897 Republican   Emil Baensch 1
Edward Scofield.jpg
  Edward Scofield January 4, 1897 January 7, 1901 Republican   Emil Baensch 2
  Jesse Stone
Robert M. La Follette, Sr.jpg
  Robert M. La Follette, Sr. January 7, 1901 January 1, 1906 Republican   Jesse Stone
[note 5]
2 12
[note 9]
  James O. Davidson
James Ole Davidson (Wisconsin Governor).png
  James O. Davidson January 1, 1906 January 2, 1911 Republican vacant 2 12
[note 10]
  William D. Connor
  John Strange
Francis E. McGovern.jpg
  Francis E. McGovern January 2, 1911 January 4, 1915 Republican   Thomas Morris 2
Emanuel Lorenz Philipp (cropped).jpg
  Emanuel L. Philipp January 4, 1915 January 3, 1921 Republican   Edward F. Dithmar 3
John J. Blaine.jpg
  John J. Blaine January 3, 1921 January 3, 1927 Republican   George F. Comings 3
  Henry A. Huber
Fred R. Zimmerman.jpg
  Fred R. Zimmerman January 3, 1927 January 7, 1929 Republican   Henry A. Huber 1
Walter J. Kohler, Sr. (Wisconsin Governor).jpg
  Walter J. Kohler Sr. January 7, 1929 January 5, 1931 Republican   Henry A. Huber 1
Philip Fox La Follette 1925.jpg
  Philip La Follette January 5, 1931 January 2, 1933 Republican   Henry A. Huber 1
Albert G Schmedeman.jpg
  Albert G. Schmedeman January 2, 1933 January 7, 1935 Democratic   Thomas J. O'Malley 1
Philip Fox La Follette 1925.jpg
  Philip La Follette January 7, 1935 January 2, 1939 Wisconsin
  Thomas J. O'Malley
[note 5]
  Henry A. Gunderson
[note 11]
  Herman L. Ekern
Julius P. Heil.jpg
  Julius P. Heil January 2, 1939 January 4, 1943 Republican   Walter S. Goodland 2
Orland Steen Loomis (Wisconsin governor-elect).jpg
  Orland S. Loomis did not take office Wisconsin
  Walter S. Goodland
[note 12]
Walter Samuel Goodland.jpg
  Walter S. Goodland January 4, 1943 March 12, 1947 Republican vacant 2 12
[note 5]
  Oscar Rennebohm
Rennebohm Governor.jpg
  Oscar Rennebohm March 12, 1947 January 1, 1951 Republican vacant 1 12
[note 10]
  George M. Smith
33   Walter J. Kohler Jr. January 1, 1951 January 7, 1957 Republican   George M. Smith 3
  Warren P. Knowles
Vernon Wallace Thomson.jpg
  Vernon W. Thomson January 7, 1957 January 5, 1959 Republican   Warren P. Knowles 1
  Gaylord Nelson January 5, 1959 January 7, 1963 Democratic   Philleo Nash 2
  Warren P. Knowles
John Reynolds.jpg
  John W. Reynolds Jr. January 7, 1963 January 4, 1965 Democratic   Jack B. Olson 1
  Warren P. Knowles January 4, 1965 January 4, 1971 Republican   Patrick J. Lucey 3
  Jack B. Olson
Patrick Lucey.png
  Patrick J. Lucey January 4, 1971 July 6, 1977 Democratic   Martin J. Schreiber 1 12
[note 13]
[note 14]
Martin Schreiber.png
  Martin J. Schreiber July 6, 1977 January 3, 1979 Democratic vacant 12
[note 10]
40   Lee S. Dreyfus January 3, 1979
[note 15]
January 3, 1983 Republican   Russell A. Olson 1
Anthony Earl (Wisconsin Governor) (cropped).jpg
  Anthony S. Earl January 3, 1983 January 5, 1987 Democratic   James T. Flynn 1
Tommy Thompson 1.jpg
  Tommy Thompson January 5, 1987 February 1, 2001 Republican   Scott McCallum 3 12
[note 16]
Governor Scott McCallum 2001 (cropped).jpg
  Scott McCallum February 1, 2001 January 6, 2003 Republican   Margaret A. Farrow 12
[note 10]
Jim Doyle (cropped).jpg
  Jim Doyle January 6, 2003 January 3, 2011 Democratic   Barbara Lawton 2
Scott Walker by Gage Skidmore 4.jpg
  Scott Walker January 3, 2011 January 7, 2019 Republican   Rebecca Kleefisch 2
Tony Evers (cropped).jpg
  Tony Evers January 7, 2019 Incumbent Democratic   Mandela Barnes 1
[note 17]

Other high offices held

This is a table of other governorships, congressional and other federal offices, and ranking diplomatic positions in foreign countries held by Wisconsin governors.

* Denotes those offices for which the governor resigned the governorship.
† Denotes those offices from which the governor resigned to take the governorship.
Governor Gubernatorial term Other offices held Source
Henry Dodge 1836–1841
U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, Delegate from Wisconsin Territory [18]
James Doty 1841–1844 Delegate from Wisconsin Territory, U.S. Representative from Wisconsin, Governor of Utah Territory [19]
Nathaniel Tallmadge 1844–1845 Senator from New York [20]
Arthur MacArthur, Sr. 1856 Justice of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia [21]
Coles Bashford 1856–1858 Delegate from Arizona Territory [22]
Alexander Randall 1858–1862 Minister to the Papal States; Postmaster General [23]
Lucius Fairchild 1866–1872 Minister to Spain [24]
Cadwallader Washburn 1872–1874 U.S. Representative from Wisconsin [25]
Jeremiah Rusk 1882–1889 U.S. Representative from Wisconsin, Secretary of Agriculture [26]
Robert La Follette, Sr. 1901–1906 U.S. Senator from Wisconsin*, U.S. Representative from Wisconsin [27]
John Blaine 1921–1927 U.S. Senator from Wisconsin [28]
Albert Schmedeman 1933–1935 Minister to Norway [29]
Vernon Thomson 1957–1959 U.S. Representative from Wisconsin [30]
Gaylord Nelson 1959–1963 U.S. Senator from Wisconsin [31]
John W. Reynolds, Jr. 1963–1965 District Judge for the Eastern District of Wisconsin [32]
Patrick Lucey 1971–1977 Ambassador to Mexico* [33]
Tommy Thompson 1987–2001 Secretary of Health and Human Services* [34]

Living former governors of Wisconsin

As of January 2019, there are six former governors of Wisconsin who are currently living at this time, the oldest governor of Wisconsin being Anthony S. Earl (served 1983–1987, born 1936). The most recent death of a former governor of Wisconsin was that of Patrick Lucey (served 1971–1977, born 1918) on May 10, 2014.[6] The most recently serving governor to die was Lee S. Dreyfus (served 1979–1983, born 1926) on January 2, 2008.

Governor Gubernatorial term Date of birth (and age)
Martin J. Schreiber 1977–1979 (1939-04-08) April 8, 1939 (age 81)
Anthony S. Earl 1983–1987 (1936-04-12) April 12, 1936 (age 84)
Tommy Thompson 1987–2001 (1941-11-19) November 19, 1941 (age 79)
Scott McCallum 2001–2003 (1950-05-02) May 2, 1950 (age 70)
Jim Doyle 2003–2011 (1945-11-23) November 23, 1945 (age 75)
Scott Walker 2011–2019 November 2, 1967 (age 52)


  1. ^ Absent any other sources, it is assumed the governor left office when his successor was appointed.
  2. ^ a b When the State of Wisconsin was formed, part of Wisconsin Territory was not included in the state. This portion likely became unorganized territory; however, the Wisconsin territorial government continued to function there until the land was assigned to Minnesota Territory on March 3, 1849. Henry Dodge ceased to be territorial governor when he took his seat as a U.S. Senator from the state of Wisconsin on June 23, 1848. In the absence of a governor, John Catlin, as Secretary of Wisconsin Territory, acted as governor until the organization of Minnesota Territory.[12]
  3. ^ Vacancies in the office of the lieutenant governor are only listed if they lasted for the entire term. For a full list of vacancies, see List of Lieutenant Governors of Wisconsin.
  4. ^ The fractional terms of some governors are not to be understood absolutely literally; rather, they are meant to show single terms during which multiple governors served, due to resignations, deaths and the like.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Died in office.
  6. ^ a b c Initially, Barstow was declared the winner of the 1855 election, but soon resigned amid claims that he had won through fraudulent means. MacArthur, as lieutenant governor, acted as governor for five days, until the Wisconsin Supreme Court declared Barstow's opponent, Bashford, the legitimate governor. Bashford completed the term, with MacArthur continuing to serve as lieutenant governor.[16]
  7. ^ As lieutenant governor, succeeded to the governorship, and served the rest of the unexpired term.
  8. ^ During Rusk's first term, the Wisconsin Constitution was amended to say that all elections of state and county officers would henceforth take place in even-numbered years. By the provisions of the amendment, the terms of all officials who would have left office in 1884, including Rusk, were extended by one year.
  9. ^ Resigned to take an elected seat in the United States Senate.
  10. ^ a b c d As lieutenant governor, served as governor for remainder of unexpired term.
  11. ^ Resigned to take an appointment to the state tax commission.
  12. ^ Loomis was elected in the 1942 election, but died before taking office. Per a ruling of the Wisconsin Supreme Court Goodland, who had been re-elected lieutenant governor in the same election, served as governor for the entire term.
  13. ^ As per a 1967 amendment to the Wisconsin Constitution, Lucey's first term was the first gubernatorial term to last 4 years
  14. ^ Resigned to become Ambassador to Mexico
  15. ^ Contemporary newspaper sources indicate that Dreyfus was sworn in on January 3;[17] the Wisconsin Blue Book, however, states that he was sworn in on January 1.[6]
  16. ^ Resigned to become United States Secretary of Health and Human Services
  17. ^ Evers' first term expires in January 2023.


  • "Governors Database: Wisconsin". National Governors Association. National Governors Association. 2007. Archived from the original on November 1, 2007. Retrieved December 6, 2007.
  • Barish, Lawrence S. (ed.) (2009). Wisconsin Blue Book 2009–2010. Madison: Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau. ISBN 978-0-9752820-3-8.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  1. ^ "Database: Wisconsin state employee salaries | Politics and Elections". Wisconsin State Journal. May 13, 2016. Retrieved December 19, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Wisconsin Constitution article V, § 1
  3. ^ a b c Wisconsin Constitution article V, § 4
  4. ^ Wisconsin Constitution article V, § 10
  5. ^ Wisconsin Constitution article V, § 6
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Wisconsin Governors since 1848". State of Wisconsin Blue Book 2005–2006 (PDF). p. 724. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 25, 2007. Retrieved October 5, 2007.
  7. ^ Beck, J. D. (ed.) (1911). The blue book of the state of Wisconsin. Madison, Wisconsin: Democrat Printing Company. p. 512. Retrieved December 11, 2007.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  8. ^ a b c "Significant Events in Wisconsin History". State of Wisconsin Blue Book 2005–2006 (PDF). p. 696. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 25, 2007. Retrieved December 11, 2007.
  9. ^ "St. Clair, Arthur". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Government Printing Office. 2005. Retrieved December 11, 2007.
  10. ^ Manual for the use of the assembly, of the state of Wisconsin, for the year 1853. Madison, Wisconsin: Brown and Carpenter, Printers. 1853. p. 74. Retrieved December 11, 2007.
  11. ^ Butterfield, C.W. (1880). The history of Columbia County, Wisconsin. p. 49. Retrieved December 17, 2007.
  12. ^ The History of Racine and Kenosha Counties, Wisconsin. Racine County, Wisconsin: Western Historical Company. 1879. pp. 54–56. Retrieved January 24, 2008.
  13. ^ Wisconsin Constitution article V, § 7
  14. ^ Wisconsin Constitution article V, § 8
  15. ^ "Wisconsin Constitutional Officers; Lieutenant Governors". State of Wisconsin Blue Book 2005–2006 (PDF). p. 725. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 25, 2007. Retrieved October 9, 2007.
  16. ^ McCann, Dennis (December 10, 1998). "3 governors held office within weeks. Corruption charges helped spark power struggle, office turnover in 1856". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  17. ^ "Inaugural Caps Dreyfus Miracle". Ironwood Daily Globe. Ironwood, Michigan. January 4, 1979. p. 3.
  18. ^ "Dodge, Henry". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Clerk of the United States House of Representatives and Historian of the United States Senate. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
  19. ^ "Doty, James Duane". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Clerk of the United States House of Representatives and Historian of the United States Senate. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
  20. ^ "Tallmadge, Nathaniel Pitcher". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Clerk of the United States House of Representatives and Historian of the United States Senate. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
  21. ^ "Biographical Directory of Federal Judges". Federal Judicial Center. Archived from the original on May 27, 2010. Retrieved July 7, 2007.
  22. ^ "Bashford, Coles". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Clerk of the United States House of Representatives and Historian of the United States Senate. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
  23. ^ "Randall, Alexander Williams". Wisconsin Historical Society. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
  24. ^ "Former U.S. Ambassadors and Presidential Representatives to Spain". Spanish Embassy of the United States. Archived from the original on May 27, 2010. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
  25. ^ "Washburn, Cadwallader Colden". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Clerk of the United States House of Representatives and Historian of the United States Senate. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
  26. ^ "Rusk, Jeremiah McLain". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Clerk of the United States House of Representatives and Historian of the United States Senate. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
  27. ^ "La Follette, Robert Marion". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Clerk of the United States House of Representatives and Historian of the United States Senate. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
  28. ^ "Blaine, John James". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Clerk of the United States House of Representatives and Historian of the United States Senate. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
  29. ^ "Chiefs of Missions to Norway". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
  30. ^ "Thomson, Vernon Wallace". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Clerk of the United States House of Representatives and Historian of the United States Senate. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
  31. ^ "Nelson, Gaylord". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Clerk of the United States House of Representatives and Historian of the United States Senate. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
  32. ^ "Biographical Directory of Federal Judges". Federal Judicial Center. Archived from the original on June 4, 2010. Retrieved July 7, 2007.
  33. ^ "Chiefs of Missions to Mexico". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
  34. ^ "Historical Highlights". U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Retrieved July 7, 2010.

External links

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