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A Man’s Reach

A Man’s Reach

Edited by Lori Sturdevant
Copyright Date: 2000
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 456
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  • Book Info
    A Man’s Reach
    Book Description:

    Edited by Lori Sturdevant Elmer L. Andersen has been described as Minnesota’s leading citizen. In A Man’s Reach, Governor Andersen recounts his years of service with a keen truthfulness, but also with the generous spirit that has guided his life and career. Told with humor and humility, A Man’s Reach is sure to encourage anyone who ever wondered if one person can make a difference.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9247-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Editor’s Note
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    Lori Sturdevant

    • Boyhood
      (pp. 3-12)

      I was born in chicago, illinois, on June 17, 1909. My arrival was carelessly recorded, which came to my attention years later, when I sought a passport. I needed a birth certificate, and when I inquired of Cook County for the document, they produced the certificate of a baby Anderson, spelledsoninstead ofsen,born June 17, 1909, but a girl, not a boy. Affidavits were supplied by my brothers that, indeed, I was that child, that I was a boy, and that my name was spelledsen.Cook County issued a modified birth certificate, which satisfied the passport...

    • Setbacks and Survival
      (pp. 13-21)

      Polio—or infantile paralysis, as it was called when I was young—greatly affected my early life and continues to affect me today. I was stricken with the illness when I was nine years old. I am not sure how I contracted it. No one else in our neighborhood or in my circle of friends had the disease, to my knowledge. Shortly after falling ill, I lost all use of my limbs and was confined to bed. My vivid recollection is being in bed, helpless, and having to be fed. I do not remember being afraid—which probably only indicates...

    • Learning
      (pp. 22-30)

      Our father and mother both imbued in us the idea that a good education was vital to our success. When they were gone, we four children saw to it that each of us went to high school, then to college, and earned a degree.

      My love of learning goes way back. As a grade school student, I was much influenced by the principal of my school, Mabel E. Seeley. I was coming out of my bout with polio when she befriended me. I must have appeared rather undernourished or underdeveloped, because she would invite me into her office in the...

    • Traveling Salesman
      (pp. 31-38)

      I graduated from junior college in the spring of 1928. It was time to go back to E. H. Sheldon and ask one more time for the sales job I had dreamed of for years. I sought him out weeks before commencement. I wanted to get going.

      “I’m two years older,” I reported to Mr. Sheldon. “I’ve had two years of sales experience. I’ve had two years of college. Now will you give me a chance to sell?” He said, “Elmer, you’re still pretty young.”

      He was right. I was nineteen. But I had worked in his factory for three...

    • University Student
      (pp. 39-45)

      A year in minneapolis left me convinced that I wanted something more. I wanted to enroll at the University of Minnesota.

      I usually approach a new venture with specific objectives. In aiming for the University of Minnesota, I had three: I wanted to get a degree for reasons of job protection. I did not want somebody to push ahead of me because he had a degree and I did not.

      Another objective was to meet a woman whom I might marry. I was beginning to long for a home life and a family. I was lonely. I discovered that being...

    • Eleanor
      (pp. 46-55)

      I found eleanor anne johnson at Grace University Lutheran Church. Before I describe how we met, she deserves an introduction.

      Eleanor was the oldest of three children born to Gustaf and Elizabeth Anderson Johnson of southeast Minneapolis. Her father was a lumber and coal dealer, the owner of Gust Johnson Lumber Company on Como Avenue Southeast. Both of Eleanor’s parents were natives of Sweden.

      Gustaf Johnson was one of six children. He was the only one of his family who came to the United States and stayed here. One older brother came too, but he went back. Interestingly, Gustaf was...

    • Newlyweds
      (pp. 56-65)

      The day after our wedding, Eleanor and I drove to Milwaukee and took a boat to Muskegon. The next day we drove to Detroit, got on another boat to Buffalo, then drove to Basin Harbor Lodge in Vergennes, Vermont, where we stayed for one week.

      I had never been to that part of the country before. But we had read about it in advertisements and had chosen it well in advance. When I travel, I always like to make my arrangements ahead of time, so I know where I am going. I do not like to spend time planning a...

    • Fuller Threatened
      (pp. 66-74)

      A blow struck fuller in December 1937 that would have knocked many other small companies out of business. Elmer Park and Calvert Leggett, the two most experienced of the company’s three salesmen, and Frank Altman, Fuller’s chief processing man in the plant, banded together to form their own firm. The Park, Leggett, Altman Company was established in Minneapolis before Harvey Fuller heard a word from the three men. In fact, Mr. Fuller got the news from the head of another adhesives company. Park, Leggett, and Altman planned to use all they knew about Fuller’s processes and customers to compete with...


    • A Risky Venture
      (pp. 77-84)

      Early in 1941, Mr. Fuller and I went to Chicago at the invitation of Joe Morningstar and Murray Stempel of Paisley Products to hear their proposal for acquiring H. B. Fuller Company. Officially, I was Fuller’s sales manager, the number-two man in the company. But since Mr. Fuller’s stroke in 1939, I had been functioning as general manager. Nevertheless, at the meeting with Paisley, I kept quiet.

      The Paisley proposal was cut and dried. For $50,000, they proposed to take over all of the assets and the name, and to have a completely free hand in what they did with...

    • Fuller Matures
      (pp. 85-94)

      I was serious about making H. B. Fuller the leading adhesives manufacturer in the country. I believed that more plants, strategically placed across the country, would make that dream come true. The only question in 1943 was where the first new plant should be.

      We quickly narrowed our location options to two: Kansas City and Houston. Ray Burgess, our senior engineer, and I visited both cities to make the choice. Houston was growing rapidly. Yet it struck us as primarily a single-industry town. It did not have much diversity in manufacturing and food packing—industries that use adhesives. Kansas City...

    • Business Priorities
      (pp. 95-101)

      Any business ought to have three things clearly understood by all those it touches. It needs a philosophy, a guiding sense of its role in society, its values and its purpose. It needs a mission, a clear statement of its goals. And it needs a strategy specifying how it intends to accomplish its mission. Many businesses focus on strategy without giving any thought to philosophy or much attention to mission. Those businesses might enjoy some success, but I think it is bound to be short-lived. A solid grounding in philosophy and mission are what see a business through the years....

    • Family Man
      (pp. 102-109)

      H. B. fuller was not all that was expanding in 1945. On December 7, Emily Elizabeth Andersen was born. She is our only daughter, and the only one of our three children not to have the middle name Lee, which is my middle name. Emily was named for her grandmother Elizabeth Johnson.

      The name Lee recurs in our family tree quite often. We have grandchildren named Nathan Lee and Benjamin Lee. But nobody wanted to name a baby Elmer! I have noticed that my first name does not make any top-ten popularity lists.

      I once asked Minnesota’s other Gov. Elmer...

    • Time for Politics
      (pp. 110-119)

      Somehow, i always found time for politics. In between work and family, I would squeeze in Liberal Republican Club meetings, precinct caucus meetings, county conventions, and Republican state conventions. I liked serving on platform committees. I was in favor of an energetic program and wanted the party to dedicate itself to doing important things.

      Watching the New Deal unfold convinced me that I had been right not to switch to the Democratic Party in 1932. President Roosevelt disappointed me by asking Congress to pass bills that he knew were unconstitutional. He was reckless in his disregard for the Constitution. When...

    • State Senator
      (pp. 120-132)

      I live in what was one of the most populous state senate districts in Minnesota in the 1940s, District 42. It extended from the Anoka County line on the north to the Dakota County line on the south, and consisted of all of northern Ramsey County west of Rice Street, and roughly all of St. Paul west of Hamline Avenue. It was one of six senate districts in Ramsey County, but it encompassed one-third of the county’s population. That imbalance occurred because in the first half of the twentieth century, Minnesota did not regularly redraw its legislative district boundaries to...

    • Mr. Chairman
      (pp. 133-146)

      I had to win my senate seat all over again in November 1950. After my hard-fought victory in the special election in February 1949, the campaign twenty months later was an anticlimax. I faced only token opposition.

      Much to my gratification, St. Anthony Park turned out strongly for me again.

      My opposition was even weaker in 1954, the third and final time I ran for the senate. I had hopes of running without opposition that year. But in the last hour of the last day on which candidates could file for office, a man named Fred Blum wandered into the...

    • An Outstanding Session
      (pp. 147-157)

      When people ask what i consider my most important project in a long life of public service, my mind turns to the 1957 legislative session and special education. The 1957 legislature produced a number of landmark achievements. Among them was a group of bills providing programs of special education for children whose exceptional needs were not well met in the normal school situation.

      The work on those measures started in 1955. In the years when the legislature met only in odd-numbered years, it was customary between sessions for interim commissions to study particular projects and prepare major bills for the...

    • Dairyman
      (pp. 158-166)

      The property on deer lake near St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, that Grandma and Grandpa Johnson bought in 1934 was beloved territory for Eleanor, the children, and me. Originally, it included a farmhouse and barn and forty acres of land. The Johnsons contracted with their builder friend Andrew Danielson to construct three cottages on the lakeshore, one of which was reserved for our family’s use. We spent as much time as we could at Deer Lake each summer. During several summers, Eleanor and the children remained there for weeks at a time, while I drove the fifty miles to St. Paul...

    • Partner
      (pp. 167-174)

      Eleanor johnson andersen is a remarkable woman. She is deliberate and thoughtful in her decisions. Once she makes a commitment, it is deep and abiding.

      A number of major decisions confronted our family in the 1940s and 1950s, as my involvement in business, politics, and the community deepened. Though Eleanor often let me take the lead, we always made big decisions together. Eleanor was not as quick to decide a question as I was. She would generally raise more questions, to be sure I was thinking through all the alternatives and possible consequences. She would caution me against entering into...


    • Candidate for Governor
      (pp. 177-192)

      When i left the legislature in 1958, I truly thought I was done with elective office. Fuller needed me, and with the family, community activities, and the farm, I had enough to keep me occupied.

      Of course, I also stayed attuned to public affairs. One could not serve for five sessions of the Minnesota Legislature and do otherwise. I monitored news developments daily. I had always been an avid reader of newspapers and magazines, and a consumer of broadcast news. I regularly read theManchester Guardian,theLondon Economist,and a number of domestic papers, including those published in both...

    • Governor-Elect
      (pp. 193-204)

      The day after the election, I called my first press conference as governor-elect, at the Leamington Hotel in downtown Minneapolis. I had an announcement: I would not wait until inauguration day to begin to work on the economic problems on the Iron Range. I would go to northeastern Minnesota as soon as meetings could be arranged with local leaders. I wanted quick action to alleviate the distress I had witnessed in that region during the campaign.

      In the fall of 1960, unemployment was at 12 percent in northeastern Minnesota, an unacceptable level. Dirt swirled in the doorways of empty storefronts...

    • 1961 Legislature
      (pp. 205-219)

      Thrills do not come much faster in life than they came to me at the start of 1961. On Sunday, January 1, Eleanor and I traveled to Pasadena, California, where the University of Minnesota Golden Gopher football team would play the University of Washington in the Rose Bowl. We rode and waved to the throngs at the Tournament of Roses Parade on January 2, and watched the Gophers lose to the University of Washington. On January 3, the 1961 legislature convened to the news that I would propose a budget that called for $39 million in new revenues, but no...

    • Governing
      (pp. 220-232)

      There is more to being Minnesota’s governor than balancing the budget and proposing bills to the legislature. Among the most important responsibilities of a governor is the appointment of members of the judiciary, from small municipal courts to the state’s supreme court. Those appointments can outlast a governor’s term by decades and give a governor influence for a long time.

      I gave a great deal of time and consideration to judicial appointments. Even for municipal judgeships, the lowest rung on Minnesota’s judicial ladder, I interviewed candidates personally, just as if I was hiring them for a key position at H....

    • 1962 Campaign
      (pp. 233-245)

      I announced on june 8, 1962, just days before the Republican state convention, that I would seek a second term. No one was surprised—least of all the state’s active Republicans. But a few of them may have been disappointed.

      Two years in office had not endeared me to the Republican Party’s conservative wing, nor to those who place party loyalty above all other considerations in governing. With them, I had a shaky relationship. I had a habit of appointing people to key positions based on their professional qualifications, not their party connections. I not only gave one or two...

    • Recount
      (pp. 246-256)

      As returns slowly dribbled in November 6 and 7, the governor’s race became a seesaw affair. First I would be ahead by a few thousand votes, then Rolvaag would jump into the lead, then I would surge ahead again. Rolvaag did well in Minneapolis and St. Paul; I did well in the suburban areas and southern Minnesota. The counts reported by the news media varied all through the night, the early morning, and the late morning. Newspaper photos taken that night of Rolvaag and his wife and Eleanor and me show four tired, strained people, struggling to make sense of...


    • On the Rebound
      (pp. 259-274)

      Losing a statewide election by ninety-one votes after a four-and-a-half-month “election night” actually might be easier than losing by a crushing landslide. The sudden jolt of a big defeat can be an almost catastrophic blow. My defeat was more gradual. I had weeks in which to prepare myself. I had the consolation of thinking, in the end, that no one will ever know who really got the most votes for governor in 1962.

      I also took solace in knowing that the voters had been duped. The lies told by unscrupulous DFL politicians about the Interstate 35 construction constituted fraud. I...

    • Voyageurs Park
      (pp. 275-285)

      I am tempted to say that Voyageurs National Park was born on a pristine June day in 1962, when a state and local delegation and I escorted Conrad Wirth, the director of the National Park Service, to Kabetogama Peninsula near International Falls. The sparkle of the water and brilliance of the sky matched the enthusiasm and promise of that day.

      But decades of dreaming about a national park in Minnesota preceded that day. And two more decades of hard work were ahead for those of us who wanted this special slice of northern Minnesota preserved in the national park system....

    • Charles A. Lindbergh
      (pp. 286-301)

      Charles a. lindbergh’s name deserves a prominent place in the annals of Voyageurs National Park. The man who did so much for the development of aviation also did much for his home state, for the cause of wilderness preservation—and for me.

      My first meeting with Lindbergh was the result of my long relationship with Russell Fridley, who headed the Minnesota Historical Society at the time that I was its president. Fridley telephoned one day in the mid-1960s with news that Lindbergh was in the state and was going to be at his home that evening. The two of them...

    • Regent
      (pp. 302-316)

      I abandoned my ambitions for elective office in 1966. But I did not consider myself through with public service. One position in particular appealed to me: regent of the University of Minnesota. I think that outside of elective office, it is the single most significant public service post a Minnesotan can have.

      I had learned painfully in 1966 that when one wants a position in public service, one must ask for it. In early 1967, I went to see my brother-in-law, Stanley Holmquist, the new majority leader of the Minnesota Senate. Years earlier, when I was in the state senate,...

    • New Career
      (pp. 317-327)

      I turned sixty-five in 1974. To me, that birthday did not mean retirement; it meant new opportunities. It was time to pass the leadership of H. B. Fuller Company to our son Tony and to begin something new.

      I had been planning this change for some time. I was always more interested in Fuller as an institution of service to its customers and employees than in my relationship to it. I wanted to leave without causing so much as a quiver in Fuller’s operations.

      By the early 1970s, those operations were extensive. The little one-plant glue company I bought in...

    • ECM Publishers, Inc.
      (pp. 328-341)

      The avenue to growth for Princeton Publishing Company was right in Princeton. We found it at the end of the route theUnion-Eagletraveled each week to the plant of East Central Minnesota Printing Company, where eight of the region’s weekly newspapers were printed.

      In the early 1970s, eight newspaper owners joined forces to build a large, modern printing plant that could handle all their weekly printing needs. Linotype machines were on their way out, and the expense associated with modern offset printing was too great to be borne by small-town papers individually. The owners obtained financing from the First...

    • Minnesota Historical Society
      (pp. 342-351)

      When i came to minnesota in 1928, I brought with me a deep interest in history in general and Minnesota’s history in particular. I soon learned where to go to satisfy my curiosity—the Minnesota Historical Society.

      I have been a member of the society for more than a half century, and I was its president from 1966 to 1970. That assignment put me in exclusive company. Only one other person in the state’s history, John S. Pillsbury, served in turn as governor, chairman of the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota, and president of the Minnesota Historical...

    • University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
      (pp. 352-363)

      Living in st. anthony park gave us interesting neighbors—many of them connected to the University of Minnesota. One who lived a block or two away was Leon Snyder, the head of the Department of Horticulture and an incredible font of knowledge about plants. He and his wife, Vera, were wonderful, down-to-earth people. Through Snyder we learned in the late 1950s that a major arboretum was being established west of Minneapolis.

      My interest was immediately piqued. Since my boyhood days tramping around Michigan’s Lake Mona with my friend Leroy Olson, I had loved nature. Here, I thought, was a project...

    • Sugarloaf
      (pp. 364-373)

      Our daughter, emily, telephoned one day in 1991, concerned about an area near property she owns on the North Shore of Lake Superior. She referred to Sugarloaf Cove, Beach, and Point, in Schroeder Township of Cook County, about seventy-three miles northeast of Duluth. It is a beautiful place with unusual geologic characteristics, including lava flow marks from several volcanic eruptions. That part of the state has some of the oldest exposed rock in the world, thrust to the earth’s surface by prehistoric volcanic eruptions. Its name comes from the loaflike rocky point that projects into the lake. Early settlers said...

    • Elder Statesman
      (pp. 374-384)

      When i was elected governor in 1960, I also joined an exclusive fraternity—a governor’s club. A bond of respect and affection links all of Minnesota’s living governors, up to and including a man who will probably always be one of the club’s more unconventional members, the state’s current governor, Jesse Ventura. The governors are united in an understanding of what each other has experienced.

      Minnesota has been fortunate in having a succession of honest, committed, helpful governors. I have known all of my predecessors going back to Harold Stassen, and each of my successors—though I am not yet...

    • The Joy of Books
      (pp. 385-399)

      Through a long life, a number of constants have grown dearer with time. Among them is the joy I find in books. I have been a book collector my entire adult life.

      My desire to own my own books began in childhood. In the home of my aunt Lillian Johnson, an unmarried teacher, I loved to touch, hold, and page through a set of books she owned. It was “Journeys through Book Land,” a compilation of children’s literature. Whenever I went to her home, I headed straight for her bookshelf to find some of my favorite stories. Our little home...

    • Life Goes On
      (pp. 400-410)

      A ging is a wonderful thing—despite its bad reputation. It is an extension of life. Early in life, a man seldom thinks about mortality. As he grows older, he begins to realize that life has a limit. But if he is in reasonably good health and has adequate financial resources, his older years can be a satisfying time.

      I have often said that if a man can avoid heart problems in his fifties, cancer in his sixties, and prostate trouble in his seventies, he can go on indefinitely. Having just celebrated my ninetieth birthday, I am well past those...

  9. Epilogue: The View from 2000
    (pp. 411-414)

    A wonderful new century has dawned, and I am glad to be among those who greet it. There is so much to live for. The twentieth century produced enormous advances, and the twenty-first century has the potential to bring greater things still. Just ahead are fabulous developments and important challenges for our state, our nation, and all of humanity.

    The United States enters the twenty-first century in a strong position. The twentieth century ended with an unequalled surge of business activity, giving the nation a historic run of economic expansion. But prosperity is not enjoyed equally by all segments of...

  10. APPENDIX Professional Positions, Activities, and Honors of Elmer L. Andersen
    (pp. 415-418)
  11. Index
    (pp. 419-434)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 435-435)