Politicians/Public Officials

A listing of Politicians and Public Officials who were born or raised in Minnesota and have left their mark in the public arena.

  • Dennis Banks (Leech Lake Indian Reservation, MN)
    Co-founder of the American Indian Movement (AIM). AIM was founded as an activist group to protect the traditional ways of Indian people and engage in legal cases protecting treaty rights of Native Americans. In 1973 AIM led a 71-day armed standoff with federal forces at Wounded Knee, SD., a protest against the U.S. government’s failure to fulfill the original treaties signed with Native Americans in the 1800’s.
  • Shane Bauer (Onamia, MN)
    Bauer is one of three Americans (with Sarah Shourd and friend Josh Fattal) who were arrested by Iranian forces in July 2009 after straying across the Iranian border on a hike. Sarah (his fianc�e, and wife as of May 2012) was released early in Sept 2010 due to medical reasons. Shane and Josh were released after more than two years on a $1 Million bail arrangement in September 2011.
  • Dorothy Benham (Edina, MN)
    Beauty Pageant Queen/Singer; winner of the Miss America Pageant in 1977. Has appeared in Broadway musicals, and on the Crystal Cathedral “Hour of Power”, a nationally telecast religious program.
  • Robert Bergland (Roseau, MN)
    Politician; U.S. House of Representatives from 1971 to 1977. Served as Jimmy Carter’s Secretary of Agriculture from 1977 to 1981.
  • Nate (Nathan) Berkus (Orange County, CA)
    Television Host/Interior Designer. Berkus is an award-winning interior decorator. He appeared as a featured design expert for The Oprah Winfrey Show. He is the host of the nationally broadcast show “The Nate Berkus Show”. Although born in California, he was raised in Minnetonka, Minnesota and graduated from Hopkins High School. His first job was in men’s clothing at Dayton’s department store.
  • Harry Blackmun (Nashville, IL)
    (grew up in St. Paul, MN). U.S. Supreme Court Justice, 1970-1994. Best known as the author of Roe v. Wade
  • Walter Breuning (Melrose, MN)
    In July 2009, Walter Breuning, officially became the Guinness World Record holder as “World’s Oldest Man” after the passing of Henry Allingham, a Brit who died at age 113. Walter was born and raised in Minnesota, but moved to Montana at age 22. He passed away at the age of 114, 205 days on April 14, 2011. He holds the record as the longest living person born in Minnesota.
  • Aaron Brown (Hopkins, MN)
    Anchor/Host; “NewsNight with Aaron Brown”, on CNN from 2001-2005.
  • Vincent Bugliosi (Hibbing, MN)
    Attorney/Author; Bugliosi was a Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney who prosecuted Charles Manson and several other members of his “family” for the 1969 murders of Sharon Tate and six others. He later co-wrote a book about the Manson trial called “Helter Skelter”.
  • Warren E. Burger (St. Paul, MN)
    Chief Justice U.S. Supreme Court, 1969-1986. On Supreme Court during a very tumultuous time. On July 24, 1974, he led the court in a unanimous 8-0 decision in United States v. Richard Nixon. He was opposed to gay rights in a 1986 decision. In a 1983 case of Immigration with the Naturalization Service v. Chadha, he held that Congress could not reserve a legislative veto over executive branch actions. He is a 1988 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient.
  • Tom Burnett (Bloomington, MN)
    Burnett was one of a handful of men recognized for fighting back against the hijackers of Flight 93 after it left Newark, NJ on September 11, 2001. The plane crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania after a fierce struggle with terrorists. Officials later believed the jet was targeted at the White House. Burnett is buried at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis, MN.
  • Pierce Butler (Northfield, MN)
    U.S. Supreme Court Justice, 1923-1939. He is noted as being the first justice from Minnesota to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. He was James J. Hill’s attorney and had close ties to the railroad industry.
  • Gretchen Carlson (Anoka, MN)
    Beauty Pageant Queen/TV Host; won the Miss America Beauty Pageant in 1989. Co-anchor of “FOX & Friends” on the Fox Network. Also worked at CBS News where she was a correspondent and co-anchor of the “CBS Saturday Early Show.” She has won two National Emmy awards for her work at CBS News.
  • William E. Colby (St. Paul, MN)
    Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from September 1973, to January 1976, under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
  • Mary Jo Copeland (Rochester, MN)
    Recipient of the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal, the nations second highest civilian honor. She is the founder of Sharing and Caring Hands, a non-profit charity she founded in 1985 that provides assistance to thousands of low-income people per month in the Minneapolis area. She is a Holy Angels Academy graduate and a mother of 12 children (6 boys and 6 girls).
  • Scott DeLisi (St. Paul, MN)
    U.S. Ambassador to Uganda since 2012. Ambassador to Nepal from 2010-12. During the George W. Bush administration, he served as envoy to Eritrea, a country in the horn of Africa. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, and the University of Minnesota Law School.
  • David S. Doty (Anoka, MN)
    U.S. District Judge; For more than two decades, he has been at the forefront of collective bargaining for professional football. He has played a significant role in shaping the NFL through the results of his rulings. He received his undergraduate, and law degrees from the University of Minnesota.
  • William O. Douglas (Maine Township, MN)
    U.S. Supreme Court Justice, 1939-1975; longest serving Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Dave Durenberger (St. Cloud, MN)
    U.S. Senator from Minnesota. In 1978, Durenberger was elected in a special election after the passing of Senator Hubert H. Humphrey. He was reelected in 1982 and 1988. In 1990 he was denounced by the Senate for unethical conduct relating to outside income.
  • Charles Alexander Eastman (Redwood Falls, MN)
    Physician/Writer; Eastman was born a Santee Dakota Native American and later became active in politics and American Indian rights. He graduated from Dartmouth in 1887 and then Boston University in 1890 with a degree in medicine. He went on to start 32 Native American chapters of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) and was also a co-founder of the Boy Scouts of America.
  • Tim Fort (St. Paul, MN)
    Fort works with kinetic sticks that “explode” in a chain-reaction of events, similar to falling dominos. He was a quarter-finalist on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” in 2011, but was eliminated after his “freshly painted” sticks failed to “explode”. He holds two Guinness World Records for the “Largest Stick Bomb”.
  • Al Franken (St. Louis Park, MN)
    U.S. Senator, 2008-?. First achieved prominence as a writer/performer for the television show Saturday Night Live (SNL) . Became a political commentator and author of best-selling books, and host of a nationally syndicated radio show on Air America Radio.
  • Orville Freeman (Minneapolis, MN)
    Politician; 29th Governor of Minnesota from 1955-1961. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture from 1961 to 1969. Best remembered for initiating the U.S. Food Stamp Program.
  • Roger Grimsby (Butte, Montana)
    News Anchor, journalist, and actor. Grimsby is known as one of the pioneers of local television broadcast news. He was raised in Duluth, Minnesota.
  • Gus Hall (Cherry Township, MN)
    Politician; leader of the Communist Party USA (1959-2000) and was it’s four-time U.S. presidential candidate (1972, 1976, 1980, 1984). He also served in the United States Navy from 1942-1946.
  • James Hodgson (Dawson, MN)
    Served as United States Secretary of Labor for President Nixon during 1970-73, and Ambassador to Japan during the Ford Administration in 1974-1977. He helped establish the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
  • Hubert H. Humphrey (Wallace, SD)
    Moved to Minnesota at age of 9. Minneapolis Mayor, 1945-1948; U.S. Senator, 1949-64 and 1971-78; 38th Vice President, 1965-69; Democratic presidential candidate, 1968; unsuccessful candidate for Democratic nomination for president, 1972; Congressional Gold Medal, 1979; Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1980.
  • Marjorie Johnson (Robbinsdale, MN)
    A 4′ 8″ tall Blue-Ribbon Baker who has won over 2500 fair ribbons, with 1000 of those being blue ribbons. Johnson has appeared multiple times on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”, and others like “The View”, “The Dr. Oz Show”. Se has also appeared on other TV shows like “Law & Order”, “NYPD Blue”, “One Life to Live” and more.
  • Timothy “Tim” Michael Kaine (St. Paul, MN)
    Vice President selection for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential candidacy. Kaine’s family moved to Kansas when he was only two years old and he grew up in the Kansas City area. He graduated from Harvard Law School and moved to Virgina. In Viginia he has served as Lieutenant Governor, Governor and Senator. He was also chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
  • Frank B. Kellogg (Potsdam, NY)
    Moved to Minnesota at age of 9. U.S. Senator, 1917-23; United States Secretary of State, 1925-29; Received the Nobel Peace Prize, 1929 for his work on the Kellogg-Briand Pact (also known as the “Pact of Paris” or “General Treaty for the Renunciation of War”), which renounced war except in matters of self-defense.
  • Verne Lundquist (Duluth, MN)
    A highly visible play-by-play college football sports broadcaster. He retired in Dec 2016 from CBS, but throughout his career has worked at ABC and TNT. Lundquist was born in Duluth, but basically grew up in Austin, Texas.
  • Miss Richfield 1981 (Richfield, MN)
    Cabaraet Star; Miss Richfield is the creation of Russ King. He/she has garnered kudos from The New York Post and the Chicago Sun Times, appeared on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and has made other TV in reality and game shows as a Miss Richfield Beauty Queen.
  • Amy Klobuchar (Plymouth, MN)
    U.S. Senator, 2008-?. Klobucher is the first female from Minnesota elected to serve in the United States Senate. She was a former Minnesota Attorney General.
  • Lily the Black Bear (Ely, Minnesota)
    Well okay, not a person, but definitely a celebrity. In 2009-2010, Lily, a then 3-year-old black bear became a internet sensation as she gave birth to a cub named Hope in January 2010 for the entire world to see via web cam. Lily also gave birth to twin cubs in January 2011, an usual for feat for any bear.
  • Charles H. Mayo and William J. Mayo (Rochestor, MN and LeSeur, MN)
    Physicians who continued in their father’s footsteps, but were responsible for turning the Mayo Clinic into a world renown medical center.
  • Eugene J. McCarthy (Watkins, MN)
    U.S. Congressional Representative, 1949-58; U.S. Senator, 1959-70; unsuccessful candidate for Democratic nomination for president, 1968, 1972 and 1992. Popular with Anti-War activists during the Vietnam War.
  • Richard John “Jack” Baker (birthplace unknown) and Michael McConnell (Oklahoma)
    On Sept. 3 1971 in Minnesota, Jack Baker and Michael McConnell became the first same-sex couple to be legally married. In 2015, their marriage was cited in the landmark Supreme Court decision that stated that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage.
  • Denis McDonough (Stillwater, MN)
    Chief of Staff for President Barack Obama beginning in 2013. Prior to that he was Deputy National Security Advisor beginning in 2010. Graduate of St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN. and Georgetown University in Washington. McDonough was on the national security team involved with the hunt for Osama bin Laden and culminated with his death on May 1, 2011.
  • William DeWitt Mitchell (Winona, MN)
    Attorney; appointed U.S. Solicitor General by Calvin Coolidge in 1925. Became U.S. Attorney General under the Herbert Hoover administration from 1929-1933. He is the father of William B. Mitchell for whom William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, MN was named.
  • Walter F. Mondale (Ceylon, MN)
    U.S. Senator, 1964-76; U.S. Vice President 1977-81; Democratic presidential candidate, 1984; U.S. Ambassador to Japan, 1993-1996.
  • Michele L. Norris (Minneapolis, MN)
    Journalist and current radio host of NPR’s “All Things Considered” (since 2002). Norris was a correspondent for ABC News from 1993 to 2002. She has been nominated four times for the Pulitzer Prize and has received the Livingston Award, an Emmy Award and a Peabody Award.
  • George Papandreou (Saint Paul, MN)
    Politician. Became Greek Prime Minister in 2009. Served in Greece as Minister for National Education and Religious Affairs (1988-1989 and 1994-1996) and Minister of Foreign Affairs 1999 – 2004.
  • Barbara Peterson (Burwell) (Edina, MN)
    Beauty Pageant Queen/Author/Philanthropist; won the Miss USA beauty pageant in 1976. Co-author of the book, “Becoming a Beauty Queen: the Complete Guide”.
  • Harry Reasoner (Dakota City, Iowa)
    Journalist. Grew up in Minneapolis and graduated from West High School. He attended the University of Minnesota, but was drafted for WWII service. He took his first TV news job in Minneapolis in late 1954. In 1956, Reasoner accepted a job at CBS in New York and later became a key correspondent on 60 Minutes.
  • Randy Schekman (St. Paul, MN)
    Schekman was awarded the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his role in revealing the machinery that regulates the transport and secretion of proteins in cells. He is a professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley.
  • Eric Sevareid (Velva, North Dakota)
    News Broadcaster. His family moved to Minneapolis when he was 13 years old. After high school graduation he and a friend canoed from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay, a total of 2,250 miles. At age 18, Sevareid became a reporter for the Minneapolis Journal while a student at the University of Minnesota. He graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1935. He was appointed CBS’s Washington bureau chief in July, 1942.
  • BeBe Shopp (Hopkins, MN)
    Beauty Pageant Queen; was crowned Miss America in 1948.
  • Sara Jane Olson (Kathleen Ann Soliah) (Barnesville, MN)
    Political Radical; Member of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) in the 1970s, a group responsible for the kidnapping of Patty Hearst. In February 1976, a grand jury indicted her in a bombing case, and she became a fugitive for 23 years and moved to St. Paul, MN to lead a very quiet life. She was arrested in 1991, convicted and then released from prison in 2009, She is serving her parole in Minnesota.
  • Maurice Stans (Shakopee, MN)
    Accountant/Civil Servant; He served as Secretary of Commerce 1969-1972 under Richard Nixon. He was indicted in 1973 for perjury and obstruction of justice during the Watergate investigation, but was acquitted the following year. He was inducted into the Accounting Hall of Fame in 1960.
  • Harold Stassen (South St. Paul, MN)
    Politician; Minnesota Governor, 1939-1943. Stassen was best known for being a perennial political candidate. He sought the Republican Party nomination for President of the United States twelve times (1944, 1948, 1952, 1964, 1968, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996 and 2000). He also ran for Governor of Minnesota on four occasions (winning three times), Governor of Pennsylvania twice, United States Senate twice, and Mayor of Philadelphia once. He also sought a seat as U.S. Representative.
  • Robert Tufts and James Tufts (Dorset, MN)
    In 2015, Robert became the youngest mayor ever elected in the United States. He was only 3 years old when elected Mayor of Dorset, MN. The previous record was set by his older brother James, who served two terms in 2012 and 2013.
  • Jesse Ventura (James George Janos) (Minneapolis, MN)
    Wrestler/Entertainer/Educator and Minnesota Governor, 1999-2002; first Reform Party Governor/first Reform Party candidate to win statewide office; Brooklyn Park Mayor, 1991-1994.
  • Andrew John Volstead (Kenyon, MN)
    Politician; Member of the United States House of Representatives for Minnesota (1903 – 1923). Volstead sponsored a bill that prohibited the manufacture, transportation, import, export, sale, and consumption of alcohol beginning in 1920. Formally called the “National Prohibition Act”, it was better known as the “Volstead Act” which established prohibition from 1919-1933.

Honorary Minnesotans (resident)
Individuals who were NOT born (or raised) in Minnesota, but came to Minnesota and have lived the rest of their lives here.

  • Michele Bachmann (Waterloo, Iowa)
    Politician; In 2006 Bachmann became the first female Republican to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for Minnesota. She was re-elected in 2010. Bachmann was a Presidential Candidate in 2011, but dropped out after the 2012 Iowa Caucus. She was re-elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012. Her family moved to Minnesota when she was 12 years old.
  • Norm Coleman (Brooklyn, NY)
    US Senator for Minnesota (2003-2009) until being defeated by Al Franken in 2008 by a margin of 312 votes. Prior to this he was Mayor of Saint Paul (1994-2002). In 1998 he ran for Minnesota Governor, but lost to Jesse Ventura by a slim margin. At a younger age, Coleman attended the Woodstock Festival and worked as a roadie for Jethro Tull and Ten Years After. Although originally a democrat, he changed parties in 1996.
  • Ignatius L. Donnelly (born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Moved to Minnesota at age 26)
    Politician/Writer; Minnesota Lieutenant Governor (1860-1863), U.S. House of Representatives from Minnesota (1863-1869), Minnesota State Senator (1874-1878). In 1882, his book “Atlantis: The Antediluvian World” was published. Donnelly’s book attempted to establish that all known ancient civilizations were descended from Atlantis. Many of the theories proposed in this book have become the source of many modern-day concepts that we have about the City of Atlantis.
  • Keith Ellison (Detroit, Michigan)
    Politician; U.S. Representative for Minnesota (2007-Present). He is the first Muslim to be elected to the United States Congress. He is also the first African American from Minnesota to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
  • Alexander Ramsey (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania)
    Politician; Served as the first Territorial Governor of Minnesota from June 1, 1849 to May 15, 1853. In 1855, he became the mayor of St. Paul, MN. Ramsey was elected the second Governor of Minnesota from January 2, 1860 to July 10, 1863. He also served as Secretary of War in the cabinet of President Rutherford B. Hayes from 1879-1881. Alexander Ramsey is noted for his stern statements calling for the killing or removal of Native Americans, primarily the Sioux that lived in the State of Minnesota.
  • Robert Smith (Peterborough, New Hampshire)
    In 1853, Smith – a Congressman from Illinois – used his political connections to gain ownership to land on the west bank of the Mississippi River. This land included the west half of the powerful St. Anthony Falls. In 1856, Smith started the Minneapolis Milling Company to lease power rights to mills operating along the falls. Soon after though, he sold Minneapolis Milling Company to C.C. Washburn. Washburn co-founded the Washburn-Crosby Co., which would later become General Mills.
  • Igor Vovkovinskiy (Ukraine)
    Currently the tallest person living in the United States. Vovkovinskiy originally from the Ukraine moved to Rochester, Minnesota to be treated at the world renown Mayo Clinic when he was just 7 years old. Plagued by foot problems and an inability to find shoes that fit his feet, Reebok offered to create custom shoes for him at a estimated cost of $12,000 to $20,000. He is currently 7 ft 8.5 inches in height.
  • Paul Wellstone (Washington, DC)
    United States Senator for Minnesota from 1991-2002. In 2002, Wellstone died in a plane crash near Ely, MN, along with his wife and daughter.
  • Roy Wilkins (St. Louis, MO)
    Civil rights activist. Executive Director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 1955–77. During his tenure, the NAACP played a pivotal role in leading the nation into the Civil Rights movement leading to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Wilkins was awarded the Medal of Freedom by Lyndon Johnson in 1967. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota.

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