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Frederick Valdemar Erastus (Val) Peterson

Gov. Frederick Valdemar Erastus (Val) Peterson

  • January 9, 1947 - January 8, 1953
  • Republican
  • July 18, 1903
  • October 17, 1983
  • Nebraska
  • University of Nebraska
  • Married Elizabeth Howells Pleak
  • Ambassador
  • Army


VAL PETERSON, the twenty-seventh governor of Nebraska, was born in Oakland, Nebraska, on July 18, 1903. His education was attained at Wayne State Teachers College, where he graduated in 1927, and at the University of Nebraska, where he earned a master’s degree. Peterson taught school, was the Elgin superintendent of schools, and was the publisher of the Elgin Review for ten years. During World War II he served as lieutenant colonel in the Army Air Corps. Peterson first entered politics as the campaign manager for Hugh Butler’s successful 1940 U.S. senatorial bid. He also was the administrative assistant and secretary to Governor Dwight Griswold from 1941 to 1942. Peterson next secured the Republican gubernatorial nomination, and was elected governor by a popular vote in November 1946. He was reelected to a second term in 1948, and to a third term in 1950. During his tenure, the Missouri River basin development was endorsed; the aftereffects of a significant blizzard were managed; and highway revenue initiatives were sought. Also during Peterson’s term, he chaired the State Governors Conference and presided over the Council of State Governments in 1952. After leaving the governorship, he was an administrative assistant to President Eisenhower, and served as the Federal Civil Defense administrator from 1953 to 1957. He was also the U.S. ambassador to Denmark from 1957 to 1960, served as the U.S. ambassador to Finland from 1969 to 1973, and was a member of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents from 1963 to 1966. Governor Val Peterson passed away on October 17, 1983, and was buried in the Oakdale Cemetery in Oakdale, Nebraska.


Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 3, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.


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