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Walter J. Kohler

Gov. Walter J. Kohler

  • January 7, 1929 - January 5, 1931
  • Republican
  • March 3, 1875
  • April 21, 1940
  • Wisconsin
  • Married Charlotte H. Schroeder; four children


WALTER J. KOHLER SR. was born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. His father, a Tyrolean immigrant, founded the Kohler Company in 1873, which originally manufactured agricultural implements and became one of Wisconsin’s largest industries. At the age of fifteen, the younger Kohler left school to work in his father’s plant, becoming superintendent and later president and chairman of the board after his father’s death. He served as a presidential elector in 1916 and was appointed to the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin in 1918, holding the position until 1924. Elected governor in 1928, he reorganized the state bureaucracy, creating the Department of the Budget and Accounts, the Bureau of Purchasing, the Bureau of Personnel, the Bureau of Engineering, and a full-time Highway Commission. During his term, the yellow dog contract was abolished and the eight-hour day was instituted for public works projects. Although defeated by Philip La Follette in the 1930 Republican primary, he came back to beat La Follette two years later. However, he lost the general election to Albert G. Schmedeman in the 1932 Democratic landslide of Franklin Roosevelt. Kohler never sought public office again, although he held various offices with the National Industrial Conference Board, the Wisconsin Manufacturers Association, and the National Association of Manufacturers.

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