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Robert M. La Follette

Gov. Robert M. La Follette

  • January 7, 1901 - January 1, 1906
  • Republican
  • June 14, 1855
  • June 18, 1925
  • Wisconsin
  • University of Wisconsin
  • Married Belle Case; four children
  • Resigned
  • Representative, Senator


Credited with beginning the work of Wisconsin’s progressive movement, ROBERT M. LA FOLLETTE, SR. was born in Primrose, Wisconsin. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin, where he attended one term of law school before entering the law office of R. M. Bashford in Madison. He was elected District Attorney of Dane County in 1880, and in 1884 he won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives that he held until the Democratic landslide of 1890. Elected to three terms as governor beginning in 1900, one of his key accomplishments was the “Wisconsin Idea,” which involved used expert help from the state university to prepare legislation and administer regulatory agencies. In 1905, a Wisconsin seat in the U.S. Senate fell vacant, and LaFollette resigned the governorship and was elected by the state legislature to fill the vacancy, serving in the Senate for the next two decades. A serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 1912, he remained overshadowed by Theodore Roosevelt. He provoked a storm of controversy in Wisconsin with his opposition to World War I. In 1924 he ran for President as an independent candidate, winning only Wisconsin’s electoral votes. He died in Washington, D.C. shortly before his seventieth birthday.


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

The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vols. 12 and 19. New York: James T. White & Company.

Wisconsin Historical Society

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