Son of former Governor Walter J. Kohler Sr., WALTER J. KOHLER JR. was born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. He graduated from Phillips Andover Academy in Massachusetts and received a Ph.B. degree from Yale University in 1925. He went on to work in his family’s company, becoming director and secretary. Commissioned a Lieutenant in the Naval Reserve, he was called to active duty in 1943, serving as an air combat intelligence officer in the Pacific Theater and rising to the rank of Lieutenant Commander in 1945. In 1947 he became president of the Vollrath Company founded by his great-grandfather in Sheboygan. He was a delegate-at-large to the Republican National Convention in 1948 and ran a successful campaign for governor in 1950, winning reelection in 1952 and 1954. During his term as governor, legislation was enacted reapportioning state voting districts strictly by population. In addition, the University of Wisconsin, state colleges, and public welfare facilities were expanded. Kohler declined to seek a fourth term as governor, running unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate after the death of Joseph McCarthy and later against William Proxmire.
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. 59 and H. New York: James T. White & Company.