C. Elmer Anderson Biography

After unexpectedly rising to become Minnesota’s twenty-eighth governor, Brainerd native Clyde Elmer Anderson presided over a period of prosperity in Minnesota history. Though not known for any particular piece of legislation, Anderson is remembered for his level-headed demeanor and his ability to persuade without heated discourse.

Anderson had to get a job at age fourteen to help support his family following his father’s death, so he began delivering papers for a wholesale magazine and newspaper business, Service News Inc. He graduated from high school and attended the University of Minnesota in order to become a physician, but his tuition money ran out after two quarters, and he returned home. Anderson went back to Service News and soon learned the details of operating it. When its owner died a few years later, Anderson bought the company, becoming the owner and president at just twenty-two. Under his ownership, the company expanded rapidly.

In 1938, at twenty-six, Anderson decided to run for the Republican Party nomination for lieutenant governor against two better-known candidates. He won, crediting his Swedish surname for the victory. When he and thirty-one-year-old Harold Stassen (who was running for governor) went on to win the general election, they became the youngest team ever to hold Minnesota’s highest executive offices. The victory also began a record eleven years for Anderson in that office (1939-1941, 1943-1951) under three different governors. With the resignation of Luther Youngdahl in 1951, “The Forgotten Man of the Republican Party,” as Anderson was known for his low profile, assumed the governor’s seat. He advocated for an active government concerned with social reform tempered by fiscal conservatism, and as an incumbent, he narrowly defeated Orville Freeman in 1952. He ran against Freeman a second time in 1954, but this time it was he who lost a close election.

After the loss, Anderson returned to private life. Later, he ran for and served as mayor of Nisswa and, after that, mayor of Brainerd until being unseated in a four-way race in 1986. Anderson died in 1998 at the age of eighty-five.