Rudy G. Perpich Biography

Rudy George Perpich was born in 1928 in Carson Lake, Minnesota. After high school, he served two years in the Army, attended Hibbing Junior College, and became a dentist, operating an office in Hibbing from 1954 until 1974.

In 1955 the DFLer successfully ran for the Hibbing School Board. Facing an entrenched system of gender discrimination, Perpich and fellow board members voted to give female teachers equal pay and allow married women to work full-time. In 1962 he was elected to the state Senate, serving until 1971. In 1970 Perpich was elected lieutenant governor, serving under Wendell Anderson.

In 1976, Walter Mondale resigned his U.S. Senate seat to become vice-president. Anderson, wanting the Senate seat, also resigned, thus elevating Perpich to governor. Perpich then appointed Anderson to the Senate. Minnesota voters were not impressed. After losing the election in 1978, Perpich took a job as Control Data’s trade representative in Austria. But in 1982, Perpich ran for governor and, against the odds, won, returning for two additional terms.

More than any previous Minnesota governor, Perpich promoted women in public office. He served with the state’s first female lieutenant governor, and appointed three women to the Court of Appeals as well as the state’s first female Supreme Court justice. In addition, he paved the way for the Mall of America, the nation’s largest indoor mall, and Super Bowl XXVI in Minneapolis in 1992. He supported the building of Olympics-class sports facilities and a state-wide center for arts education.

Perpich believed his greatest achievement was to internationalize Minnesota business. He traveled extensively, opened a trade office in Stockholm, and invited Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to Minnesota. That 1990 visit was a highlight of Perpich’s career. That same year Perpich ran again for governor but lost to Republican Arne Carlson.

Perpich died in 1995 at his home in Minnetonka.