Orville Freeman was a model student athlete. He was the backup quarterback on a couple of Bernie Bierman’s nationally renowned Universityof Minnesota football teams. He was a college debate champion with his debate partner Hubert Humphrey as an impoverished student at the university in the late 1930’s.
He was a bona fide war hero. He left law school at the university to enlist in the Marines on December 8, 1941. After taking a bullet in the jaw fighting the Japanese in the South Pacific in 1943, he led his men to safety and underwent a grueling recovery.
He returned to Minnesota following the war to become the secretary and state chairman of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party during the time when it built a roster of national leaders among its ranks. He was a three-term governor of Minnesota, the state’s first Democratic governor. And after losing his final bid for re-election as governor in 1960, he served as Secretary of Agriculture under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson.
But his greatest service to the state of Minnesota if not to the country was his fearless work together with Hubert Humphrey to throw the Communists out of the DFL party in the late 1940’s.
Freeman died at age 84 on Thursday evening. The six Star Tribune reporters who collaborated on the obituary in today’s paper are either unaware of, or can’t find it in themselves to recognize, Freeman’s greatest accomplishment. The obituary is “Orville Freeman, former governor, dead at 84.”
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