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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: Mcgovern, Francis Edward 1866 - 1946


lawyer, politician, governor, b. near Elkhart Lake. He graduated from the Univ. of Wisconsin (1890), studied law, and was admitted to the Wisconsin bar in 1897. A Progressive Republican, he made his reputation as crusading district attorney for Milwaukee County (1905-1909), and was an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senator in 1908. In 1910 he was elected governor and served two terms in that office. During his first term, much of the progressive program was brought to fruition, including legislation to establish a practical income tax program, workmen's compensation, regulation of child and woman's labor, the encouragement of cooperatives, and the curtailment of corrupt political practices. Although Robert M. La Follette, Sr. (q.v.) and McGovern had maintained outward harmony before 1912, the growing power of McGovern led to a clash of political ambitions that came to a climax in the Republican national convention of 1912. McGovern worked for a coalition of Roosevelt and La Follette forces in an attempt to defeat Taft. La Follette denounced him as a "traitor" for this action, and the incident opened a breach in Wisconsin Progressive ranks. In 1912 McGovern was re-elected with the reluctant support of La Follette, but his second term was largely ineffectual because of the opposition of La Follette's men in the legislature. The same opposition contributed to McGovern's defeat in the senatorial campaign of 1914. During World War I he served in the judge advocate's office of the 18th army division, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel, and in 1920 was general counsel for the U.S. shipping board and claims chairman of the U.S. Emergency Fleet Corporation. Returning to private law practice in Milwaukee, McGovern maintained his political ambitions and was an unsuccessful candidate for governor on the Democratic ticket in 1940. During the 19 30's he was chairman of the committee on crime and criminal justice of the Wisconsin Conference of Social Work. Who's Who in Amer., 24 (1946); Milwaukee Journal, May 17, 1946; F. L. Holmes, et al., eds., Wis. (5 vols., Chicago, 1946); Wis. Mag. Hist., 40; R. S. Maxwell, La Follette and the Rise of the Progressives . . . [Madison, 1956); F. E. McGovern Papers.

The Wisconsin Historical Society has manuscripts related to this topic. See the catalog description of the Francis E. McGovern Papers for details.

View newspaper clippings at Wisconsin Local History and Biography Articles.

[Source: Dictionary of Wisconsin biography]

4 records found

Mcgovern, Francis Edward 1866 - 1946
Schmidt, Charles J. 1907
Smith, Charles P. 1926

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