Use the smaller-sized text Use the larger-sized text Use the very large text

The Top 10: History-Making Wisconsin News Stories of 2005

In what has become a year-end tradition, members of the Wisconsin Historical Society staff take a retrospective look at history-making stories that have unfolded over the past 12 months and identify the top 10 with a Wisconsin connection. This year's stories run the gamut from political, legal and war news to history-making weather stories.

Image of Galylord Nelson,  William Proxmire and William Rehnquist
Senator Gaylord Nelson, William Proxmire and
Supreme Court Cheif Justice William Rehnquist
(photos courtesy of Wikipedia; Proxmire image
from WHI 34251)
  1. Proxmire, Rehnquist and Nelson Represented Best of Badger State
    Former U.S. Senator William Proxmire died December 15 at the age of 90. Proxmire, a renowned Capitol Hill maverick, was elected to the Senate in 1957, replacing Joseph McCarthy, and served until 1989. He may have been most well-known for his "Golden Fleece Awards" that mocked wasteful government spending. Former Governor Gaylord Nelson died at 89 on July 3. Nelson served as governor from 1959 to 1963 and represented Wisconsin in the U.S. Senate from 1963 to 1981. Best known as the founder of Earth Day, he became a key figure in the national environmental movement. U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist died at 80 on September 3. Nominated to the court by Richard Nixon in 1971 and elevated to chief justice by Ronald Reagan in 1986, Rehnquist helped shift the court to the right, presided over the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton, and played a key role in the election of George W. Bush as president.
  2. Fifty-One Wisconsin Soldiers Killed in Iraq War
    Andy Stevens, a 29-year-old Marine from Tomah, became the 51st member of the armed forces from Wisconsin killed in Iraq. Stevens died along with nine other Marines on December 1 when a roadside bomb exploded as the soldiers were on nighttime foot patrol near Fallujah. The U.S. military reached a grim milestone in the two-and one-half year war on October 25 with 2,000 combat deaths reported in Iraq. And, in ceremonies on December 9, the 32nd Military Police Company received the Valorous Unit Award for heroism in action in Iraq, becoming the first unit in the history of the Wisconsin National Guard to receive the military honor — the unit equivalent of an individual silver star.
  3. Tornadoes Do $40 Million in Damage in Wisconsin, No Federal Disaster Aid
    Mother Nature was visibly angry in 2005. Natural disasters including tsunamis and hurricanes left shocking devastation worldwide. On August 18, 27 tornadoes tore through Wisconsin, killing one man and causing more than $40 million in property damage. The Federal Emergency Management Administration, under intense criticism for its inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina, denied federal aid to Wisconsin residents who suffered damage to property from the twisters.
  4. Chai Vang Murder Trial and Conviction
    Minnesotan Chai Vang was tried and convicted on six counts of first-degree intentional homicide and three counts of attempted homicide for killing six Wisconsin hunters in Sawyer County in November 2004. The case brought national attention to Wisconsin's deer hunting culture and the sensitive issue of race relations.
  5. Gas Prices Reach $3.57 in Wisconsin Following Hurricane Katrina
    After Hurricane Katrina slammed into Gulf Coast refineries and oil facilities, gas prices soared within days. By the end of August, gas prices at some Wisconsin gas stations reached $3.57 for a gallon of regular unleaded gas. As motorists cut back, gas prices began drifting down to under $2.20 by late fall.
  6. DNA Evidence Freed Steven Avery in 2003, Led to Murder Charges in 2005
    DNA evidence proved Steven Avery of Mishicot, Wisconsin, was innocent of his 1985 sexual assault conviction, for which he served 18 years in prison, and resulted in his release in 2003. In November, authorities charged Avery with murder in the death of Teresa Halbach based on DNA evidence taken from human remains found on Avery's property. Authorities believe the DNA is Halbach's.
  7. image of Barry Alvarez, courtesy of
    UW-Madison Football Coach
    Barry Alvarez
    (photo courtesy of
  8. Stellar Year for Wisconsin College Sports
    The University of Wisconsin Badgers made the NCAA men's basketball Elite Eight and the UW-Milwaukee Panthers made the Sweet 16. Twenty-two players from Wisconsin — more than any other state — competed on teams in the Sweet 16. The UW won the men's team title at the 2005 NCAA Division 1 National Cross Country Championships by 37 points on November 21. UW football coach Barry Alvarez coached his final home game on November 25. After 16 years of coaching with 117 wins and three Rose Bowl victories, Alvarez became the most successful coach in UW history. Halfway through the season, the UW men's hockey team is 14-2-2 overall and the top-ranked team in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
  9. University of Wisconsin-Madison and Harvard Produce Most CEOs;
    UW is Top Research University

    The University of Wisconsin joined Harvard in a 2005 Spencer Stuart study as the most common university attended by Standard & Poor's 500 Chief Executive Officers. Three percent of S&P 500 CEOs received their undergraduate degrees from UW, the same number as from Harvard. UW-Madison was also named the nation's top research university based on the total number of science and engineering doctorates and research expenditures in 2004. UW-Madison graduated 445 science and engineering doctorates and spent $662 million on research.
  10. Lance Armstrong Wins Seventh Tour de France on Trek Bike
    Texan Lance Armstrong achieved a previously unthinkable goal: on July 24, Armstrong won his seventh consecutive Tour de France road race. Armstrong and the Discovery Channel cycling team raced on Trek Madone SSLx road and TTX time-trial bikes designed and manufactured by Trek Bicycle Corporation of Waterloo, Wisconsin.
  11. Cultural Institutions Weather Tough Times
    Wisconsin 's cultural landscape changed dramatically this year when county-owned Milwaukee Public Museum, a venerable Wisconsin cultural institution, revealed massive debt and endowment depletion. The news resulted in the museum president's resignation, mass staff layoffs, forced emergency help from the county to keep the century-old museum afloat, and led to an investigation of museum practices. Baraboo's Circus World Museum continued belt-tightening as consequences of the demise of the Great Circus Parade in Milwaukee continued to take a toll on the museum and its staff. Staging the parade in Baraboo in 2004 and 2005 could not provide sufficient revenue, and it became evident that without an annual parade in Milwaukee, the museum must establish a new business model to ensure sustainability. The museum's president and CEO resigned, staff was laid off, plans for a 2006 Great Circus Parade were scrapped, and a new approach to the 2006 summer show has been developed.
  • Questions about this page? Email us
  • Email this page to a friend
select text size Use the smaller-sized textUse the larger-sized textUse the very large text