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On This Day in Wisconsin History

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On This Day: June 14

1855 - Sen. Robert M. La Follette Born
On this date Robert M. La Follette was born in Primrose, Dane County. A renowned lawyer, politician, governor, and U.S. Senator, La Follette was the son of a prosperous, politically active Republican farmer who died eight months after Robert was born. Robert grew up on his family's farm and entered the UW in 1874. While a student at UW, he edited the campus newspaper and was strongly influenced by the teachings of John Bascom. After receiving a B.A. in 1879, he studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1880. The same year, he was nominated and elected district attorney over the opposition of local political boss Elisha W. Keyes. On December 31, 1881 he married his college sweetheart, Belle Case. In 1884 he was elected to Congress, again defeating Keyes. Known as "Fighting Bob", he actively advocated conservation, preservation of public lands, and conservative public spending. Defeated in the 1890 election, he returned to his Madison law practice but remained active in state politics. He served as governor from 1900 to 1906, where he pushed a broad reform agenda which became known as "the Wisconsin Idea." As governor, he enacted a program that included direct primaries, more equitable taxation, a more effective railroad commission, civil service reform, conservation, control of lobbyists, a legislative reference library, and bank reform. In 1905 the Wisconsin legislature elected La Follette to the U.S. Senate. He was a controversial senator almost from the beginning. After William Howard Taft became president, La Follette forged the progressive Republican opposition to the Payne-Aldrich Tariff and became a persistent critic of the administration. In 1909, he founded La Follette's Weekly Magazine (later known as The Progressive) to promote his ideology. In 1911 he was chosen as the progressive Republican candidate to displace Taft, but he was superseded by Theodore Roosevelt in 1912. La Follette supported most of the policies of Democratic President Woodrow Wilson until the question of U.S. entry into World War I arose. Vigorously opposed to entry, he was the victim of an unsuccessful attempt to expel him from the Senate for an antiwar speech. In the postwar period La Follette resisted the anti-Communist scare and fought for the interests of workers and farmers against the business-oriented Republican administrations. He initiated the investigation into the Teapot Dome scandal in 1922. In 1924, he ran for president on the Progressive Party ticket but lost to Calvin Coolidge. He died on June 18, 1925, still a fervent believer in democracy. Both of La Follette's sons, Robert Jr. and Philip, carried on his political ideals after his death. La Follette was one of the most eloquent orators of his time, consistently speaking out in favor of popular democracy and in opposition to government by special interests. He is regarded as one of the most important Progressives in American history. [Source: Dictionary of Wisconsin Biography, SHSW 1960, pg. 217]

1862 - (Civil War) Skirmish at Hamilton's Plantation, Mississippi
The 4th Wisconsin Infantry participated in a skirmish at Hamilton's Plantation in Mississippi. On June 14, 1864, the 40th Wisconsin Infantry mustered in.

1885 - Birth of Flag Day
On this date the first recognized observance of Flag Day in Wisconsin occurred at the Stony Hill School near Waubeka. The event was led by Bernard J. Cigrand, a teacher. Flag Day did not become a national observance until 31 years later when Woodrow Wilson reconized it on June 14, 1916. [Source: History Just Ahead: A guide to Wisconsin's Historical Markers, edited by Sarah Davis McBride]

1919 - Helen M. Bliss Davidson Died
On this date Helen M. Bliss Davidson, wife of Governor James Ole Davidson, died. She was born in June 1860, in Kickapoo, Vernon County. Helen M. Bliss Davidson's family relocated to Vernon County from New York in 1860. She married James Ole Davidson on February 21, 1883 in Readstown, Vernon County. She served as first lady of Wisconsin from 1906 to 1911. She gave birth to two daughters, Mabel Elsie and Grace. Davidson died of a cerebral hemorrhage in Jacksonville, Florida. She is buried in Forest Hill Cemetery in Madison. [Source: First Ladies of Wisconsin-The Governors' Wives, by Nancy G. Williams, pg. 122]

1943 - Frank James Sensenbrenner Jr. Born
On this date, Frank James Sensenbrenner Jr. was born in Chicago, Illinois. Sensenbrenner received his J.D. from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1968. He was a lawyer in private practice and member of the Wisconsin state assembly from 1969 to 1975. Sensenbrenner was a member of the Wisconsin state senate from 1975 to 1979 and was the assistant minority leader from 1977 to 1979. He was elected as a republican to the Ninety-sixth and to the the succeeding Congresses (January 3, 1979-present). He has served as chair of the Committee on Science and the Committee on the Judiciary. [Source: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress]

1958 - Olympic Speedskater Eric Heiden Born
On this date Eric Heiden was born in Madison. Olympic champion athlete, Heiden began serious competition in 1976 when he placed seventh in the 1,500 meter speed skating race at the Innsbruck Winter Olympics. Heiden was a 3-time overall world champion in 1977, 1978, and 1979. In 1980 he won gold medals in all five speed skating events and set a world record in the 10,000 meter race at the Lake Placid Winter Olympics. He became the first athlete ever to win five gold medals in a single Winter Olympics. He retired from speed skating shortly after the 1980 Olympics and began competing as a professional cyclist. After a less heralded career in cycling that included a ride in the 1986 Tour de France, Heiden went to Stanford medical school. Heiden currently serves as assistant professor of orthopaedics at the University of California at Davis Medical Center, an assistant team physician to the Sacramento Kings, and an expert in sports-related injuries. [Source: Olympics.com]

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