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Luther Youngdahl

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Title: Luther Youngdahl  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Minnesota gubernatorial election, 1948, Minnesota gubernatorial election, 1950, Minnesota gubernatorial election, 1946, Edward John Thye, Governors of Minnesota
Collection: 1896 Births, 1978 Deaths, American Lutherans, American People of Swedish Descent, Burials at Arlington National Cemetery, Governors of Minnesota, Gustavus Adolphus College Alumni, Judges of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Minnesota Lawyers, Minnesota Republicans, Minnesota Supreme Court Justices, People from Minneapolis, Minnesota, Republican Party State Governors of the United States, United States District Court Judges Appointed by Harry S. Truman, William Mitchell College of Law Alumni
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Luther Youngdahl

Luther Wallace Youngdahl
Youngdahl in 1949
27th Governor of Minnesota
In office
January 8, 1947 – September 27, 1951
Lieutenant C. Elmer Anderson
Preceded by Edward John Thye
Succeeded by C. Elmer Anderson
Personal details
Born (1896-05-29)May 29, 1896
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Died June 21, 1978(1978-06-21) (aged 82)
Washington, D.C.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Irene Annet Engdahl
Alma mater Gustavus Adolphus College
William Mitchell College of Law
Profession Lawyer
Religion Lutheran

Luther Wallace Youngdahl (May 29, 1896 – June 21, 1978) was an American politician and judge from Minnesota. He served as an associate justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court from 1942 to 1946, then as Minnesota's 27th Governor from January 8, 1947 to September 27, 1951, and finally as a judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia from 1951 until his death in 1978.


  • Biography 1
  • Papers 2
  • References 3
  • Other sources 4
  • External links 5


One of ten children of a Minneapolis grocer, Youngdahl was a promising student at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota, where he excelled in athletics and oratory and was active in campus government. Afterward, he attended William Mitchell College of Law (then the Minnesota College of Law). In 1930 Governor Theodore Christianson appointed the young lawyer to a municipal judgeship, the first of several judiciary positions he would hold before and after governing the state.

Politically, he was determined to rid the state of its pernicious gambling problem and he began, during the first of his three gubernatorial terms, by outlawing slot machines. Soon after dealing a sharp blow to racketeering, Youngdahl launched his "humanity in government" program. Appalled by the conditions of state mental hospitals, Youngdahl introduced a more humane concept of care. His sincere efforts to improve the lot of troubled youth, enhance public education, and give returning World War II veterans a financial boost earned this Republican administrator bipartisan respect and support. So popular was Youngdahl that he won each successive gubernatorial election by an ever-larger margin. That some conservatives found him "too liberal" didn't diminish his appeal or effectiveness.

Although Youngdahl, on the advice of his doctor, resigned as governor in 1952, he continued in public service as a federal judge in Washington, D.C. appointed by President Harry Truman. Truman made the appointment at the urging of Hubert Humphrey, partly out of concern for Youngdahl's health, and partly out of political calculation. Youngdahl later said of his judgeship: "Hubert was exuberant and happy. He was pleased that I could get to serve on the federal bench, and undoubtedly he was somewhat relieved that I would not be around to run against him" for the U.S. Senate in the 1954 election.[1]

In 1953, Youngdahl dismissed perjury charges against Owen Lattimore, a professor who had been charged with lying before a Senate Committee when he testified that he was unsympathetic to Communism. Youngdahl found that the indictment was too vague and that the prosecution would hinder free speech. In 1955, after new charges had been brought against Lattimore, Youngdahl again dismissed the charges on First Amendment grounds. After the United States Court of Appeals affirmed Youngdahl's decision, the case was dropped.

Long a believer in the benefits of rigorous exercise, Judge Youngdahl was still hearing cases and hiking four miles a day in his early eighties. He died in 1978 in Washington, D.C. and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Youngdahl's son, Rev. L. William Youngdahl, was the subject of the documentary film A Time for Burning about efforts to integrate an all-white Omaha church in the mid-1960s.


Correspondence and miscellaneous papers relating to Youngdahl's appointment to the U.S. District Court for Washington, D.C. (1951–1967); correspondence and files relating to the Judicial Conference Committee on the Administration of the Probation System (1962–1967); photograph albums and scrapbook materials documenting his experiences as governor of Minnesota (1947–1951), his judicial service, and family activities; and some personal papers (1950–1968) are available for research use.[2]


  1. ^ Obituary, Luther W. Youngdahl, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, June 22, 1978
  2. ^ Luther W. Youngdahl papers
  • Minnesota Historical Society

Other sources

  • Esbjornson, Robert A Christian in Politics: Luther W. Youngdahl (1955)

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Edward John Thye
Governor of Minnesota
Succeeded by
C. Elmer Anderson
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