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Political life in North Dakota


North Dakota picture
North Dakota picture

Politicians tried once again to respond to the needs of farmers. In 1915 Arthur C. Townley, a former flax farmer and a skilled organizer for the Socialist Party in North Dakota, started a new political organization, the Nonpartisan League (NPL). Townley believed that a nonpartisan group could pass the agricultural reforms that farmers wanted. Townley quickly attracted a number of bright and ambitious colleagues such as Lynn Frazier, William Lemke, and William Langer, as well as the support of a large number of farmers. In 1916 the NPL won a number of overwhelming victories; Frazier became governor, receiving almost 80 percent of the vote. The NPL enacted a law establishing a nine-hour workday for women, created a state highway commission, and dramatically increased state funding for rural education.

Two of the most enduring features of the early NPL, however, were the creation in 1919 of the state-owned Bank of North Dakota, which helped farmers borrow money for improvements, and a state-owned and operated grain mill and elevator.

William Langer was elected governor in 1932. Within a few months a federal court convicted Langer of conspiracy to obstruct an act of Congress after he tried to solicit political contributions from federal employees. After a series of appeals, the conviction was reversed, and in 1936 Langer was reelected without NPL support, the first governor in the United States to be elected as an independent.

Langer was the most influential figure of the 1930s; he provided strong leadership during the difficult drought years of the Great Depression, the economic hard times of the 1930s. He gained considerable support for an embargo on grain shipments from the state that helped raise grain prices, and in 1937 he authorized the creation of a state water conservation commission to develop and conserve water resources. In 1939 Langer was succeeded by the Democrat John Moses, who investigated financial irregularities in state-owned enterprises and cut government spending. "North Dakota" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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