William Langer

Sept. 30, 1886-Nov. 8, 1959
North Dakota Governor 1933-1934 and 1937-1939

William “Wild Bill” Langer spent his early years on a farm in Everest Township, North Dakota. His family later moved to Casselton, where Langer was the valedictorian of his 1904 Casselton High School class. He earned a bachelor of laws degree from the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, but was too young to practice law. He continued his undergraduate education at Columbia in New York, where he graduated at the top of his class in 1910. He was offered a position at a prominent New York law firm, but decided to return to North Dakota, where he practiced law in Mandan.

Langer decided to follow in the footsteps of his father, Frank, who had served in the state’s first legislature. In 1914, Langer was appointed state’s attorney of Morton County and was one of a few non-farmers on the Non-Partisan League Republican state ticket in 1916 as the candidate for attorney general. He served as North Dakota’s attorney general from 1916 to 1920. By that point in his career he was already being called “Wild Bill.”

By the time he was elected governor in 1932, North Dakota was in dire economic straits. Langer issued moratoriums on foreclosures of farms and issued an embargo on wheat so it couldn’t be shipped out of the state. After 15 months in office he was indicted by a federal grand jury for his policy of collecting 5 percent of administration employees’ salary for political purposes, was sentenced and removed from office. While he was in prison, his wife, Lydia, was drafted to run for governor but was narrowly defeated. By the 1936 election, Langer had been acquitted of the felony charge and was again elected governor. He ran for the U.S. Senate as an independent in 1938 and lost, but two years later was elected to the U.S. Senate. Following the merger of the Non-Partisan League with the state Democratic Party in 1956, Langer remained on the Republican ticket and won in 1958 without making a single campaign appearance in the state. He died in Washington, D.C.

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