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Dakota Datebook

Governor Frank White

Frank White served one term in the North Dakota House of Representatives before being elected to the State Senate in 1892. He was re-elected for another term, but the Spanish-American War intervened. He resigned to accept a commission as major in the First North Dakota Volunteer Infantry. White participated in more than 20 engagements in the Philippines and was awarded the Silver Star.

When White returned home, he opened a real estate office in Litchville, but he soon returned to politics, and in 1902 received the Republican nomination for governor. He won that election and was reelected for a second term. He is credited with eliminating the state deficit of over two hundred thousand dollars. He invested school funds in bonds and farm loans so the state earned interest on the money.

But not everyone was a fan of Governor White. On this date in 1904 the Washburn Leader ran a scathing editorial. It was widely assumed that White was in line to win a third Republican nomination for Governor. The newspaper wanted to know “what has our Governor done during the last two administrations to entitle him to a third?” Had he been invited to give speeches and write articles? Had he brought the state to prominence? Was he known beyond the borders of North Dakota? The newspaper didn’t think so. In fact, the newspaper firmly believed that the voters of North Dakota would not consent to be governed by a man “not over mediocrity.” In the eyes of the editor, White had “neither the genius of Grant nor the love of a grateful people.”

The paper, however, was in for a surprise. Governor White retired from politics! He organized the Middlewest Fire Insurance Company and served as its president. When the United States entered World War I, White was commissioned as colonel of the Second North Dakota National Guard Regiment. He was sent to France in 1918, but due to his age he was not assigned to combat duty.

White had one more political act to play. President Harding named him United States Treasurer in 1921. In 1924, President Coolidge asked him to stay on, which White did, until resigning in 1928. He died in 1940 and is buried in Arlington Cemetery.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher


Washburn Leader. “Is He Entitled to a Third Term Who Shows Himself Not Worthy a Second?” Washburn ND. 2/27/1904. Page 2.

State Historical Society of North Dakota. “Frank White.” https://www.history.nd.gov/exhibits/governors/governors8.html Accessed 1/24/2020.

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