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Gov. Walter Welford

North Dakota has had a handful of foreign-born governors. Ragnvold Nestos and John Moses were born in Norway, with Roger Allin and Walter Welford born in England.

Welford was born on this date in 1868 in the village of Bellerby in Yorkshire. His family immigrated to Emerson, Manitoba, in 1879. In 1880 they came to Pembina in northeastern Dakota Territory. Welford lived in the Pembina-Neche area for the rest of his life, and ran a 1,500-acre farm.

He also was involved in public office. For 20 years he was a township clerk for Home Township. He served two terms as a state representative, and two terms as a state senator. As a senator, he chaired the committee in 1919 that helped develop initiatives such as hail insurance and workmen’s compensation. In 1924, lost a Democratic congressional bid. He was also active in the populist Nonpartisan League, and won the lieutenant governor’s seat in 1934, back when North Dakota’s governor and lieutenant governor were elected separately.

It was a turbulent era. In eight months, North Dakota had four governors, starting with Bill Langer’s removal from office. Lieutenant Governor Ole Olson succeeded him, but didn’t seek reelection in 1934. Thomas Moodie won the governor’s seat, but was disqualified and removed from office because he voted in Minnesota a few years earlier. Welford succeeded him.

The Great Depression gripped the country at the time. Welford appealed to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt for aid, saying “the situation here is more critical than I can possibly describe.” He sought a full term as governor in 1936, and so did Langer, who went on to win as an independent.

Welford, North Dakota’s twentieth governor, died in 1952 at age 84.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura

The Bismarck Tribune. 1924, November 7. Page 1
The Bismarck Tribune. 1936, July 10. Page 2
The Bismarck Tribune. 1952, June 30. Page 1

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