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November 9: A Blueprint for a Merger

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On this date in 1954, Byron G. Allen, Democratic National Committeeman for Minnesota, sent a letter to P. W. Lanier, Sr. Lanier was an ardent Democratic Party activist who had come to Jamestown from Memphis, Tennessee, during the early 1920s. From 1928 to 1932, he was a perpetual losing candidate for the Democratic Party. He then served as the U.S. District Attorney for North Dakota under the Roosevelt and Truman administrations. Once President Eisenhower won the presidency, Lanier turned in his resignation and focused on annexing the Nonpartisan League to the Democratic Party.

Byron G. Allen's letter explained the mechanics of how Minnesota's Democratic Party merged with that state's Farmer-Labor Party in 1944. He wrote: “At the Farmer-Labor party session, the constitution of that party was amended so as to change the name of their party from 'Farmer-Labor' to 'Fellowship.' The latter party, under the name of Fellowship party, then adjourned to reconvene at a pre-arranged hour in another convention hall, and thereby accept an invitation from the Democratic Party to fuse the delegations of the two parties for a joint meeting.”

At the same hour and on the same day, but in a different convention hall, the Democratic delegates were meeting and they adopted a constitution, previously agreed upon in talks with members of the Farmer-Labor party. Democratic delegates passed a resolution inviting the delegates to the Fellowship party to convene with the Democratic delegates. A credentials committee was appointed to seat the fused delegations.

“The Democratic party's state constitution was then amended, as to the name, and became the 'Democratic-Farmer-Labor' party.”

Byron Allen's letter about the process concluded by saying, “It has been a long and hard struggle but our DFL party can now be said to be the majority party in Minnesota. It is the great hope of thousands of Minnesota liberals that our liberal neighbors in North Dakota may soon come together and give North Dakota the truly great benefits of a strong two-party system.”

This letter, written in 1954, served as a blueprint for North Dakota, and in 1956 the state’s Nonpartisan League and Democratic Party were merged.

Dakota Datebook by Andrew Alexis Varvel


  • Byron G. Allen to Honorable P. W. Lanier, Sr., Attorney; 9 November 1954. P. W. Lanier, Jr. Papers. OGLMC 85, Box 1, Folder 1. Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections, Chester Fritz Library, University of North Dakota.
  • “SAM BATES RESIGNS; LANIER NEW JUDGE”, The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN), 15 July 1917, page 8, column 3.
  • “NO DISBARMENT IN LANIER PROCEEDINGS”, The Covington Leader (Covington, TN), 20 December 1922, page 1, column 2.
  • “$20,000 SUIT IS STARTED”, Bismarck Tribune, 14 November 1924, page 7, column 5.
  • Robert Byrne (Secretary of State) & Charles Liessman (editor), “Compilation of Election Returns: National and State, 1914-1928” (Bismarck: North Dakota, 1 October 1930) Pages 83, 86.
  • Thomas Hall (Secretary of State), “Compilation of Election Returns: National and State, 1930-1944” (Bismarck: North Dakota, 1 November 1945) Pages 5, 9, 15, 19.
  • “DEMOCRATS WAITING FOR PLUMS TO FALL FROM FEDERAL TREE”, Bismarck Tribune, 31 March 1933, page 1, column 2.
  • “Lanier Gets Job of District Attorney”, Bismarck Tribune, 21 July 1933, page 1, column 5.
  • “Lanier Forwards D. A. Resignation”, Bismarck Tribune, 6 May 1953, page 11, columns 4-5.
  • “Judge May Name Dist. Attorney”, Mandan Daily Pioneer, 15 January 1954, page 1, column 5.
  • “M'Intosh Boasts Two NPL Slates”, Bismarck Tribune, 14 March 1956, page 1, columns 6-8.
  • “DEMOCRATIC OFFICIALS 'OBSERVE' CONVENTION”, Bismarck Tribune, 29 March 1956, page 2, column 4.
  • “New Names Dominate NPL Primary Ticket”; Bismarck Tribune; 30 March 1956; page 1, columns 5-6; page 2, column 5.
  • “Dems Endorse League Slate; Wind up Meet”; Bismarck Tribune; 9 May 1956; page 1, columns 5-6; page 2, columns 4-5.
  • “Dems Endorse NPL Slate At State Convention”, Steele County Press (Finley, ND), 17 May 1956, page 1, column 5.
  • P. W. Lanier, Jr. to Mr. Louis G. Geiger, 27 April 1956, P. W. Lanier, Jr. Papers. Box 1, Folder 1.

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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