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Guy’s Plane Ride


From 1914 to 1922, the Nonpartisan League had a spectacular but stormy success by creating the presence of a third party in North Dakota. With the demise of the NPL, an unintended consequence was the alignment of the remnants of the League with the Republican Party, creating a virtual one-party system in the state.

In 1947, when the legislative session irritated the North Dakota Farmers Union – an organization composed of many of the former members of the League – the party began to fracture, creating two factions – the Old Guard and the an insurgent group that opposed the Republican polices. From 1947 to 1956, the insurgents slowly edged the Nonpartisan League members away from the Republican Party, lining up instead with the Democrats.

When this faction of the League joined the Democratic convention in 1960, there was a decided swing in the political power in North Dakota. Quentin Burdick successfully defeated Governor John Davis for Congress, and at the same time, William Guy became the Governor. The upset created a diverse political scene in North Dakota and feelings were intense.

In November of 1961, Governor Guy used the state airplane, named the Minnie H, to fly from Bismarck to Bottineau to visit the School of Forestry, and he then went on to visit the San Haven State Hospital at Rolla. From Rolla he went to Rugby by car to attend a political function. He then requested that the state plane transport him back to Bismarck, but weather prevented it from taking off.

However, when word of this reached the Republican Party, Mark Andrews immediately charged that the governor was using the state-owned plane illegally for political trips. Guy in turn asked Attorney General Leslie Burgum to get a factual statement from Andrews to which Andrews responded was a “high-handed ‘King of Siam’ tactic.”

On this date in 1961, Speaker of the House, R. Fay Brown of Bismarck requested that Guy resign as governor and requested Attorney General Burgum call a grand jury. Although a grand jury could not be called in this instance, Burgum, a Republican, concluded that the charges were true, but Guy countered that the investigation was rigged in favor of Andrews. The Fargo Forum maintained that the controversy was merely a scrap between two Cass County farmers and stated that the use of state owned-transportation had been done by Republicans in the past without criticism. Eventually Governor Guy got the last word in when he outlined his policy for the use of the plane and stated that if the Republicans didn’t like it they could lump it.

Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis


The Dickinson Press December 19, 1961

The Bismarck Capital December 22, 1961; December 15, 1961