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Governor George Shafer


Four men associated with Mandan have served as North Dakota governor. George Shafer was born there in 1888. He graduated from Williston High School in 1908, and went on to become the valedictorian of his class at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. He then returned to Mandan and opened a law office.

Shafer had a distinguished career in North Dakota politics. He served as State’s Attorney for McKenzie County, then went on to become Assistant Attorney General and Attorney General before being inaugurated as governor on January 1, 1929. He served as governor until 1933.

In 1930, the Capitol building burned down. The fire broke out on the top floor of the four-story building and it destroyed records dating back to the earliest days of the Dakota Territory. Governor Shafer returned from a meeting in St. Paul while the fire was still burning.

Shafer presided over the construction of the new Capitol building, wanting a building that represented North Dakota’s move to modernize. The Capitol opened for business in 1934. It’s one of only three Art Deco style capitol buildings in the United States. It was completed for a cost of $2 million.

Shafer was governor during the early days of the Great Depression. North Dakota suffered from a combination of drought and low prices for agricultural products. Shafer is given credit for paying close attention to the economic problems, and the State Mill and Elevator showed a good profit for the state under his direction. Public debt actually decreased in spite of the Depression. Shafer appointed the first Game and Fish Commissioner in 1930, he used Federal money to improve the highway system, and he pushed for consolidation of law enforcement agencies.

Shafer declined to run for re-election as governor. Instead, he ran for North Dakota’s Senate seat in 1932. He lost in the Republican primary and retired from politics after he stepped down from the governor’s office. He reopened his law practice and was active in community affairs. He held offices in the Boy Scouts, Kiwanis, Odd Fellows, Masons, the Red Cross, and the North Dakota Bar Association. George Shafer passed away in Bismarck on this date in 1948. He is buried in St. Mary’s cemetery in Bismarck.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher

State Historical Society of North Dakota. http://www.history.nd.gov/exhibits/governors/governors16.html Accessed 6/1/14,

National Governor’s Association. "http://www.nga.org/cms/home/governors/past-governors-bios/page_north_dakota/col2-content/main-content-list/title_shafer_george.html" http://www.nga.org/cms/home/governors/past-governors-bios/page_north_dakota/col2-content/main-content-list/title_shafer_george.html Accessed June 1, 2014.

Mandan Historical Society. "http://www.mandanhistory.org/biographiesrz/georgeshafer.html%20Accessed%20June%201" http://www.mandanhistory.org/biographiesrz/georgeshafer.html Accessed June 1 , 2014.