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An Unfamiliar Name


Norman Brunsdale is not what you would call a household name, but even though he’s not one North Dakota’s better known historical figures, he did indeed leave his mark.

Brunsdale was born in Sherbrooke, North Dakota on this date in 1891. In 1913, he graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. He moved back to Portland, North Dakota, where he taught at Bruflat Academy. He also worked the family farm in Traill and Steele counties. He and his wife had two daughters. He was a successful teacher, farmer, and businessman.

Brunsdale began his prolific political career in 1927. After serving for nineteen years in the North Dakota State Senate, he became the state’s 24th governor, serving three terms from 1951 to 1957.

1952 was marked by the polio epidemic. The crusade against the disease was a nationwide effort. Governor Brunsdale supported the March of Dimes, and he urged North Dakotans to contribute whatever they could. When the Salk vaccine was introduced in 1954, North Dakotans lined up to take advantage of it, and soon the polio nightmare was over.

Governor Brunsdale was also a strong supporter of water development projects. He threw his support behind the Garrison Dam, which was completed during his administration. The project was controversial, as the lake created by the dam forced many Indians off their land. But Brunsdale felt the project was crucial for North Dakota’s development. He established the Garrison Diversion Conservancy District to oversee this water resource.

At the ceremony on June 11, 1953 to celebrate the completion of the dam, he had the honor of introducing President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Also during the early 1950s, Brunsdale established the Highway Department and pushed through major highway legislation.

In 1959, after his turn as governor, Brunsdale was appointed to the United States Senate upon the death of William Langer. He chose not to run for re-election, however, and his political career ended in 1960. After he left politics, Brunsdale returned to the farm, and a few years later, in 1968, he retired.

Clarence Norman Brunsdale died in Mayville, North Dakota in 1978. He is buried in Mayville Cemetery. A scholarship in his honor was established at Luther College.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher


State Historical Society of North Dakota. "http://www.history.nd.gov/exhibits/governors/governors24.html" http://www.history.nd.gov/exhibits/governors/governors24.html Accessed 31 May, 2015.

National Governor’s Association. "http://www.nga.org/cms/home/governors/past-governors-bios/page_north_dakota/col2-content/main-content-list/title_brunsdale_c.html" http://www.nga.org/cms/home/governors/past-governors-bios/page_north_dakota/col2-content/main-content-list/title_brunsdale_c.html Accessed 31 May, 2015.

Luther College. "http://www.luther.edu/giving/gift-types/support/scholarship/directory/general-1/" http://www.luther.edu/giving/gift-types/support/scholarship/directory/general-1/ Accessed 31 May, 2015.