Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

North Dakota’s Only Recall-Elected Governor


The only North Dakota governor to be elected in a recall election died on this date in 1942. Ragnvald Nestos was governor from 1921 to 1925. He was born in Norway in 1877, and came to Buxton, North Dakota at age 16. He spoke no English at the time, and lived with an aunt and uncle.

Nestos studied at Mayville Normal School and taught country school for a time. He later graduated from the universities of Wisconsin and North Dakota, and then moved to Minot where he began a career in law in 1904.

In 1910 Nestos was elected as a state representative. In this two-year term, he chaired the Tax Laws Committee. In 1912 he was elected states attorney of Ward County.

Nestos’ election into the governor’s office came at a time of political upset. North Dakota Governor Lynn Frazier was ousted in his third term during political bitterness and economic depression – becoming the first U.S. governor to be recalled. While both candidates were Republicans, Frazier was a member of the socialist-leaning Nonpartisan League, while Nestos belonged to the Independent Voters Association, which was conservative and pro-capitalist.

Nestos’ term saw some firsts for the state. North Dakota began registering births and deaths to comply with the national standard. The state acquired a full-time health officer. Nestos also fought against illiteracy and championed education with his advocacy for libraries.

Outside of office, Nestos saw other successes. He helped Minot acquire a normal school and public library. He served on committees for the State Library Commission, the Young Men’s Christian Association and the Boy Scouts of America. In 1942 Nestos was awarded the Silver Buffalo Award by the Boy Scouts for his service to scouting.

Governor Ragnvald Nestos never married, and he died in Minot on this date in 1942 following a stroke. He was 65. While elected during a dark time in North Dakota, the state’s thirteenth governor left the office a little brighter than when he went in.

Dakota Datebook written by Jack Dura


State Historical Society of North Dakota. 2014. Ragnvald A. Nestos. Retrieved from:


University of North Dakota. (n.d.). Ragnvald A. Nestos papers (1922-1942) [Abstract]. Retrieved from: