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Hello and Goodbye, Governors


The gubernatorial transition in North Dakota historically took place on the first Wednesday in January, but voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1987 that favored today’s date of December 15th.

Still, not all North Dakota governors came and went on the appointed day. Frank Briggs died in office in August of 1898, Arthur Sorlie died during his term in August of 1928, and Lynn Frazier was recalled in November of 1921. Various lieutenant governors stepped in over the years, like when William Langer was removed and Ole H. Olson took over in June of 1934. Joseph M. Devine stepped in after Briggs’s death. And John Hoeven resigned in order to take his place in the U.S. Senate, with Jack Dalrymple taking the reins.

Then there was the year of four governors that involved 1934 and 1935. It started with Langer’s removal and Olson’s succession. Then came Thomas Moodie’s election, but he lasted only five weeks before the North Dakota Supreme Court found him ineligible because he hadn’t lived in the state for the required five years.

Since that time, North Dakota governors have been pretty traditional—and stable—in their entrances and exits.

Six of North Dakota’s lieutenant governors have gone on to become governor. And aside from political experience, it’s interesting to note that several of the governors had backgrounds in journalism, while others had experience in medicine, the military or teaching.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura