Orville Freeman

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Orville Freeman
Orville L. Freeman, Secretary of Agriculture (1961-1969).jpg
Orville L. Freeman Photograph in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.
16th United States Secretary of Agriculture
In office
January 20, 1961 – January 21, 1969
President John F. Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson
Richard Nixon
Preceded by Ezra Taft Benson
Succeeded by Clifford M. Hardin
29th Governor of Minnesota
In office
January 5, 1955 – January 2, 1961
Lieutenant Karl Rolvaag
Preceded by C. Elmer Anderson
Succeeded by Elmer L. Andersen
Personal details
Born Orville Lothrop Freeman
(1918-05-09)May 9, 1918
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
Died February 20, 2003(2003-02-20) (aged 84)
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
Resting place Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
Political party Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party
Spouse(s) Jane Shields Freeman (m. 1942 – 2003; his death)
Children 2, including Michael Orville Freeman
Alma mater University of Minnesota
Profession Marine, politician
Military service
Service/branch USMC
Rank Major
Battles/wars World War II
* Battle of Bougainville

Orville Lothrop Freeman (May 9, 1918 – February 20, 2003) was an American Democratic politician who served as the 29th Governor of Minnesota from January 5, 1955 to January 2, 1961, and as the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture from 1961 to 1969 under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. He was one of the founding members of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and strongly influential in the merger of the pre-DFL Minnesota Democratic and Farmer-Labor Parties. Freeman nominated Kennedy for President at the 1960 Democratic Party national convention.

Early life

Freeman was born on May 9, 1918, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Freeman was a 1940 graduate of the University of Minnesota, where he met his lifelong friend and political ally, Hubert H. Humphrey. He also met his wife, Jane Charlotte Shields, in college. They married on May 2, 1942. They had two children: Michael Orville and Constance Jane Freeman.

Military service

Figuring that the United States would eventually become involved in the war, Freeman signed up for the Marine Reserves in late 1940 with the understanding he could finish law school before he fulfilled his required service. The attack on Pearl Harbor ended that arrangement, and on December 31, 1941, he received orders to report to Officer Candidate School at Marine Corps Base Quantico.[1]

After graduating and follow training to be an infantry officer, he reported to Camp Elliot, just outside San Diego, California. He was soon assigned to the 9th Marine Regiment, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines. His unit eventually shipped out overseas for periods of training in New Zealand and Guadalcanal.[1]

On November 1, 1943, he saw his first combat when his unit came ashore at Torokina on Bougainville in what were the first battles of the Bougainville Campaign. A few days later, while he was leading a patrol, he encountered a group of five or six Japanese soldiers in a clearing. An exchange of gunfire followed, and Freeman was wounded in the jaw and left arm. Eventually, he was evacuated to an US Army hospital on New Caledonia and then to a Naval hospital on Nouméa. He returned to the United States in 1944 but never recovered enough movement in his arm to pass a US Marine Corps physical to return to combat.[1]

Political career

He earned his LL.B. from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1946. Freeman went on to practice law in Minneapolis.[2] He ran unsuccessfully for attorney general of Minnesota in 1950 and for governor in 1952.[2]

The Kennedy Round negotiations were discussed in 1967. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce conference by William M. Roth, a special representative for the Trade Representative as well as U.S. Secretary of Commerce Alexander B. Trowbridge, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Orville L. Freeman, and Undersecretary of Labor James J. Reynolds.

Freeman was elected governor in 1954, and was re-elected in 1956 and 1958. He took the unusual action of declaring martial law in the city of Albert Lea on December 11, 1959, to maintain law and order during a strike at the Wilson Packing Company. After twelve days, a federal court ruled that the imposition of martial law was inappropriate.[3] Also, on November 13, 1955, Freeman was a guest on the variety show Toast of the Town, which would later be called The Ed Sullivan Show.

In July 1960, Freeman nominated US Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts for President at the Democratic National Convention.

Following his defeat for re-election as governor in 1960, Freeman was appointed as US Secretary of Agriculture by the newly-elected President Kennedy, and he was retained in that post by President Lyndon B. Johnson following the Kennedy assassination. Freeman served until January 21, 1969.

Later life

Later, Freeman headed two consulting businesses and practiced law in Washington, DC[2]

Freeman died from complications of Alzheimer's disease on February 20, 2003 in Minneapolis.[2] He was buried in that city's Lakewood Cemetery.


Freeman is remembered for submitting proposed legislation to establish the Food Stamp Program for the poor, which is still in use today.[4]

His son Mike Freeman ran unsuccessfully for Governor in 1998 and has served non-consecutive terms as County Attorney for Hennepin County, Minnesota (1991 to 1999, and 2007 to the present).

Awards and decorations

Known decorations and medals include:

Bronze star
Purple Heart Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal w/ service star World War II Victory Medal

See also


  1. ^ a b c Berry (1982), p.149-162.
  2. ^ a b c d Stout, David (February 22, 2003). "Orville Freeman, 84, Dies; 60's Agriculture Secretary". The New York Times. p. B6. Retrieved January 30, 2010. 
  3. ^ "Martial Law Ordered in Meat Strike", Oakland Tribune, December 11, 1959, p1; "Court Ends Wilson Closure", December 23, 1959, p4
  4. ^ Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): A Short History of SNAP, United States Department of Agriculture.



  • Berry, Henry (1982). Semper Fi, Mac – Living Memories of the U.S. Marines in World War II. New York, N.Y.: William Morrow and Company. ISBN 0-688-14956-1. 


  • Minnesota Historical Society

External links

  • The personal papers of Orville Freeman are available for research use at the Minnesota Historical Society.
  • Oral History Interviews with Orville Freeman, Lyndon Baines Johnson Library
Political offices
Preceded by
C. Elmer Anderson
Governor of Minnesota
1955 – 1961
Succeeded by
Elmer L. Andersen
Preceded by
Ezra Taft Benson
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture
Served under: John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson

Succeeded by
Clifford M. Hardin
Party political offices
Preceded by
Harry H. Peterson
Endorsed Gubernatorial Candidate,
Minnesota DFL State Convention

1952, 1954, 1956, 1958, 1960
Succeeded by
Karl Rolvaag
DFL nominee for Governor of Minnesota
1952, 1954, 1956, 1958, 1960
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