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Fred A. Risser (born May 5, 1927) is a Democratic member of the Wisconsin Senate, representing the 26th District since 1962.[1] His district includes most of the west side and central neighborhoods of Madison, including the campus of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He previously served in the Wisconsin Assembly from 1957 to 1962. Risser has never lost an election and is the longest-serving state legislator in American political history.[1][2][3]

Fred A. Risser
Fred Risser.jpg
President of the Wisconsin Senate
In office
July 17, 2012 – January 7, 2013
Preceded byMichael Ellis
Succeeded byMichael Ellis
In office
January 8, 2007 – January 3, 2011
Preceded byAlan Lasee
Succeeded byMichael Ellis
In office
January 4, 1999 – January 6, 2003
Preceded byBrian Rude
Succeeded byAlan Lasee
In office
January 8, 1996 – January 5, 1998
Preceded byRobert P. Knowles
Succeeded byBrian Rude
In office
January 6, 1975 – January 9, 1995
Preceded byRobert P. Knowles
Succeeded byBrian Rude
Member of the Wisconsin Senate
from the 26th district
Assumed office
December 1, 1962
Preceded byHorace W. Wilkie
Member of the Wisconsin State Assembly
from the 26th district
In office
Preceded byIvan A. Nestingen
Succeeded byEdward Nager
Personal details
Born (1927-05-05) May 5, 1927 (age 92)
Madison, Wisconsin, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Nancy Risser
Alma materUniversity of Wisconsin
University of Oregon
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/serviceUnited States Navy
Years of service1945–1946
Battles/warsWorld War II

Upon the death of New Mexico State Senator John Pinto in May 2019, Risser became the only remaining World War II veteran currently serving as a state legislator in the United States.[4]

Early life, education and careerEdit

Risser was born in Madison, Wisconsin on May 5, 1927[5] into one of the most prolific families in Wisconsin political history. Risser's father (Fred E. Risser), grandfather (Ernest Warner), and great-grandfather (Clement Warner) served at various times as Wisconsin legislators representing part or all of Dane County, although none were Democrats.[2]

He served in the United States Navy during World War II from 1945 to 1946.[6] Risser was sworn into the United States Navy shortly before his high school graduation and Victory in Europe Day. The end of his basic training coincided with Victory over Japan Day. He was a medic and served in Newport, Rhode Island and the Panama Canal Zone.[7]

Risser used the G.I. Bill to earn a bachelor of arts from the University of Wisconsin. He then attended law school at the University of Oregon School of Law, where he earned a Bachelor of Laws, and became a practicing attorney in Wisconsin; he is a member of the State Bar of Wisconsin and the Oregon State Bar.[7][8]

Wisconsin LegislatureEdit

Wisconsin AssemblyEdit

Risser was first elected to the Wisconsin Assembly in 1956, succeeding fellow Democrat Ivan A. Nestingen (who had resigned in April of that year). He was elected to the state Senate in a 1962 special election triggered by the appointment of Horace W. Wilkie to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. He was succeeded in the Wisconsin Assembly by fellow Democrat Edward Nager.[5]

Wisconsin SenateEdit

Risser was elected to a full term in 1964 and has been reelected every four years since.[7] He rose through the ranks quickly, becoming the Minority Leader in 1967,[5] which he credits to his intense study of parliamentary procedure.[2]

In his 2004 electoral victory, he received more than 80% of the vote, facing opposition only from a Green Party candidate and no Republican opponent. In the 2007–08 session of the Wisconsin State Senate, Risser was elected as President of the Senate. He held this position on several prior occasions. He also has been President Pro Tempore, Minority Leader (1967–1973) and Assistant Minority Leader in the State Senate.[1] In 2008, 2012 and 2016 he was re-elected without opposition.[citation needed]

2011 Wisconsin protestsEdit

During the protests in Wisconsin, Risser, along with the 13 other Democratic State Senators, left the state to deny the State Senate a quorum on Governor Scott Walker's "Budget Repair" legislation.[9][10]

Other political involvementEdit

He was a delegate to both the 1960 Democratic National Convention and the 1964 Democratic National Convention. He served as the Chair of Wisconsin's Presidential electors during the 1964 presidential election.[5]

Personal lifeEdit

Risser's first wife died after 21 years of marriage.[11] Risser is married to his second wife, Nancy Risser, a retired Spanish teacher. He has three children and four grandchildren.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c Biographical page at State Legislature website.
  2. ^ a b c Frank Bures, "Backstory: The iron man of state politics", The Christian Science Monitor, March 1, 2007.
  3. ^ Sen. Risser outraged that Capitol has become an "armed fortress", John Nichols, The Capitol Times, March 3, 2011
  4. ^ "In Memoriam: New Mexico Senator John Pinto". The NCSL Blog. National Conference of State Legislatures. May 29, 2019. Retrieved July 15, 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d Theobald, H. Rupert; Robbins, Patricia V., eds. (1973). "Biography". Wisconsin Blue Book 1973-1974 (PDF). Wisconsin's Legislative Reference Bureau. p. 72. Retrieved July 15, 2019.
  6. ^ Toepel, M. G.; Kuehn, Hazel L., eds. The Wisconsin Blue Book, 1958 Madison: State of Wisconsin, 1958; p. 37
  7. ^ a b c Wolf, March (July 15, 2013). "Six Who Served". State Legislatures Magazine. Retrieved July 15, 2019.
  8. ^ "Bar People: Among Ourselves". Oregon State Bar Bulletin. September 1, 2014. Retrieved July 15, 2019.
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Journal, Mark Sommerhauser | Wisconsin State. "In 60-year legislative career, Fred Risser has learned to take the long view". Retrieved 2018-08-19.

External linksEdit

Wisconsin State Assembly
Preceded by
Ivan A. Nestingen
Wisconsin State Assembly Member - 26th District
1956 – 1962
Succeeded by
Edward Nager
Wisconsin State Senate
Preceded by
Horace W. Wilkie
Wisconsin State Senator - 26th District
1962 – Present
Succeeded by