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Joseph Alfred Arner Burnquist (July 21, 1879 – January 12, 1961) was an American Republican politician. He served in the Minnesota State Legislature from 1909 to 1911, was elected the 20th Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota in 1912, and then served as the 19th Governor of Minnesota from December 30, 1915 to January 5, 1921. He became governor after the death of Governor Winfield Scott Hammond.

Joseph Alfred Arner Burnquist
21st Attorney General of Minnesota
In office
January 2, 1939 – January 3, 1955
GovernorHarold E. Stassen
Edward J. Thye
Luther W. Youngdahl
C. Elmer Anderson
Preceded byWilliam S. Ervin
Succeeded byMiles W. Lord
19th Governor of Minnesota
In office
December 30, 1915 – January 5, 1921
LieutenantGeorge H. Sullivan
Thomas Frankson
Preceded byWinfield Scott Hammond
Succeeded byJ. A. O. Preus
20th Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota
In office
January 7, 1913 – December 30, 1915
GovernorAdolph O. Eberhart
Winfield S. Hammond
Preceded bySamuel Y. Gordon
Succeeded byGeorge H. Sullivan
Member of the Minnesota House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
Born(1879-07-21)July 21, 1879
Dayton, Iowa
DiedJanuary 12, 1961(1961-01-12) (aged 81)
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Mary Louise Cross
Alma materUniversity of Minnesota Law School
ProfessionLawyer, politician

After leaving government for nearly 18 years to practice law, Burnquist returned to serve as Minnesota Attorney General from January 2, 1939 until January 3, 1955—at just over 16 years, his is the second-longest tenure of any individual to hold that position.

Early yearsEdit

Joseph Alfred Arner Burnquist was born in Dayton, Iowa of Swedish descent and earned his law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1905.[1]

After a brief time practicing law in St. Paul, he served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1909 to 1912.[2]

Political careerEdit

Governor of MinnesotaEdit

During his second term as lieutenant governor, he succeeded Governor Hammond, who died in office.

1918 election poster

Turbulent times surrounded America's entrance into World War I in 1917. Not all Americans supported U.S. involvement in a European war, and this feeling was heightened in Minnesota because of dissatisfaction among farmers and laborers, who were more concerned with domestic policy than with the conflict overseas. Supporters of the war, suspicious of radicals, pacifists, and the foreign-born, acted quickly to stifle dissent. Through the Minnesota Commission of Public Safety — which Burnquist created in 1917 to monitor public sentiment toward the war — he quashed pacifist demonstrations and denounced in his final inaugural message those "few socialistically and anarchistically inclined" who questioned America's involvement in "the world's baptism of blood."[citation needed] The commission, ostensibly nonpartisan, firmly opposed any action its conservative members considered suspect or un-American.

While primarily concerned with war issues, Burnquist also initiated legislation that improved the state highways, disaster assistance programs, labor relations, and, especially the welfare of children.

Attorney General of MinnesotaEdit

After leaving office he practiced law for 17 years before beginning his lengthy tenure as state Attorney General in 1939. At 16 years and 1 day, he was narrowly surpassed by Skip Humphrey, who served 16 years and 3 days at the end of his tenure in 1999, for longest served Minnesota Attorney General. During the 1920s, he wrote several works in the series "Minnesota and its People" at his home in St. Paul.[3]

Death and legacyEdit

Burnquist's home at 27 Crocus Place in St. Paul

Burnquist died on January 12, 1961 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Until his death at the age of 81, Burnquist maintained the bearing and manner of a strong-willed senior statesman.


  1. ^ Jessica Thompson, Minnesota's Legal Hall of Fame, Law & Politics, Accessed November 28, 2010.
  2. ^ Joseph A. A. Burnquist
  3. ^ Melo, Frederick (April 8, 2015). "St. Paul Crocus Hill home demolition gets court's OK". Pioneer Press. St. Paul, Minnesota. Retrieved April 9, 2015.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit