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John E. Erickson (Montana politician)

John Edward Erickson (March 14, 1863 – May 25, 1946) was an American politician of the Democratic Party from Montana. He served as the eighth Governor of Montana and as a United States Senator.[1]

John Edward Erickson
John Erickson.jpg
United States Senator
from Montana
In office
March 13, 1933 – November 6, 1934
Preceded byThomas J. Walsh
Succeeded byJames E. Murray
8th Governor of Montana
In office
January 4, 1925 – March 13, 1933
LieutenantW.S. McCormack
Frank A. Hazelbacker
Frank Henry Cooney
Preceded byJoseph M. Dixon
Succeeded byFrank Henry Cooney
Personal details
Born(1863-03-14)March 14, 1863
Stoughton, Wisconsin
DiedMay 25, 1946(1946-05-25) (aged 83)
Helena, Montana
Political partyDemocratic
Alma materWashburn University


Erickson was born in Stoughton, Wisconsin. He was the son of E. Erickson and Olene Alma Erickson, both Norwegian immigrants. He moved with his parents to Eureka, Kansas. He graduated from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas in 1890.[2] He studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1891 at Eureka, Kansas.[3] He married Grace Vance in 1898 and they had three children.[4]


Erickson began practicing law in Kansas in 1892. He moved to Choteau, Montana in 1893 and continued practicing in that town. He served as county attorney of Teton County from 1897 to 1905, then judge of the eleventh judicial district of Montana from 1905 to 1915. He resumed the practice of law at Kalispell, Montana in 1916.[5] A Democrat, Erickson was elected in 1924 as the eighth Governor of Montana. He won reelection in 1928, and again in 1932, making him the only governor elected to three terms.[6] He served from January 4, 1925 to 1933. During his tenure, a new state income tax was sanctioned, a fund to financially equalize impoverished rural schools was established, a gasoline tax was implemented, a new banking law was authorized, and a tax on mining profits was initiated.[7]

On March 13, 1933, Erickson resigned as governor whereupon Frank Cooney, formerly Erickson's lieutenant governor and now the acting governor, appointed Erickson to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Thomas J. Walsh. Although on the face of it, this appears to have been a rather brazen attempt on Erickson's part to establish himself in the senate, Montana Senator Burton K. Wheeler tells a different story in his autobiography.[8] Apparently Montana's Democratic National Committeeman, J. Bruce Kremer, was certain to be appointed to Walsh's seat. Walsh very much disliked Kremer and worried that Kremer would succeed him if he (Walsh) accepted Franklin D. Roosevelt's appointment to his cabinet, as Attorney General. After Walsh's untimely demise, his daughter Genevieve Gudger asked Senator Wheeler if he would intercede with Governor Erickson to stop Kremer's appointment. As Wheeler also disliked Kremer, he agreed to do so. In Wheeler's telling[9] it was he who talked a reluctant Erickson into getting himself appointed. In the special election to fill the remainder of the vacancy, Erickson ran for election to the senate seat, but finished third in the primary, behind James E. Murray, who went on to win the special election in November, and James F. O'Connor. He continued to serve in the Senate through November 6, 1934, the day that Murray was elected, at which point he resigned in favor of Murray, in order to give Murray seniority rights over other freshman senators, who didn't start their terms until 1935. Following his return from the Senate, he practiced law in Helena, Montana, until his death.


Erickson died on May 25, 1946, and is entombed at Conrad Memorial Cemetery, Kalispell, Flathead County, Montana US.


  1. ^ "Montana Governor John Edward Erickson". National Governors Association. Retrieved October 10, 2012.
  2. ^ "Montana Governor John Edward Erickson". National Governors Association. Retrieved October 10, 2012.
  3. ^ "John E. Erickson". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 9 October 2012.
  4. ^ "John E. Erickson papers 1883-1958". archiveswest.orbiscascade. Retrieved March 1, 2016.
  5. ^ Lawrence Kestenbaum (July 22, 2013). "Erickson, John Edward (1863-1946)". Retrieved October 8, 2013.
  6. ^ "John E. Erickson". Former Governors of Montana. Archived from the original on 20 August 2012. Retrieved 9 October 2012.
  7. ^ "John E. Erickson". National Governors Association. Retrieved 9 October 2012.
  8. ^ Wheeler, p. 300-301
  9. ^ Wheeler, p. 301


  • Wheeler, Burton K. with Paul F. Healy (1977). Yankee From the West. Octagon Books (reprint).


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