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.
|16th United States Secretary of Agriculture|
January 21, 1961 – January 20, 1969
|President||John F. Kennedy|
Lyndon B. Johnson
|Preceded by||Ezra Taft Benson|
|Succeeded by||Clifford M. Hardin|
|29th Governor of Minnesota|
January 5, 1955 – January 2, 1961
|Preceded by||C. Elmer Anderson|
|Succeeded by||Elmer L. Andersen|
Orville Lothrop Freeman
May 9, 1918
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
|Died||February 20, 2003 (aged 84)|
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
|Resting place||Lakewood Cemetery|
|Spouse(s)||Jane Shields (1942–2003)|
|Children||2, including Michael|
|Education||University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (BA, LLB)|
|Branch/service||United States Marine Corps|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
• Battle of Bougainville
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 (25 May 1921 – 23 March 2018), in college. They married on May 2, 1942. They had two children: Michael Orville and Constance Jane Freeman.
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.
After graduating and following 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.
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 a 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.
He earned his LL.B. from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1946. Freeman went on to practice law in Minneapolis. He ran unsuccessfully for attorney general of Minnesota in 1950 and for governor in 1952.
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. 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.
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.
Freeman’s name was also mentioned in a 1963 episode of The Beverly Hillbillies. In the Season 2 episode entitled “Granny’s Garden”, the main characters are about to mule-plow the front lawn of their estate in order to plant a garden. The character of Jane Hathaway drives up and exclaims “What in the name of Secretary Freeman are you doing?!” (Season 2, Episode 3,October 9, 1963.)
Awards and decorationsEdit
Known decorations and medals include:
|Purple Heart||Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal w/ service star||World War II Victory Medal|
- Berry (1982), p.149-162.
- Stout, David (February 22, 2003). "Orville Freeman, 84, Dies; 60's Agriculture Secretary". The New York Times. p. B6. Retrieved January 30, 2010.
- "Martial Law Ordered in Meat Strike", Oakland Tribune, December 11, 1959, p1; "Court Ends Wilson Closure", December 23, 1959, p4
- "Orville L. Freeman (1961–1963)". Miller Center. October 4, 2016. Retrieved September 27, 2019.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): A Short History of SNAP, United States Department of Agriculture.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Orville Freeman.|
- 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
- Orville L. Freeman Personal Papers, JFK Library
- Orville Freeman at Find a Grave
|Party political offices|
Harry H. Peterson
| Democratic nominee for Governor of Minnesota
1952, 1954, 1956, 1958, 1960
C. Elmer Anderson
| Governor of Minnesota
Elmer L. Andersen
Ezra Taft Benson
| United States Secretary of Agriculture
Clifford M. Hardin