Val Peterson

Frederick Valdemar Erastus Peterson (July 18, 1903 – October 17, 1983), also known as Val Peterson, was an American politician and diplomat who served as the 26th governor of Nebraska from 1947 to 1953, as director of the Federal Civil Defense Administration from 1953 to 1957, U.S. ambassador to Denmark from 1957 to 1961, and U.S. Ambassador to Finland from 1969 to 1973.[1]

Val Peterson
Val Peterson.jpg
United States Ambassador to Finland
In office
July 14, 1969 – March 23, 1973
PresidentRichard Nixon
Preceded byTyler Thompson
Succeeded byJohn Krehbiel
United States Ambassador to Denmark
In office
August 22, 1957 – February 21, 1961
PresidentDwight D. Eisenhower
John F. Kennedy
Preceded byRobert Coe
Succeeded byWilliam McCormick Blair Jr.
Administrator of the Federal Civil Defense Administration
In office
February 19, 1953 – June 14, 1957
Acting: February 19, 1953 – March 4, 1953
PresidentDwight D. Eisenhower
Preceded byJames Jeremiah Wadsworth (Acting)
Succeeded byLewis Berry (Acting)
Chair of the National Governors Association
In office
September 30, 1951 – June 29, 1952
Preceded byFrank Lausche
Succeeded byAllan Shivers
26th Governor of Nebraska
In office
January 9, 1947 – January 8, 1953
LieutenantRobert B. Crosby
Charles J. Warner
Preceded byDwight Griswold
Succeeded byRobert B. Crosby
Personal details
Frederick Valdemar Erastus Peterson

(1903-07-18)July 18, 1903
Oakdale, Nebraska, U.S.
DiedOctober 17, 1983(1983-10-17) (aged 80)
Fremont, Nebraska, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
EducationWayne State College (BA)
University of Nebraska–Lincoln (MA)

Early life and educationEdit

Peterson was born in Oakland, Nebraska the son of Henry C. Peterson and Hermanda (Swanberg) Peterson. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Wayne State Teachers College and a Master of Arts degree in political science from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Following 1933, Peterson maintained his permanent residence in Elgin, Nebraska.[2]


Peterson worked as a teacher, school administrator, and newspaper man. He was the Elgin superintendent of schools and was the publisher of The Elgin Review for ten years.[2] During World War II he served as lieutenant colonel in the United States Army Air Forces.

Peterson first entered politics as the campaign manager for the Hugh Butler 1940 U.S. senatorial bid. He also was the administrative assistant and secretary to Governor Dwight Griswold from 1941 to 1942. Peterson next secured the Republican gubernatorial nomination, and was elected governor in November 1946. He was reelected to a second term in 1948, and to a third term in 1950.

During his tenure, the Missouri River basin development was endorsed and highway revenue initiatives were sought. Also during Peterson's term, he chaired the State Governors Conference and presided over the Council of State Governments in 1952. In December 1951, Governor Peterson appointed Fred Andrew Seaton to the U.S. Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Kenneth S. Wherry.

Peterson served in the Dwight D. Eisenhower administration as director of the Federal Civil Defense Administration from 1953 to 1957. As Federal Civil Defense Administrator, Peterson is reputed to have speculated about the possibility of creating a cobalt doomsday bomb.[3] Peterson served as U.S. ambassador to Denmark, from 1957–1961 and U.S. ambassador to Finland, from 1969 to 1973.


Peterson died October 17, 1983 in Fremont, Nebraska, reportedly of respiratory failure following a struggle with Alzheimer's disease. He is interred at Oakdale Cemetery, Oakdale, Nebraska.[4]


The Peterson Fine Arts building at his alma mater, Wayne State College, was named in his honor. A variety of autographed photographs representing his political career (particularly a full Eisenhower Cabinet photo with autographs of each member, as well as a personally inscribed color photograph of Richard Nixon) were on display for many years at the Wayne State library. However, the photos began to deteriorate due to exposure, and had to be removed; they are still in the possession of the college.


  1. ^ Nebraska Governor Frederick Valdemar Erastus (Val) Peterson (Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States)
  2. ^ a b Governor Peterson (Nebraska[Usurped!]
  3. ^ Nuclear Holocausts: Atomic War in Fiction by Paul Brians Archived 2008-05-11 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "Frederick Peterson, 80; Was U.S. Ambassador". The New York Times. No. Oct 18, 1983, Sect. D, p. 31. AP. 18 October 1983. Retrieved 9 August 2020.

Further sourcesEdit

  • "Peterson, (Frederick) Val(demar Erastus)" in Current Biography 1949.

External linksEdit

Party political offices
Preceded by Republican nominee for Governor of Nebraska
1946, 1948, 1950
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Governor of Nebraska
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chair of the National Governors Association
Succeeded by
Preceded by Administrator of the Federal Civil Defense Administration
Succeeded by
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by United States Ambassador to Denmark
Succeeded by
Preceded by United States Ambassador to Finland
Succeeded by