Gaylord Nelson

Gaylord Anton Nelson (June 4, 1916 – July 3, 2005) was an American politician and environmentalist from Wisconsin who served as a United States Senator and governor. A Democrat, he was the founder of Earth Day, which launched a new wave of environmental activism.

Gaylord Nelson
United States Senator
from Wisconsin
In office
January 4, 1963 – January 3, 1981
Preceded byAlexander Wiley
Succeeded byBob Kasten
35th Governor of Wisconsin
In office
January 4, 1959 – January 4, 1963
LieutenantPhilleo Nash
Warren P. Knowles
Preceded byVernon Wallace Thomson
Succeeded byJohn Reynolds
Member of the Wisconsin State Senate
In office
Personal details
Gaylord Anton Nelson

June 4, 1916
Clear Lake, Wisconsin, U.S.
DiedJuly 3, 2005 (aged 89)
Kensington, Maryland, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Carrie Dotson
EducationSan Jose State University (BA)
University of Wisconsin–Madison (LLB)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
Battles/warsWorld War II


Early life

Nelson was born in 1916 in Clear Lake, Wisconsin, where he grew up and was educated in the public schools. In 1939, he received a bachelor's in political science at what is now San Jose State University in San Jose, California.[1] In 1942, he received an LL.B. degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School in Madison[2][3] and was admitted to the bar. He practiced as a lawyer before serving in the United States Army, during which time he saw action in the Okinawa campaign during World War II.

Political career

In 1948, Nelson was elected to the Wisconsin State Senate. He remained there until 1958, when he was elected governor of Wisconsin. He served for four years as governor, in two two-year terms, before being elected to the Senate in 1962. He served three consecutive terms as a senator from 1963 to 1981. In 1963 he convinced President John F. Kennedy to take a national speaking tour to discuss conservation issues. Senator Nelson founded Earth Day, which began as a teach-in about environmental issues on April 22, 1970.[4]

During his 1968 re-election campaign, Nelson was praised by Vince Lombardi, the General Manager and former coach of the Green Bay Packers, as the "nation's #1 conservationist" at a banquet in Oshkosh. Nelson's campaign turned Lombardi's banquet speech into a radio and television campaign commercial, infuriating Lombardi, the Wisconsin Republican Party, and Vince's wife, Marie, who was a staunch Republican.[5]

Although known primarily for his environmental work, Nelson also was a leading consumer advocate, strong supporter of civil rights and civil liberties, and one of the early outspoken opponents of the Vietnam war.[6]

In 1970, Nelson called for Congressional hearings on the safety of combined oral contraceptive pills, which were famously called "The Nelson Pill Hearings." As a result of the hearings, side-effect disclosure in patient inserts was required for the pill – the first such disclosure for a pharmaceutical drug.[7]

Nelson was also a noted advocate of small business. While chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee, he led successful efforts to authorize the first modern White House Conference on Small Business, create the system of Small Business Development Centers at U.S. universities, and improve the way that federal agencies regulate small businesses and other small entities, the Regulatory Flexibility Act.[6][8]

In 1973, Nelson was one of the three senators who opposed the nomination of Gerald Ford to be Vice President. (The other two were Thomas Eagleton and William Hathaway.)

Life after politics

After Nelson's 1980 defeat for re-election, he became counselor for The Wilderness Society in January 1981. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in September 1995 in recognition of his environmental work.

Nelson viewed the stabilization of the nation's population as an important aspect of environmentalism. In his words:

The bigger the population gets, the more serious the problems become ... We have to address the population issue. The United Nations, with the U.S. supporting it, took the position in Cairo in 1994 that every country was responsible for stabilizing its own population. It can be done. But in this country, it's phony to say "I'm for the environment but not for limiting immigration."[9]

He also rejected the suggestion that economic development should take precedence over environmental protection:

The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, not the other way around.[10]

In 2002, Nelson appeared on To Tell the Truth as a contestant, with his founding of Earth Day highlighted.

Fraternity membership

Nelson was an initiated member of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity, having been initiated in 1972 during a trip to LaGrange, Georgia, to promote the second annual Earth Day.[11]

Death and legacy

Nelson died of cardiovascular failure at age 89 on July 3, 2005.

The Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies (or Nelson Institute) at the University of Wisconsin–Madison is named after him in recognition of his love for nature.[12] In addition, the Gaylord Nelson Wilderness in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore -– comprising more than 80% of the land area of the park –- was named after him in honor of his efforts to have the park created.[13][14] Governor Nelson State Park near Waunakee, Wisconsin, is also named after him. An elementary school in Clear Lake, Wisconsin is named Gaylord A. Nelson Educational Center.


  1. ^ "SJSU Distinguished Alumni". Retrieved 2014. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  2. ^ University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Alumni Park opening date, first featured grads announced". May 10, 2017.
  3. ^ The Wilderness Society. Earth Day Founder Gaylord Nelson to Receive Medal of Freedom
  4. ^ Seely, Ron (July 4, 2005). "A Wisconsin giant; Founding Earth Day one of many achievements of the former governor and senator Gaylord Nelson: 1916-2005". Wisconsin State Journal. Archived from the original on July 31, 2005. Retrieved April 23, 2015.
  5. ^ Maraniss, David (1999). When Pride Still Mattered. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-87290-0.
  6. ^ a b Aukofer, Frank A. "Gaylord Nelson: Earth Day founder was a voice crying out for the wilderness". Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Archived from the original on January 31, 2006. Retrieved April 23, 2015.
  7. ^ Seaman, Barbara (July 2005). "A Planetary Loss. Senator Nelson had more than one string to his bow". Healthy Skepticism. Retrieved 2007-03-11.
  8. ^ Verkuil, Paul A. (April 1982). "A critical guide to the Regulatory Flexibility Act". Duke Law Journal. 31 (2): 227.
  9. ^ "Earth Day founder sees some progress". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 2001-04-22. Archived from the original on 2001-06-03. Retrieved 2007-03-11.
  10. ^ Nelson, Gaylord (November 2002). Beyond Earth Day: Fulfilling the Promise. Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-18040-9.
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-05-01. Retrieved 2010-04-22.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ "The Nelson Legacy". The Nelson Institute. Retrieved September 30, 2016.
  13. ^ "Gaylord Nelson | The Wilderness Society". 2008-10-22. Retrieved 2010-03-20.
  14. ^ "Apostle Islands National Lakeshore – Gaylord Nelson Wilderness". U.S. National Park Service. Retrieved 2010-03-20.

Further reading

External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
William Proxmire
Democratic nominee for Governor of Wisconsin
1958, 1960
Succeeded by
John Reynolds
Preceded by
Henry Maier
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Wisconsin
(Class 3)

1962, 1968, 1974, 1980
Succeeded by
Ed Garvey
Political offices
Preceded by
Vernon Wallace Thomson
Governor of Wisconsin
Succeeded by
John Reynolds
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Alexander Wiley
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Wisconsin
Served alongside: William Proxmire
Succeeded by
Bob Kasten
Preceded by
Alan Bible
Chair of the Senate Small Business Committee
Succeeded by
Lowell P. Weicker Jr.
1960 Wisconsin gubernatorial election

The 1960 gubernatorial election in Wisconsin was held on November 8, 1960. Democrat Gaylord Nelson won the election with 51.5% of the vote, retaining his position as Governor of Wisconsin.

1968 United States Senate election in Wisconsin

In the United States Senate election in Wisconsin in 1968, incumbent Democrat Gaylord A. Nelson defeated Republican Jerris Leonard

1972 Democratic Party vice presidential candidate selection

This article lists those who were potential candidates for the Democratic nomination for Vice President of the United States in the 1972 election. Coming into the 1972 Democratic National Convention, South Dakota Senator George McGovern had the delegate lead, but did not have the presidential nomination locked up. After winning the Democratic nomination for president on July 13, McGovern looked for a running mate. McGovern's first choice for vice president was Ted Kennedy, but Kennedy refused to join the ticket; Minnesota Senator Walter Mondale, Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, and Connecticut Senator Abraham A. Ribicoff also declined. McGovern offered the position to Missouri Senator Thomas Eagleton, who appealed to labor groups and Catholics, two groups that McGovern had alienated during the primary campaign. The ticket of McGovern and Eagleton was nominated by the 1972 Democratic National Convention. Following the convention, it was revealed that Eagleton had received treatment for depression. Though McGovern considered keeping Eagleton on the ticket, he ultimately chose to replace Eagleton with former Ambassador Sargent Shriver. The McGovern-Shriver ticket lost the presidential election to the Nixon-Agnew ticket. After the controversy surrounding Eagleton, future campaigns spent much more time vetting vice presidential candidates.

1974 United States Senate election in Wisconsin

The 1974 United States Senate election in Wisconsin was held on November 5, 1974. Incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson won re-election to a third term.

1980 United States Senate election in Wisconsin

The 1980 United States Senate election in Wisconsin was held on November 4, 1980. Incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson ran for re-election to a fourth term, but was defeated by Bob Kasten, a Republican.

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is a U.S. national lakeshore consisting of 21 islands (Apostle Islands) and shoreline encompassing 69,372 acres (28,074 ha) on the northern tip of Wisconsin on the shore of Lake Superior.

It is known for its collection of historic lighthouses, sandstone sea caves, a few old-growth remnant forests, and natural animal habitats. It is featured on the America the Beautiful Quarters series.

Clayton Fritchey

Clayton Fritchey (June 30, 1904 — January 23, 2001) was an American journalist who spent many years in public service.

Clayton Fritchey was born in 1904 in Bellefontaine, Ohio. At the age of 2 he moved to Baltimore. His reporting career began at age 19 and by age 21 he had become the managing editor of The Baltimore Post. In later years he was a nationally syndicated columnist. The New York Times in their obituary for Fritchey noted the exciting stories he wrote for the Cleveland Press, detailing the exploits of Eliot Ness, who was brought into Cleveland as its public safety director to help clean up corruption in the police department.

During his time in New Orleans as editor of the New Orleans Item, he defended an editorial that stated "Louisiana legislators 'have about as much independence as trained seals'". The Louisiana legislature convened a committee to investigate if they had been "disrespected" by Mr. Fritchey.

He was editor of the New Orleans Item when George C. Marshall asked him to become the Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs in 1950. He served as Assistant to the Secretary of Defense and Director of the Office of Public Information, Dept. of Defense, 1950–52; Assistant to the President of the United States, 1952 (President Harry Truman); and Deputy Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, 1953-57. During that time Fritchey was also the chief editor for The Democratic Digest, the monthly publication of the Democratic National Committee along with managing editor Sam Brightman and senior editor Philip M. Stern.

Fritchey served as presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson's press secretary in the 1952 and 1956. Stevenson later called upon Fritchey to serve at the United Nations as director of public affairs for the United States Mission to the United Nations. He served at that post from 1961 until Stevenson died in 1965.

Fritchey made the master list of Nixon political opponents.

Clayton Fritchey was active in the circles of Washington's power and politics. The New York Times noted in 1981 that he introduced Jimmy Carter in 1976 to the Washington political intellectuals at his home at an event that had many in that circle attending including Sol Linowitz and Senator Gaylord Nelson.

The Times also noted that Jimmy Carter did not build on these contacts.

Comprehensive Employment and Training Act

The Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA, Pub.L. 93–203) was a United States federal law enacted by the Congress, and signed into law by President Richard Nixon December 28, 1973 to train workers and provide them with jobs in the public service. The bill was introduced as S. 1559, the Job Training and Community Services Act, by Senator Gaylord Nelson (Democrat of Wisconsin) and co-sponsored by Senator Jacob Javits (Republican of New York).

CETA funds were administered in a decentralized fashion by state and local governments, on the assumption that they could best determine local needs.The program offered work to those with low incomes and the long term unemployed as well as summer jobs to low income high school students. Full-time jobs were provided for a period of 12 to 24 months in public agencies or private not for profit organizations. The intent was to impart a marketable skill that would allow participants to move to an unsubsidized job. It was an extension of the Works Progress Administration program from the 1930s.

Inspired by the WPA's employment of artists in the service to the community in the 1930s, the San Francisco Arts Commission initiated the CETA/Neighborhood Arts Program in the 1970s, which employed painters, muralists, musicians, performing artists, poets and gardeners to work in schools, community centers, prisons and wherever their skills and services were of value to the community. The idea for CETA/Neighborhood Arts Program came from John Kreidler, then working with the Arts Commission as an intern, with the Arts Commission's Neighborhood Arts Program under the direction of Stephen Goldstine. The program was so successful in San Francisco that it became a model for similar programs, nationally. The Cultural Council Foundation Artists Project in New York City was one of the largest.

Nine years later, CETA was replaced by the Job Training Partnership Act.

Earth Day

Earth Day is an annual event celebrated on April 22. Worldwide, various events are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day now includes events in more than 193 countries, which are now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network.On Earth Day 2016, the landmark Paris Agreement was signed by the United States, China, and some 120 other countries. This signing satisfied a key requirement for the entry into force of the historic draft climate protection treaty adopted by consensus of the 195 nations present at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.

In 1969 at a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, peace activist John McConnell proposed a day to honor the Earth and the concept of peace, to first be celebrated on March 21, 1970, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. This day of nature's equipoise was later sanctioned in a proclamation written by McConnell and signed by Secretary General U Thant at the United Nations. A month later a separate Earth Day was founded by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in first held on April 22, 1970. Nelson was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom award in recognition of his work. While this April 22 Earth Day was focused on the United States, an organization launched by Denis Hayes, who was the original national coordinator in 1970, took it international in 1990 and organized events in 141 nations.Numerous communities celebrate Earth Week, an entire week of activities focused on the environmental issues that the world faces. In 2017, the March for Science occurred on Earth Day (April 22, 2017) and was followed by the People's Climate Mobilization (April 29, 2017).


An environmentalist is a supporter of the goals of the environmental movement, "a political and ethical movement that seeks to improve and protect the quality of the natural environment through changes to environmentally harmful human activities". An environmentalist is engaged in or believes in the philosophy of environmentalism.

Environmentalists are sometimes referred to using informal or derogatory terms such as "greenie" and "tree-hugger".

Gaylord Nelson Wilderness

The Gaylord Nelson Wilderness is a 35,000-acre (142 km2) wilderness area located within Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, off the Bayfield Peninsula of northern Wisconsin. Of the twenty-two Apostle Islands, the wilderness area fully or partially covers eighteen.

Administered by the National Park Service, this wilderness area is the largest in Wisconsin. It was established in 2004 to preserve the current management practices of the national lakeshore, namely the prohibition of motorized travel on the wilderness islands. It is named for Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator and governor of Wisconsin, who was instrumental in establishing the National Trails System, the Wilderness Act, and Earth Day.Previously used for logging, farming, and mining during the early 20th century, the islands are returning to a primitive state; evidence of human habitation is still present, albeit mostly obscured by the regenerating forests. The islands' coastlines possess varied geology, where precambrian sandstone has eroded into sea caves, and the resulting sand has formed sandspits, cuspate forelands, tombolos, barrier spits, and beaches.

Ecologically, the islands contain some old growth, but primarily secondary Northern hardwood forest. There are elements of the oak, hickory, and hemlock hardwood forests of the eastern United States, but also features of the Boreal forest typical of Ontario. Larger wildlife on the islands and surrounding area include whitetail deer, black bear, red fox, and coyote. Smaller mammals such as squirrels, beaver, otter, snowshoe hare, and voles are also present. Avian species in the wilderness include waterfowl, ruffed grouse, and woodcock.

The Gaylord Nelson wilderness area provides opportunities for camping, hiking, sailing, kayaking, birdwatching, and fishing.

Governor Nelson State Park

Governor Nelson State Park is a 422-acre (171 ha) Wisconsin state park in Waunakee, Dane County, Wisconsin on the shore of Lake Mendota. It is named for former Wisconsin Governor Gaylord Nelson. On most days the Wisconsin State Capitol building can be seen in nearby Madison. Common activities include boating, fishing, picnicking and swimming. There is also a boat launch and a swimming area for pets. Away from the lake one can find restored prairie and savanna, effigy mounds, hiking trails and ski trails. Governor Nelson State Park is one of the few Wisconsin state parks that does not allow overnight camping.

Point Beach State Forest

Point Beach State Forest is a 2,903-acre (1,175 ha) Wisconsin state forest near Two Rivers, Wisconsin in Manitowoc County. The forest is located along 6 miles (9.7 km) of the Lake Michigan coast. Point Beach State Forest was established in 1938. The Point Beach Ridges, a National Natural Landmark, are located within the forest.

Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act

The Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act (PRMPA) of 1974 (Pub.L. 93–526, 88 Stat. 1695, enacted December 19, 1974, codified at 44 U.S.C. § 2111, note) is an act of Congress enacted in the wake of the August 1974 resignation of President Richard M. Nixon. It placed Nixon's presidential records into federal custody to prevent their destruction. The legislative action was intended to reduce secrecy, while allowing historians to fulfill their responsibilities.

Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway

The Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway is a federally protected system of riverways located in eastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin. It protects 252 miles (406 km) of river, including the St. Croix River (on the Wisconsin/Minnesota border), and the Namekagon River (in Wisconsin), as well as adjacent land along the rivers. The St. Croix National Scenic Riverway is one of the original eight National Wild and Scenic Rivers, largely as a result of legislation by senators Walter Mondale of Minnesota and Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin. The largest scenic riverway east of the Mississippi River, it lies within parts of eight counties in Wisconsin: Bayfield, Burnett, Douglas, Pierce, Polk, St. Croix, Sawyer, and Washburn; and three in Minnesota: Chisago, Pine, and Washington.

Tia Nelson

Tia Lee Nelson (born 1956) is an American academic, environmental activist, and politician from the state of Wisconsin. A Democrat, she served as Executive Secretary of the Wisconsin Board of Commissioners of Public Lands. Nelson is the daughter of former United States Senator and governor Gaylord Nelson.

USS Manitowoc (LST-1180)

USS Manitowoc (LST 1180) was the second ship of the Newport class LST in the United States Navy. LST 1180 was laid down at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 27 February 1967; named Manitowoc (after the county in Wisconsin) on 21 March 1967; launched 4 January 1969 and sponsored by Mrs. Gaylord Nelson, wife of the U.S. senator from Wisconsin; and commissioned 24 January 1970.

"Manitowoc" is Anishinaabe for "Home of the Great Spirit."

Manitowoc conducted two deployments off Vietnam in 1971 and 1972. She carried troops to Lebanon in 1982 and 1983 during U.S. participation in the Beirut Multinational Peacekeeping Force, and participated in the Operation Urgent Fury in October-November 1983. While off the coast of Beirut in 1983, comedian Bob Hope and other celebrities visited the ship as part of Hope's first USO tour since the Vietnam War. The show was broadcast on TV on Jan. 15, 1984 as "Bob Hope's USO Christmas in Beirut." It was nominated for a primetime Emmy award.

Manitowoc participated in the Persian Gulf War before decommissioning on 30 June 1993. The ship was transferred to the Republic of China through the Security Assistance Program on 29 September 2000.

Vernon Wallace Thomson

Vernon Wallace Thomson (November 5, 1905 – April 2, 1988) was the 34th Governor of Wisconsin from 1957 to 1959.

William Denevan

William Maxfield Denevan (16 October 1931, San Diego) is professor emeritus of Geography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a prominent member of the Berkeley School of Latin Americanist Geography. He also worked in the Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the same university. His interests are in historical ecology and indigenous demography of the Western Hemisphere.

He earned his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in Geography at the University of California at Berkeley. Motivated by the German guest professor Herbert Wilhelmy, his dissertation (1963) was on "The Aboriginal Settlement of the Llanos de Mojos: A Seasonally Inundated Savanna in Northeastern Bolivia," which he edited into a book in 1966. In 1963 he became Assistant Professor at Wisconsin, where he remained throughout his career, serving as chair of the department from 1980–1983, and becoming the Carl O. Sauer Professor of Geography in 1987. In 1977, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2001, he became a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In his book The Native Population of the Americas in 1492 (1976), he provided an influential estimate of the Pre-Columbian population of the Americas, which he placed at 57.3 million, plus or minus 25 percent. The second edition (1992), after reviewing more recent literature, he revised his estimate to 54 million.His research often deals with how native peoples of the Americas changed their landscape. This is in contrast to what he calls "the pristine myth," the idea that these people had minimal impact on the environment.

Territory (1836–48)
State (since 1848)
Class 1
Class 3
Select Committee
Full Committee
Wisconsin's delegation(s) to the 88th–96th United States Congresses (ordered by seniority)
88th Senate: W. Proxmire • G. Nelson House: A. O'KonskiJ. ByrnesC. ZablockiW. Van PeltM. LairdL. JohnsonH. ReussR. KastenmeierH. SchadebergV. Thomson
89th Senate: W. Proxmire • G. Nelson House: A. O'KonskiJ. ByrnesC. ZablockiM. LairdH. ReussR. KastenmeierV. ThomsonG. DavisJ. RaceL. Stalbaum
90th Senate: W. Proxmire • G. Nelson House: A. O'KonskiJ. ByrnesC. ZablockiM. LairdH. ReussR. KastenmeierV. ThomsonG. DavisH. SchadebergW. Steiger
91st Senate: W. Proxmire • G. Nelson House: A. O'KonskiJ. ByrnesC. ZablockiM. LairdH. ReussR. KastenmeierV. ThomsonG. DavisH. SchadebergW. SteigerD. Obey

Note: Melvin Laird resigned on January 21, 1969. Dave Obey was elected on April 1, 1969.

92nd Senate: W. Proxmire • G. Nelson House: A. O'KonskiJ. ByrnesC. ZablockiH. ReussR. KastenmeierV. ThomsonG. DavisW. SteigerD. ObeyL. Aspin
93rd Senate: W. Proxmire • G. Nelson House: C. ZablockiH. ReussR. KastenmeierV. ThomsonG. DavisW. SteigerD. ObeyL. AspinH. Froehlich
94th Senate: W. Proxmire • G. Nelson House: C. ZablockiH. ReussR. KastenmeierW. SteigerD. ObeyL. AspinA. BaldusR. CornellB. Kasten
95th Senate: W. Proxmire • G. Nelson House: C. ZablockiH. ReussR. KastenmeierW. SteigerD. ObeyL. AspinA. BaldusR. CornellB. Kasten
96th Senate: W. Proxmire • G. Nelson House: C. ZablockiH. ReussR. KastenmeierD. ObeyL. AspinA. BaldusT. RothJ. SensenbrennerT. Petri

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