Former Minnesota Governor Al Quie dies at age 99

Norway House says goodbye to a beloved supporter and friend

Quie

Photo: Mason Hendrickson / Norway House
Former Gov. Al Quie proudly stands in front of the Albert H. Quie Center at Norway House in 2017.

Lori Ann Reiinhall
Editor-in-chief
The Norwegian American

Former Minnesota Gov. Albert Harold Quie died on Aug. 18, 2023, at his home in Wayzata, Minn., one month before his 100th birthday. Gov. Quie was a longtime supporter, patron, and friend of Norway House, the National Norwegian Center in America, in Minneapolis. So important was his contribution there that in 2017, Norway House’s education center was named for him.

Christina Carleton, executive director of Norway House, said of Quie’s passing: “Gov. Quie has been an honored and beloved partner to Norway House since its beginnings. His Norwegian heritage was important to him, and we were fortunate to have him championing our growth and celebrating our connections with our Ventura Village neighborhood and Norwegians across the Midwest. We join the community, the state, and the nation in our sadness at his passing. He will forever be a part of Norway House and we will carry forward his legacy of humble leadership and integrity.”

Norwegian immigrant roots

Quie was born on Sept. 18, 1923, on his family’s dairy farm in Wheeling Township near Dennison in Rice County in southeastern Minnesota. Later on, the post office in Dennison was named in his honor.

He was the third of four children. Three of his grandparents were Norwegian immigrants who came to Minnesota to find a better life. His grandfather fought as a Union soldier in the Civil War. Upon returning to Minnesota after the war, he purchased the family farm. Growing up there, Quie learned to ride horses and milk cows. Like his great-grandfather, grandfather, and his father, Quie became a dairy farmer.

In 1942, he graduated from Northfield High School in Northfield, Minn. He served in the United States Navy during World War II as a fighter pilot. He finished flight school just as the war ended and never saw active combat. Following his military service, he graduated from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., in 1950, with a bachelor’s degree in political science. It was during this time that he met his future wife, Gretchen Hansen, an artist, painter, potter, writer, and advocate for the arts.

Strong beliefs and values

Quie was a devout Lutheran, and throughout his entire life, he maintained a humble faith that informed his actions, both in the private and public spheres. With politics in his blood, he chose to devote his life to public service. Quie’s grandfather had joined the newly founded Republican Party and supported Abraham Lincoln for president in the 1860 United States presidential election. With time, Quie also joined the Republican Party. Throughout his political career, he was viewed as moderate, always willing to work across the aisle to achieve the common good.

Quie

Photo: Amy Coppersmith
It was a happy day when Al Quie celebrated the groundbreaking for the Norway House expansion in 2021. Pictured left to right: the Rev. Joel Quie, Al Quie, Brad Bakken, Mary Bakken, and Kathi Tunheim.

Political career

Quie made his first bid to enter politics when he ran as a write-in candidate to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 1952. He lost this bid but was later elected to the Minnesota State Senate, serving from 1955 to 1958, representing the old 18th District, which encompassed Rice County.

In 1958, Quie was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in a special election to fill the vacancy caused by the death of August Andresen. He was reelected to the 10 succeeding Congresses. During his tenure, he was the ranking minority member of the House Education and Labor Committee. Quie voted in favor of the Civil Rights Acts of 1960, 1964, and 1968, as well as the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibited states from requiring payment of a poll tax as a condition for voting in federal elections, and he supported the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In 1974, after Gerald Ford became president upon the resignation of Richard Nixon, Quie was briefly considered for vice president of the United States. The position was eventually taken by Nelson Rockefeller.

Quie successfully ran for governor of Minnesota in 1978. During his term, Gov. Quie tried to continue the service to children and education that he began in the U.S. Congress. During his single term, he grappled with a budget crisis, and he opted not to run again in 1982.

After leaving politics, Quie sold the family farm and traveled extensively. He continued on his path of public service as he  became involved with a nonprofit prison ministry.

The Albert H. Quie Center legacy

The former governor of Minnesota took immense pride in his Norwegian heritage, and it was a high point for him when, on Sept. 29, 2017, the new education center at Norway House, the Albert H. Quie Center, was dedicated in his name. It was the first building in the Twin Cities to be named for him.

“Oh no, why in the world would they do that?” the humble Quie said after the ceremony. “So many other people did so much.”

But others present at the occasion didn’t hesitate to recognize his accomplishments.

“He could see the big picture in terms of honoring the past but looking toward the future,” said Rebecca Sundquist Jorgenson, director of development at Norway House. It is the same vision that lies at the core of Norway House’s philosophy and mission.

Quie had long supported Norway House. Among other accomplishments, he helped secure a $5 million state appropriation from the Minnesota Legislature to expand it. It was a happy day for him, when Norway House broke ground for this expansion on Sept. 17, 2021 and then again on Oct. 15, 2022, when the grand opening of the expanded Norway House took place in the  presence of Queen Sonja of Norway.

Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota, who attended Quie’s 99th birthday celebration, perhaps sums up this great Norwegian American best: “A veteran, a man of faith, and a life-long public servant, Governor Quie had a deep commitment to the betterment of our state and a legacy that extends beyond his time in office.”

Without a doubt, Quie’s legacy will be a lasting one, as he is missed by his many friends and colleagues at Norway House, throughout the state of Minnesota, and beyond.

This article originally appeared in the September 2023 issue of The Norwegian American.

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Lori Ann Reinhall

Lori Ann Reinhall, editor-in-chief of The Norwegian American, is a multilingual journalist and cultural ambassador based in Seattle. She is the president of the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association, and she serves on the boards of several Nordic organizations.