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Bob Lind, Published July 12 2010

Lind: Langer’s legend lives on

Last month’s Forum story about William “Bill” Langer, North Dakota’s late Republican governor and senator, brought several responses.

The story was told by Mary “Mimi” Gokey, Fargo, one of Bill and Lydia Langer’s four daughters.

Because of space limitations, a paragraph concerning the whereabouts of Mimi’s three sisters was cut.

But for the record, and in response to inquiries about them, Emma lives in Santa Fe, N.M., and Cornelia is in New York City. Lydia, named for her mother, is deceased.

Helping farmers

Now to stories about Langer when he was governor as recalled by Samuel Kautz Jr., New Leipzig, N.D.

Sam, 96, is the last living child of the 13 children of a Germans-from-Russia couple who immigrated to North Dakota. He still lives in the stone house in which he was born on his parents’ homestead.

His memory remains sharp. So one day he sat down and told his Langer stories to Kent Schluchter, Cavalier, N.D., who is married to Sam’s granddaughter Lori. Kent forwarded them to Neighbors.

They go back to the Dust Bowl days of 1936, when the crops burned up and farmers in the New Leipzig area were in serious trouble.

One hope for survival was to get work with the Works Progress Administration. So Sam’s father, Samuel Kautz Sr., and four of his friends drove to nearby Carson to sign up.

But they were told all the positions were filled.

In other words, the disappointed farmers believed, the local WPA program supervisor had given the jobs to his pals.

So the men drove to Bismarck to appeal to Gov. Langer. They were told he was busy. So they told their story to one of his aides, who in turn told Langer that five farmers from New Leipzig were there to see him.

Langer immediately called them into his office to hear their story about their problems with the WPA supervisor.

Langer looked at them, Sam says, and told them, “You boys go back to New Leipzig, but swing through Carson on your way. The supervisor will have your slips ready for you to go to work, and if he doesn’t, you tell that (and he used a term not appropriate for a family newspaper) he’ll be out of a job in the morning.”

When they got to Carson, the slips were waiting for them.

The farmers worked for the WPA for several months, building roads in the area for $40 a month. Big money at the time.


If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to 241-5487; or e-mail blind@forumcomm.com