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Curtis Eriksmoen, Published January 05 2014

Did You Know That: Lynn Frazier went from football field to political arena

Lynn Frazier was a star player and captain of the outstanding 1899 University of North Dakota football team. From 1923 to 1941, he was a U.S. senator from North Dakota and, from 1917 to 1921, served as the state’s governor.

Lynn Joseph Frazier was born Dec. 21, 1874, to Thomas and Lois (Nile) Frazier, on a farm north of Owatonna, Minn. The Fraziers soon relocated to another farm near Alexandria, Minn. In 1881, Thomas purchased a small farm in Pembina County, N.D.

In the fall of 1892, Lynn accepted the position of teacher at a rural elementary in Pembina County. He later enrolled at the Mayville Normal School and, after graduating in 1895, taught school for two more years.

In 1897, Lynn Frazier enrolled at UND, hoping to become a physician. Because of his strong build and maturity, Frazier was invited to play on the football team his sophomore year.

The highlight of the season occurred Nov. 11, when the team traveled to Minneapolis to play the University of Minnesota football team. UND lost 0 to 15, but holding the opposition to only 15 points was hailed as a “moral victory.”

In 1899, Frazier was chosen to be captain of the team. UND won all six games, outscoring their opponents at a ratio of nearly 36 to 1.

In 1900, Frazier was again named captain. In 1901, he was co-captain. During those two years, UND had respectable teams, but did not dominate.

Frazier worked his way through college, graduating with honors from UND in 1902 and returned to his farm, planning to operate it full time.

Frazier lived the life of a successful agrarian during the next few years, but rural unrest began to grow throughout much of the state. Many farmers believed that they were being exploited by big-money interests out east, primarily the railroads and grain dealers. To counter this, a movement began to obtain a state-owned terminal elevator.

In 1915, when members of the state legislature announced that they were introducing a bill for the creation of a state mill and elevator, Gov. Louis B. Hanna declared that he was against it and “successfully encouraged the legislature to vote against a bill calling for its authorization.”

As a result, farmers revolted, and 500 of them marched on Bismarck. This movement quickly gained the support of many people, and by the end of the legislative session on March 5, 1915, more than 30,000 farmers had joined the group, the NPL, which became an active and powerful force in North Dakota politics.

According to Elwyn Robinson’s book “The History of North Dakota,” the goal of the NPL leadership was to “enter the Republican primary (in 1916), gain control of the state government and enact its program.” Frazier was suggested for the NPL’s gubernatorial candidate.

At the Republican primary on June 20, 1916, Frazier received 39,246 votes, Usher Burdick received 23,862 votes, and John Fraine received 9,780 votes. In the general election, Frazier won in a landslide, garnering 79 percent of the votes cast.

For a man who had never previously run for political office, Lynn Frazier would spend the next quarter of a century in the political limelight.

(We will continue the story about Lynn Frazier next week.)


“Did You Know That” is written by Curt Eriksmoen and edited by Jan Eriksmoen of Fargo. Send your suggestions for columns, comments or corrections to the Eriksmoens at cjeriksmoen@cableone.net.