13th Governor of South Dakota
Years in Office: 1931 – 1933
Birth: March 10, 1869, Jackson County, Wisconsin
Death: April 27, 1945, Watertown, South Dakota
Governor Warren E. Green was South Dakota’s thirteenth governor, serving from 1931 to 1933.
Green was born on March 10, 1869 on his family’s farm in Jackson County, Wisconsin. He came to South Dakota with his family as a twelve-year-old, eventually settling in Hamlin County, and graduated from Watertown High School. He married fellow Hamlin County native Elizabeth Parliament in 1899, and the couple had four children: Maxwell, George, Mildred and Edson.
Green operated a farm near Hazel in Hamlin County. He served on the local school board, and served one term in the State Senate from 1907-09. After serving on the Board of Charities and Corrections, he returned to the State Senate from 1923-27.
Green ran a long-shot campaign for governor in 1930. In the five-candidate Republican primary, Green finished in last place with 7% of the vote, as Secretary of State Gladys Pyle, the first woman to seek a major party’s nomination for governor, finished in first place with 28%.
However, because no candidate won 35% of the vote, the State Republican Convention decided the Republican nomination. After several deadlocked votes, the delegates nominated Green as a compromise on the 12th ballot, and he won a close election victory in November. At 61 years of age, Green was the oldest newly-elected governor in state history.
Green took office amidst falling personal incomes, bank failures and farm foreclosures as the Great Depression exacerbated a farm crisis caused by low commodity prices, a grasshopper plague, drought, and an exceptionally difficult winter.
Governor Green imposed deep budget cuts and resisted proposals for direct aid to farmers, in favor of state-backed loan programs. He also initiated a program to sell state-owned farmland back to private farmers, and supported the Farm Holiday movement to urge better commodity prices.
Governor Green withstood a primary challenge from former governor Carl Gunderson in 1932, but lost reelection to Democrat Tom Berry amidst the 1932 Democratic landslide that elected Franklin D. Roosevelt as President. He returned to his Hamlin County farm, where he died in 1945.
Green was honored in 2016 by the Trail of Governors with a life-size bronze statue by sculptors Lee Leuning and Sherri Treeby. The statue, placed on the State Capitol grounds near the intersection of Nicollet Avenue and Broadway Avenue, evokes the “Dirty Thirties” era, with several grasshoppers placed on the statue and Green clutching his hat as his jacket and tie are blowing in a strong wind.
written by Tony Venhuizen
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