Wisconsin. Governor (1943-1947: Goodland): Records, 1878-1974

Biography/History

Newspaperman, politician, lawyer, and farmer Walter Samuel Goodland was the oldest and one of the most controversial, yet beloved man ever to serve as governor of Wisconsin. Goodland was born December 22, 1862 at Sharon where his father, John Goodland (1891-1919), operated a grocery store. After his father moved to Appleton as an agent for the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad, Goodland attended the Appleton schools and Lawrence College (1880-1881). For several years thereafter he taught in rural schools near Appleton. In 1874 John Goodland began the study of law, and after his admission to the bar, Walter began to read law in his father's office. In 1886 he was admitted to the bar.

Goodland practiced law in Wakefield, Michigan, also establishing the Wakefield Bulletin in 1887 when he discovered the mining community had no newspaper. Moving to Ironwood, Michigan in 1888, he founded the Ironwood Times, and he served as its editor and publisher until 1895. In 1887 he was appointed postmaster.

In 1899 Goodland returned to Wisconsin. From 1899 to 1900 he was co-publisher of the Beloit Daily News. In 1900 he moved to Racine where he purchased an interest in the Racine Daily Times. In 1902 he became the sole owner and publisher, a position in which he continued until selling out to the Racine Journal-Times in 1932. (In 1915 the paper was renamed the Racine Times-Call).

Although originally a Democrat, Goodland held political office in Racine as a Republican beginning in 1911. From 1911 to 1915 he was mayor of Racine. In 1912 and 1928 he was a delegate to the National Republican Convention. From 1927 to 1934 he was a state senator. Among the reforms that he advocated as a member of the Legislature were the creation of a state budget director and the creation of the three-member highway commission. After retiring from public life Goodland gave his full attention to his farm near Franksville, west of Racine. Then in 1938 at age 76 Goodland returned to electoral politics when he was selected to run in the second spot on a Republican-Democratic coalition ticket that ousted Governor Philip Fox LaFollette.

As lieutenant governor, Goodland was one of the sponsors of the State Division of Departmental Research. In 1940 Goodland was reelected lieutenant governor with little campaigning, but in 1942, Republican regulars selected D.J. Kenny as their endorsed candidate for lieutenant governor. Goodland's popularity with the voters forced Kenny to withdraw his candidacy, and Goodland was renominated in the primary election for a third term as lieutenant governor. Then the voters chose Orland Loomis, a Progressive, as governor in the General Election. When Loomis died on December 7, 1942 before taking office a question arose as to the constitutionality of Lieutenant Governor Goodland's claim to the post. The state supreme court ruled in Goodland's favor, and he took office as acting governor in January 1943. He was subsequently elected to the governorship in his own right in 1944 and 1946. Goodland's victory in 1946 was achieved in spite of the Republican Party's endorsement of D.J. Kenny.

Goodland's honesty and political independence were the source of both his controversial reputation among Republican Party leaders and his popularity with voters. During his first administration he tangled with the Republican-controlled legislature over finances, lobbying, and various wartime measures. The legislature overrode seventeen of Goodland's vetoes in 24 hours, setting an all-time record of legislative defiance. Although their relationship was less strident, Goodland also differed with the 1945 legislature over gambling, state finances, and the regulation of lobbyists.

Goodland died in office on March 12, 1947. Goodland's first wife, Christina Lewis Goodland, whom he married in 1883, died in 1896; they were the parents of five children (Mary Caroline, John III, Kenneth [d. 1892], Rudyard, and Doris Goodland Roethke). In 1898 he married Annie Mary Lewis (1872-1930), the sister of his first wife; they were the parents of Claris Goodland Kimpel. His third wife was Madge Risney Goodland (1888?-1966), whom he married in 1933. She survived her husband by almost twenty years.