Lemke, William Frederick

   Born in Albany, Minnesota, William Lemke moved with his family to North Dakota and studied at the University of North Dakota, Georgetown University, and Yale University. After gaining his law degree in 1905, he set up practice in Fargo, North Dakota, and also published the monthly The Common Good. Associated with farmers and farmers’ movements, Lemke became attorney for the Nonpartisan League in 1916.
   The league captured control of the state’s Republican Party, and Lemke became party chairman. In 1920, he was elected state attorney general. However, he was defeated in a recall election in 1921. He retired to his law practice for the remainder of the decade.
   In 1932, Lemke was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he sponsored legislation to ease bankruptcy proceedings against farmers and a proposal for the federal government to assist farmers in paying off their mortgages. When Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration opposed this last measure, Lemke turned against the New Deal and joined Charles Coughlin, Francis Townsend, and Gerald K. Smith in the National Union. He was nominated as the union’s presidential candidate in 1936 but secured less than 2 percent of the national vote. He failed to win election to the U.S. Senate in 1940 but remained in Congress as a representative from 1942 until his death.

Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . . 2015.

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