Dakota Datebook

Guy Gets Out

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


North Dakota Governor William Lewis Guy left office on this date in 1973, nearly twelve years after he first began his tenure in 1961. Serving two two-year terms and two four-year terms, Guy remains the state’s longest-serving governor.

When Guy won the 1960 and 1962 elections, North Dakota was still employing two-year terms for the governorship and most state offices. In 1964, however, the state’s voters passed a measure known as North Dakota Issue 5, changing the length of terms served by most state officials, including the governor, to four years. Governor Guy went on to serve an additional eight years after the measure took effect, leaving office on January 2, 1973. Surprisingly, he could have served even longer, since the state has never imposed term limits on the office of governor.

Although certainly lengthy, Guy’s governorship is remembered more for the amount of progress made during his time in office. It was Guy who proposed the creation of the North Dakota Heritage Center at Bismarck, and he worked to secure funding for its construction. He helped to establish eight regional mental health districts, reducing the patient load at the State Hospital by over 75%, and he also created the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award, North Dakota’s highest honor. He brought a number of industries to the state, including sugar beet refineries and large-scale coal-fired power plants. During his tenure, the state’s Interstate highway system, Minuteman missile sites, the anti-ballistic missiles site, and the Garrison Diversion Project were all completed. He also organized the five-state Old West Trail Tourist Loop working with the Midwest Governors’ Conference. President Lyndon Johnson also selected Guy to help observe the first presidential elections in South Vietnam in 1961.

Today, Governor Guy continues to set lengthy records; “at 93, he is the oldest of the six living current or previous governors…” of the state.


Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job









This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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