Rudy Perpich

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Rudy Perpich

Rudolph George “Rudy” Perpich (June 27, 1928September 21, 1995) was an American dentist and politician. A member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, he served as the 34th and 36th governor of Minnesota from 29 December, 1976 to January 4, 1979 and January 3, 1983 to January 7, 1991. This was the longest tenure among the state's governors. He was also the state's only Roman Catholic governor and the only one to serve non-consecutive terms.


Early life and education

Perpich was born in Kelly Lake, Minnesota (now part of Hibbing, Minnesota). His father, Anton Prpić, was a miner who had immigrated from Croatia to the Mesabi Iron Range of Minnesota, and his mother was an American of Croatian descent. Perpich did not learn to speak English until at least first grade of elementary school. In 1946, he graduated from Hibbing High School (where he was inaugurated as governor in 1983) and went on to serve in the Army for two years. After Army service, Perpich attended Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and graduated from the Marquette University Dental School in 1954. He returned to Hibbing to practice dentistry.

Entry into politics

He first entered into politics by serving on the Hibbing school board in 1955 and 1956, which instituted a policy to provide equal pay to both male and female workers. Six years later in 1962, Perpich was elected to the Minnesota Senate. He was re-elected in 1966. In 1970, he was elected lieutenant governor. In 1974, he was re-elected, this time on a ticket with Gov. Wendell Anderson. (Prior to 1974, the governor and lieutenant governor were elected separately.) Perpich became governor when Anderson resigned in 1976 to take the United States Senate seat vacated by Walter Mondale, who had been elected US vice president.

Later career

Nearly the entire DFL Party ticket was defeated in 1978, including Perpich and the candidates for both US Senate seats. Anderson's arranging for his own appointment to the Senate and Perpich's role in it were factors in their defeats. Perpich worked at Control Data Corporation in New York and Austria until winning back the governor's office in the 1982 election cycle by challenging the DFL Party's endorsed candidate and then winning the primary election. Perpich was re-elected in 1986, but lost the gubernatorial general election to Arne Carlson in 1990 in a bizarre election that had Carlson replace the Independent-Republican Party's candidate Jon Grunseth (who had beaten him in the primary election) after the candidate was forced to withdraw in a sex scandal.

Perpich was known for his unorthdox behavior, such as stopping speeders on the freeway and returning to the ghost town where he was born to commune with his ancestors. At one point in his gubernatorial term, he donated his $25,000 pay raise to help promote bocce-ball.

His legacy of projects in Minnesota include the Minnesota World Trade Center in St. Paul, the Perpich Center for Arts Education and the Center for Victims of Torture, both in Golden Valley, and the Mall of America in Bloomington. Additionally, Perpich worked to promote Minnesota on the international stage by traveling to 17 countries in 1984, and bringing the foreign leaders Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union and Dr. Franjo Tuđman of Croatia to the state in 1990.

Post-political life

After leaving office in 1991 he went to Zagreb, Croatia to assist in the post-communist government. He moved to Paris, France for a business consulting position in 1992, but returned to Minnesota in 1993. After a battle with colon cancer, Perpich died in the Minneapolis suburb of Minnetonka. He is buried at Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis.

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offical state portrait with wife Lola


Preceded by:
Wendell Anderson
Governor of Minnesota
1976 – 1979
Succeeded by:
Al Quie
Preceded by:
Al Quie
Governor of Minnesota
1983 – 1991
Succeeded by:
Arne Carlson

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