Albert Quie, former Minnesota governor and congressman is now the oldest living former governor of any U. S. state as well as the oldest living former member of the Unites States House of Representatives.
Albert Harold Quie was born on the family farm near Dennison on September 18, 1923. The farm had been in the family of Norwegian immigrants since his soldier grandfather purchased the property after returning from the Civil War. Al grew up on the dairy farm and learned to ride horse there, a love that stayed with him all his life. For many years the Al Quie Trail Ride was a multi-day equestrian adventure enjoyed by many horse lovers in southeast Minnesota.
Al joined the United States Navy and served as a fighter pilot in active combat during World War Two. Albert Quie married Gretchen in 1948, a union which lasted until she passed away in 2015. After the war he enrolled in St. Olaf College in Northfield where he graduated with a political science degree in 1950. He first followed in the family business as a dairy farmer. Quie embarked on his political career with winning his first election to the Minnesota State Senate in 1955. Three years later he was elected to the United States House of Representatives and served eleven terms before retiring to run for the Governor position in Minnesota in 1978. He was elected and served as the state’s Governor from 1979 to 1983. One of his accomplishments was to straighten up the state’s fiscal problems with spending cuts, leaving the state with a surplus when he left office. During his twenty-eight- year career in public office Quie never lost an election. After leaving public office he did not enter business or lobbying to capitalize on his political connections. He considered public office to be a stewardship of the citizens he represented and that a public servant was just that, a servant.
Al Quie always held a strong faith in God and a deep spiritual conviction. He recalls growing up in the depression years and often hoboes would show up at the family dairy farm, where his parents would invite them in and share a meal. This gave him a lasting belief to respect the dignity of every person.
At the time that Richard Nixon resigned, Albert Quie was one of the persons Gerald Ford considered for the position of vice president. Another incident that came out of the Nixon and Watergate scandal involved Special Counsel to the president Chuck Colson. Colson was one of the Watergate Five, eventually charged with obstructing justice and faced prison for his part in the coverup. Colson, a hardnosed political hack who was described as someone who “would walk over his own grandmother”, had once instigated some union leaders into organizing an attack by 200 construction workers on 1,000 college kids demonstrating against the Viet Nam war. Indicted and facing arrest and an eventual one to three- year prison sentence, Colson was given a C.S. Lewis book, “Mere Christianity” by a friend. Colson became a born again Christian and joined a Bible Study group with some congressmen, including Al Quie. Many claimed Colson’s conversion was a ploy to avoid sentencing but Quie sensed that Colson was a changed man. Seven months into Colson’s prison sentence some family problems surfaced and Al Quie went to then president Ford and asked if he could finish out Colson’s prison term for him to allow Chuck to go free to be with his family. Although the offer never came to fruition, Chuck Colson was overwhelmed with the willingness of Al Quie, in an act of Christian service, to pay his penalty. Colson went on to become an influential evangelical Christian writer and speaker who authored over thirty books and formed the Prison Fellowship foundation, which has ministered to thousands of incarcerated individuals. After retiring from political life Al Quie, joined the Prison Fellowship and has devoted much of his time since helping prisoners turn their lives around through belief in Jesus Christ. In 2008 Quie was awarded the William Wilberforce Award given each year to a person who is an exemplary witness for Jesus Christ and advancing Christian values. A programming facility at Lino Lakes State Prison has been named after Albert Quie, the only current or former elected official to receive that honor. When he counsels prisoners, Al asks for the most difficult convict available. “It makes it interesting” he says.
Al Quie has been respected by members of both parties especially his opponents on the other side of the aisle, who are won over by his honesty, character and unswerving dedication to the truth. Roger Moe, Minnesota Senate majority leader and political foe, stated that Al Quie is “one of the most decent people I’ve ever met.” He has even made it in Minnesota folklore, being mentioned in Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon Days, where he is said to be the first governor to visit the mythical community of Lake Wobegon where he dedicated a plaque to the Statue of the Unknown Norwegian.
Quie’s love of horses has always been a priority in his life and in 2003 he published a book about his adventures with a number of his friends who spent eight summers riding a route from Canada to Mexico through the Rocky Mountains. The book was named “Riding the Great Divide”, and followed their experiences riding and camping out in the western United States as they made their way through the wilderness much a explorers would have two centuries ago. Quite an undertaking for a man in his seventies.
On December 5, 2021, with the passing of Bob Dole, Albert Quie became the oldest living former governor and former United States Congressman.
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