Lori Sturdevant: Doug Head's lasting imprint

  • Article by: LORI STURDEVANT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 3, 2011 - 7:47 PM

Lori Sturdevant

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Minnesotans born in the last 40 years can be forgiven for not knowing the name Douglas Head.

The last Republican to serve as the state's attorney general, Head disappeared from political visibility after losing a governor's race in 1970 to DFLer Wendell Anderson.

But for a generation of Minnesota Repubicans, Head, who died Wednesday at age 80, was an undisputed leader.

In just two terms in the Minnesota House in the early 1960s, he established himself as a figure of influence and respect among an emerging group of moderate, metro-based politicians, many of whom played prominent roles in the state GOP in the last third of the 20th century.

Allied with Head were future U.S. Rep. Bill Frenzel, future Gov. Arne Carlson, and legislators including John Yngve, Lyall Schwarzkopf, Gary Flakne and Wayne Popham. 

The 1970 gubernatorial race was a hard-fought battle between two youthful, charismatic figures who, by today's lights, both espoused progressive political philosophies.

The positive feeling that race generated among baby boomers, just then coming of age, was a welcome counterpoint to the hostilities of Vietnam-era national politics, and inspired a number of that generation of Minnesotans into public service of their own.

After his gubernatorial defeat, Head retired from politics, founded his own law firm and quietly practiced law until his retirement.

His preference for a private life extended to graciously but firmly turning down my interview request a couple of years ago -- and left me wondering how Minnesota politics might have been different if he had stayed in the arena.

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