Don Samuelson, Governor

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Donald William "Don" Samuelson

Birthplace: Woodhull, Henry County, Illinois, United States
Death: January 20, 2000 (86)
Seattle, King County, Washington, United States
Place of Burial: Sandpoint, Bonner County, Idaho, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Fred William Samuelson Samuelsson and Nellie M. Samuelson
Husband of Ruby A Samuelson
Brother of Aileen Samuelson

Managed by: Private User
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About Don Samuelson, Governor

Donald William Samuelson (July 27, 1913 – January 20, 2000) was a Republican politician from Idaho. He was the 25th Governor of Idaho, serving a single term from 1967 to 1971.

Early years

Born in Woodhull, Illinois, Samuelson grew up on a farm and attended Knox College. He and his wife, Ruby A. Samuelson, were married in 1936 and had two children.


Samuelson served in the U.S. Navy during World War II as a weapons instructor and gunsmith at the Farragut Naval Training Station, a major inland training facility at Lake Pend Oreille in northern Idaho.

After the war, Samuelson stayed in the area; he brought his family out from Illinois and opened a sporting goods store in nearby Sandpoint. He also had an interest in a business that sold and leased mining and logging equipment.


A conservative, Samuelson was encouraged to run for the state senate in 1960 by Governor Robert Smylie. Samuelson won and was re-elected in 1962 and 1964. After the Democratic landslide of 1964, he decided to run for governor in 1966, which was still held by three-term incumbent Smylie, a moderate Republican from Boise and former state attorney general. In a heated race that drew national attention to the Republican gubernatorial primary, Samuelson won handily, 61 to 39%.

Following their wins in the early August primary, Samuelson was slated to face attorney Charles Herndon of Salmon in the November general election. In mid-September, while flying from Pocatello to Coeur d'Alene, Herndon and two others were killed in a plane crash in the central Idaho mountains, northwest of Stanley. The pilot of the twin-engine Piper PA-23 was the only survivor. Occurring only seven weeks before the election, the Democrats nominated the runner-up in the primary, state senator Cecil Andrus of Orofino, whom Samuelson defeated by over 10,000 votes. During the 1970 gubernatorial campaign, Samuelson supported molybdenum mining in central Idaho's White Cloud Mountains, and was defeated for re-election by Andrus – a staunch opponent of the mining development – and returned to private life.

Election results

Idaho Gubernatorial Elections: Results 1966–1970

1966 Cecil Andrus 93,744 37.1% Don Samuelson 104,586 41.4% Perry Swisher Independent 30,913 12.2% Phillip Jungert Independent 23,139 9.2%

1970 Cecil Andrus 128,004 52.2% Don Samuelson (inc.) 117,108 47.8%


Samuelson died at age 86 of a heart attack on January 20, 2000, at the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle. He is interred at Pinecrest Memorial Park in Sandpoint, Idaho.

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Don Samuelson, Governor's Timeline

July 27, 1913
Woodhull, Henry County, Illinois, United States
January 20, 2000
Age 86
Seattle, King County, Washington, United States
Pinecrest Memorial Park, Sandpoint, Bonner County, Idaho, United States