Gov. Robert La Follette, Sr., US Senate & Congress

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Robert Marion La Follette, Sr.

Also Known As: "Fighting Bob"
Birthplace: Primrose, Dane County, Wisconsin, United States
Death: June 18, 1925 (70)
Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia, United States (Heart failure)
Place of Burial: Madison, Dane County, Wisconsin, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Josiah La Follette and Mary Frances Buchanan LaFollette Saxton
Husband of Belle Case La Follette
Father of Fola La Follette; Robert La Follette, Jr., U.S. Senator; Philip La Follette, Governor and Mary Josephine La Follette
Brother of William LaFollette; Marion LaFollette and Josephine LaFollette
Half brother of Ellen Alice Eastman (Buchanan LaFollett)

Occupation: American politician who served as a U.S. Congressman, the 20th Governor of Wisconsin (1901–1906), and Republican Senator from Wisconsin (1906–1925)
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Gov. Robert La Follette, Sr., US Senate & Congress

Everything you wanted to know about Robert M. La Follette Sr.:,_Sr.

"Robert Marion "Battling Bob" La Follette, Sr. (June 14, 1855 – June 18, 1925), was an American Republican (and later a Progressive) politician. He served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, was the Governor of Wisconsin, and was also a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin (1906 to 1925). He ran for President of the United States as the nominee of his own Progressive Party in 1924, carrying Wisconsin and 17% of the national popular vote.

"His wife Belle Case La Follette and sons Robert M. La Follette, Jr. and Philip La Follette led his political faction in Wisconsin into the 1940s. La Follette has been called 'arguably the most important and recognized leader of the opposition to the growing dominance of corporations over the Government' and is one of the key figures pointed to in Wisconsin's long history of political liberalism.

"He is best remembered as a proponent of progressivism and a vocal opponent of railroad trusts, bossism, World War I, and the League of Nations. In 1957, a Senate Committee selected La Follette as one of the five greatest U.S. Senators, along with Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun, and Robert Taft. A 1982 survey asking historians to rank the 'ten greatest Senators in the nation's history' based on 'accomplishments in office' and 'long range impact on American history,' placed La Follette first, tied with Henry Clay.",_Sr.

  • US Representative from Wisconsin
  • Governor of Wisconsin
  • US Senator, Wisconsin
  • Presidential candidate, Progressive Party, 1924

Probably from a book about the La Follettes:

Bob's father had been very enthusiastic about coming to WS. He said he expected to live among these hills to an age equal to his grandfather's. But eight months after Bob's birth he died of an illness then diagnosed as a complication of pneumonia and diabetes.

Josiah La Follette knew he must die. He said he had no fear of death but dreaded to be forgotten. This thought, often repeated by his mother, made a deep impression on Bob. He thought of his father by day and dreamed of him at night. His father held somewhat liberal religious views and had never joined any church. When Bob came to realize that the strict orthodox doctrine which pervaded the family atmosphere during part of his earlier years would condemn his father to eternal punishment, his spirit revolted at the thought. The desire was strong for a Hereafter where he might know his father. He resented any religious teaching that closed the gates of Heaven to so just and upright a man as he knew his father to be. All that took place at the time of his father's death and illness was, I believe, more vivid to Bob's imagination than if he had been old enough to remember what happened.

The funeral services for Josiah La Follette were very simple, just a prayer by his neighbor and good friend Deacon David Thomas, and some hymns. They were too far away to get a minister. When the little brother Marion died, he had been buried on a hillside of the farm in sight of the house. The mother wanted the child buried with his father. The boy's coffin was taken from the grave, which had been carefully boarded up, and brought to the house and opened. The child's face was perfect as if asleep. While they were looking, it fell to ashes. Father and son were taken to the Postville cemetery on Green's prairie and placed together in one grave.

I have heard Bob say he often pictured the sad home journey his mother made on that cold, dreary winter day. She often recounted her suffering to her children; for, though a woman of courage and fortitude, she expressed her emotion freely and vividly in words. A boyhood friend, who was their nearest neighbor, remembers his mother saying that little Bob wold often ask: "Mrs Osmundsen, won't you come to see my mother? She is so very lonesome."

When Bob La Follette was three years old, his half-sister, Ellen Buchanan married Dean Eastman, a good-looking, upstanding, hard-working young man from Maine. Dean taught school, played the fiddle at country dances, and led the singing at church services. Mother La Follette took Dean to her heart, as she duid all her "in-laws." She relinquished her dower right in the Buchanan estate to provide a good home for her daughter and son-in-law, who with their large family were an intimate part of Bob's life.

In 1894, after his mother's death, it was decided to move the father's remains to Madison for burial beside her. Bob consulted his friend, Dr. Cornelius Harper, as to the necessary preparations and with his brother, William drove to Postville on this mission. When the gravedigger got down to where the coffin had been, they found it had disappeared; but the outlines could be traced in the surrounding clay. Bob himself carefully removed the relics of his father's skeleton. Dr. Harper, who assisted at the reburial in Madison, says that before the coffin was finally closed Bob studied the relics carefully. He commented on the prominent forehead, the small hands and feet. They talked for more than an hour. Bob asked many questions and seemed intent on reproducing in imagination the form of his father as he looked in life.

Bob's boyhood impressions of Primrose, WS had a deep and abiding influence on his character and career. So enduring were his memories of neighbors, incidents, and early experiences that through his vivid description they became a part of our family traditions. Bob would often tell his children how he had ridden horseback Sunday mornings to the home of his father's friend, Deacon David Thomas, to give him a shave, and Bob said "he had a beard like wire, so it was no easy job."

David Ash, born in 1792, was a near neighbor and a remarkable man who Bob said "must have been a soldier, for he tried to make a soldier out of me. He would come to our house when I was about four years old and after my night clothes were on, he would give me his cane and put me through the military maneuvers in front of the fire-place."

From Chapter II (probably of a book, not sure):

"My Name Is Bob La Follette"

In 1862, when Bob was seven, his mother married Deacon John Z. Saxton of Argyle, WI, who was twenty-six years her senior. Generally known as "Uncle John," he was looked upon as a leading citizen. For some thirty years he had lived in Lafayette County, had been town chairman, leading merchant, and postmaster of Argyle, and had at one time also kept a hotel. Although a rival store had been recently started, Uncle John had a good country trade and was considered prosperous -- even wealthy for those days.

I never heard Bob say how he felt when his mother married John Saxton. But he would have gone to the stake for her, and this loyalty may have kept him from ever expressing his own feeling. Such an experience, at best, is usually a hard ordeal for children. He had never known his father, but his devotion to his memory was almost morbid. Even in childhood the fortitute, which carried him undaunted through so many bitter conflicts in afterlife, doubtless helped him bear his first great trial of his childhood. He insisted on keeping his own name. When he started school at Argyle, he went up to a group of boys who were playing together and said: "My name is Bob La Follette, what is yours?" If ever strangers called him "Saxton," he would correct them: "My name is La Follette."

Although Saxton was a severe disciplinarian, Bob never spoke of his stepfather with anything but respect. Sometimes, however, he would tell humorous stories and mimic the conversations in the store between the customers and the very deaf old man who found it hard to understand what they wanted.

Bob said his stepfather taught him good behavior; never to leave a door open, to close it and do it quietly; good table manners.,_Sr.

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Gov. Robert La Follette, Sr., US Senate & Congress's Timeline

June 14, 1855
Primrose, Dane County, Wisconsin, United States
September 10, 1882
Madison, Dane County, Wisconsin, United States
February 6, 1895
Madison, Dane County, Wisconsin, United States
May 8, 1897
Madison, Dane County, Wisconsin, United States
August 16, 1899
Madison, Dane, Wisconsin, United States
June 18, 1925
Age 70
Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia, United States
Madison, Dane County, Wisconsin, United States