A Great Danish American Birthday - Leo Hoegh

  • March 30, 2021
  • March 30, 2022
  • 2 sessions
  • March 30, 2021 (CDT)
  • March 30, 2022 (CDT)

A GREAT DANISH AMERICAN BIRTHDAY - LEO ARTHUR HOEGH

Leo Arthur Hoegh (pronounced hoygMarch 30, 1908 – July 15, 2000) was a decorated U,S. Army officer, lawyer, and politician who served as the 33rd Governor of Iowa from 1955 to 1957.  Hoegh's grandfather, Nels Peder Hoegh, left a farm in Denmark in 1866 to search for gold in Colorado.  He invested much of his newfound fortune in farmland in Audubon County, Iowa became a community leader, and upon his death left separate farms for each of his thirteen children.  When Leo was born to Nels' son William in 1908, the household spoke Danish, and it was not until Leo attended school that he began to speak English.

While his father ran a bank in nearby Elk Horn, Iowa, Leo decided to become a lawyer. He received a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Iowa in 1929, where he distinguished himself as a captain of the water polo team and as the founding president of Gamma Nu Chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha.  He lettered in swimming and was selected for membership in A.F.I., forerunner to the national honor society, Omicron Delta Kappa.   As Leo graduated from the University of Iowa College of Law in 1932, his father sold all of his assets in an unsuccessful effort to prevent the Elk Horn bank from failing.   Leo started private practice in Chariton, the county seat of Lucas County in south central Iowa.

In 1954, Hoegh was elected Governor of Iowa, winning a close contest over Democrat Clyde Edsel Herring, son of the former Iowa Governor and U.S. Senator, Clyde LaVerne Herring.

As chief executive, he championed the cause of education and orchestrated a major increase in funding for the state universities and the public schools.  He also worked to improve the state's mental institutions, changing the focus from custody to caring for and curing the mentally ill.  He urged recognition of the union shop, legislative reapportionment to 'reduce the control of rural areas over the cities,' funds to promote industrial expansion, and a reduction in the voting age from 21 to 18.  In 1955, he appointed Iowa's first "Commission to Study Discrimination in Employment." The Commission's report, issued the following year, identified by name the employers and supervisors alleged to have discriminated on the basis of race or religion, and recommended adoption of a state fair employment practices act.

To balance the budget while accomplishing his ambitious agenda, Hoegh sought to increase revenues by more than $31 million, to be collected through proposed increases in the taxes on beer, cigarettes and gasoline, a capital-gains tax and extension of the sales tax to include services.  The Republican-controlled General Assembly approved enough tax increases to bring in $22 million a year, and Hoegh found himself labelled by his Democratic opponents as "High-Tax Hoegh."  Meanwhile, his support for a union shop alienated a traditional ally of Iowa Republicans, the Iowa Manufacturers Association, without disturbing labor's allegiance to the Iowa Democratic Party.

In his race for re-election in 1956, Hoegh won the Republican primary but ran behind Democratic opponent Herschel C. Loveless, mayor of Ottumwa, Iowa. Two weeks before his electoral defeat, Time Magazine placed Hoegh's face on its cover.   The cover story ended with this prediction:

His principal problem is that he has caught the spirit of an era that is beginning to recognize the need for a resurgence of good local and state government—and. in doing so. he has perhaps stirred his quiet state too much. But if he has gone too far too fast, he can take a governor's small comfort from the conviction that one year—if not this year—his state will forget the anthills and look with satisfaction on the considerable movements of home-grown progressive government.

Hoegh died in Colorado Springs, Coloradoin 2000, and was interred there at the Evergreen Cemetery.

Many of his ancestors reside in the Danish community of Elk Horn, Iowa and the extended areas of Audubon and Shelby County.


National Foundation for Danish America
PO Box 1003
Wilmette, Illinois 60091

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