Brewtown Politico

Carrying a little stick and speaking loudly in Milwaukee


Former Wisconsin senator, governor and Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson has died.

"Earth Day worked because of the spontaneous response at the grass-roots level," he said. "We had neither the time nor resources to organize 20 million demonstrators and the thousands of schools and local communities that participated. That was the remarkable thing about Earth Day. It organized itself."

In the Senate Nelson had key roles in the 1964 Wilderness Act and in legislation banning the pesticide DDT, preserving the Appalachian trail corridor and creating a national hiking trail network. He also worked for automotive fuel efficiency standards and against strip mining.

Nelson served as governor of Wisconsin for two terms before being elected to the US Senate in 1962 to the seat currently held by Russ Feingold. Feingold had this to say about Nelson this weekend:

“I am deeply saddened today as we mourn the passing of former Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson. He was quite simply one of my heroes. He was an environmental champion, a role model and a friend. His many contributions to the preservation of our environment will be remembered every April as we celebrate Senator Nelson’s legacy, Earth Day. I am honored to occupy the same seat Gaylord Nelson did as he carried on the proud Wisconsin Progressive tradition.”

I was up in northern Wisconsin when this was announced, and was sad to hear the news. Throughout his life, Nelson exemplified what public service is all about. We could use a few more like him now.


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