Elmer A. Benson was appointed on December 27, 1935, as a Farmer-Laborite to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Thomas D. Schall. He served from December 27, 1935 until November 3, 1936. He served as Governor of Minnesota from 1937–1939, and lost his 1938 bid for reelection as Governor.
While Governor of Minnesota, he played important roles in the University of Minnesota. He was a strong advocate of academic freedom for faculty, and for increasing faculty salaries after the economic recovery from the Great Depression. He supported integrating student housing as well.
In his unsuccessful campaign for re-election against Republican, Harold Stassen, he was the object of a whisper campaign undertaken by Ray P. Chase, who accused him of being a Communist and being controlled by Jews, several of whom had been students at the University of Minnesota. Chase’s publication about Benson, Are they Communists or Catspaws: A Red Baiting Pamphlet, included many pages devoted to the University of Minnesota, and some of the information was provided by Dean Nicholson.
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