South Dakota Legends: Karl Mundt, Congressman, Senator
Karl Mundt began life in the Humboldt, South Dakota area and graduated from Madison High School. Before long he was a teacher in Bryant. And when politics and public service beckoned, Karl answered the call. But South Dakota voters didn't answer back, at least not at first.
Running for a Congressional seat in 1936, Karl ran smack dab into what might be called a 'Democrat year'. In the middle of the Great Depression and the middle of the 'FDR Years', Karl lost.
But now, as Paul Harvey famously said, the rest of the story.
Karl won that Congressional seat in 1938 and was re-elected....4 times! But that was just the beginning.
He resigned his seat in December of 1948, taking an open Senate position. Six years later he was elected in his own right and re-elected in 1960, and then -re-elected again in 1966. In fact, Karl Mundt was famous well beyond the borders of South Dakota. In fact, he was the subject of the nation's biggest game show, What's My Line. You can watch the episode from 1954 that featured the Senator here.
Mundt suffered a severe stroke in 1969 but (with the immeasurable help of his wife Mary) remained in office through the end of his term. He passed away on August 16, 1974.
So, let's see...he began winning elections in 1938 and served through 1972. How in the world did he win all those elections? What was his secret? Heck, was there a secret? Well, his personal papers are at Dakota State University, so that might be a good place to start searching for answers. You might inquire about their Karl E. Mundt Library.
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