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Patrick Joseph Lucey

Patrick Lucey
United States Ambassador to Mexico
In office
July 19, 1977 – October 31, 1979
President Jimmy Carter
Preceded by Joseph J. Jova
Succeeded by Julian Nava
Governor of Wisconsin
In office
January 4, 1971 – July 6, 1977
Lieutenant Martin Schreiber
Preceded by Warren Knowles
Succeeded by Martin Schreiber
Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin
In office
January 4, 1965 – January 2, 1967
Governor Warren Knowles
Preceded by Jack Olson
Succeeded by Jack Olson
Personal details
Born (1918-03-21) March 21, 1918 (age 96)
La Crosse, Wisconsin, U.S.
Political party Democratic Party (Before 1979; 1980–present)
Independent (1979–1980)
Alma mater University of St. Thomas, Minnesota
University of Wisconsin–Madison

Patrick Joseph Lucey (born March 21, 1918) is a member of the United States Democratic Party who served as the 38th Governor of the US state of Wisconsin from 1971 to 1977.[1] In 1977, he was appointed ambassador to Mexico by President Jimmy Carter, a post he held until 1979. He was an independent vice-presidential candidate in 1980 with John Anderson.

Early Life and Education

Lucey was born in La Crosse, Wisconsin on March 21, 1918, the son of Gregory and Ella Lucey. He grew up in the village of Ferryville, Wisconsin and graduated from Campion High School in nearby Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin in 1935.[2] He later attended St. Thomas College in Saint Paul, Minnesota. During World War II Lucey was drafted and served in the United States Army Quartermaster Corps in the Caribbean until he was discharged with the rank of captain in 1945.[3] After the war, Lucey graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1946 with a B.A. in Philosophy.[4]

Political career

Lucey served as justice of the peace in Ferryville, Wisconsin, and in the Wisconsin State Assembly from 1949 to 1951.[5] From 1957 to 1963 he served as state chairperson of the Democratic Party.[4] Lucey was a Wisconsin campaign aide of John F. Kennedy in his presidential run in 1960.[6]

In 1964, Lucey was elected Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin and served one term from 1965 to 1967. At this time the governor and lieutenant governor of Wisconsin were elected on separate tickets, and voters chose Lucey, a Democrat, as lieutenant governor while simultaneously electing Republican Warren P. Knowles as governor.[7] (An amendment to the Wisconsin Constitution in 1967 combined elections for governor and lieutenant governor onto a single ticket.)[8]

Lucey ran as the Democratic candidate for governor of Wisconsin in 1966 but failed to unseat incumbent Warren Knowles. In 1970, Lucey campaigned again for governor and was elected with 54 percent of the vote. Lucey was the first Wisconsin governor elected to a four-year term after a 1967 amendment to the state constitution extended terms from two years to four. He took office on January 4, 1971. Lucey ran successfully for a second term as governor in 1974, but he resigned effective July 6, 1977 to accept a nomination as United States Ambassador to Mexico.[7]

University of Wisconsin System merger

One of Lucey's executive initiatives was to revive an idea to merge the state's two university systems, the Wisconsin State University (WSU) system and the pre-eminent University of Wisconsin (UW), in Madison (and also including the campuses in Milwaukee, Green Bay, and Parkside (Racine–Kenosha) as well as the UW Extension). The idea was suggested in the 1890s, then revived in the 1940s and 1950s by Governor Oscar Rennebohm and Governor Walter J. Kohler, Jr.[9]

In 1971, Lucey raised the issue again, saying a merger would contain the growing costs of two systems; give order to the increasing higher education demands of the state; control program duplication; and provide for a united voice and single UW budget. Madison faculty and administrators by and large opposed the merger, fearing it would diminish the great state university. Most WSU faculty and administrators favored the merger, believing it would add prestige to their institutions and level the playing field for state funding.

Merger legislation easily passed the Democratic-controlled Assembly. After much maneuvering and lobbying, it was approved by a one-vote margin in the Republican-controlled Senate. It took until 1974 for implementation legislation to be finalized. "I had to be pretty heavy-handed – no merger, no budget," said Lucey in an interview following his term in office.

Other gubernatorial accomplishments

Lucey also recommended additional funding for tourism, which spurred development throughout the state. Two examples were the expansion of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources park system and the Mt. Telemark Resort in Cable, Wisconsin. Since 1974, Cable and Mt. Telemark hosts the American Birkebeiner each year, the largest cross-country ski race in North America.

1980 Vice Presidential campaign

The John Anderson—Patrick Lucey presidential ticket received 5,719,850 vote for 6.6 percent of the total vote in the 1980 presidential election, despite a 25% showing in early polls by Anderson and a spirited televised debate between Anderson and Ronald Reagan.

2011 Wisconsin Supreme Court election

In 2011, Lucey, although a Democrat, acted as David Prosser's campaign co-chairman. On March 31, 2011, he resigned from Prosser's campaign and endorsed JoAnne Kloppenburg, attributing his decision to Prosser's "disturbing distemper and lack of civility", while praising Kloppenburg for "[adhering] throughout the campaign to even-handedness and non-partisanship and [exhibiting] both promising judicial temperament and good grace, even in the heat of a fierce campaign."[10]


In September 2009, Lucey was honored with a Wisconsin Historical Society marker in Ferryville.[11] In October 2013, Wisconsin Highway 35 between Ferryville and Prairie du Chien was renamed the "Governor Patrick Lucey Highway" in honor of Lucey.[12]

See also

Electoral history

Wisconsin Gubernatorial Election 1974
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Patrick Lucey (incumbent) 628,639 53.20
Republican Bill Dyke 497,189 42.08
Wisconsin Gubernatorial Election 1970
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Patrick Lucey 728,403 54.23
Republican Jack Olson 602,617 44.87
Wisconsin Gubernatorial Election 1970 – Democratic Primary
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Patrick Lucey 177,584 60.66
Democratic Donald O. Peterson 105,849 36.16


Political offices
Preceded by
Jack Olson
Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin
Succeeded by
Jack Olson
Preceded by
Warren Knowles
Governor of Wisconsin
Succeeded by
Martin Schreiber
Party political offices
Preceded by
John Reynolds
Democratic nominee for Governor of Wisconsin
Succeeded by
Bronson La Follette
Preceded by
Bronson La Follette
Democratic nominee for Governor of Wisconsin
1970, 1974
Succeeded by
Martin Schreiber
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Joseph J. Jova
United States Ambassador to Mexico
Succeeded by
Julian Nava

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