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Iowa History Daily: November 21 - Governor Beardsley Dies in Office

Iowa History Daily: On November 21, 1954, Iowa’s 31st Governor Bill Beardsley died in a car accident on Iowa 60 near Des Moines. Iowa’s only Governor to die in office, Beardsley’s life provides a snapshot of Iowa politics in the mid-20th century.

Born in Beacon, Iowa, during 1901, Beardsley attended public school in Birmingham, Iowa, before attending Bowen Institute of Pharmacy and Chemistry. Owner of a successful drugstore in New Virginia, Iowa, Beardsley found his way into politics when he won a special election to serve in the Iowa Senate during 1933.

A State Senator for eight years, Beardsley transitioned to the Iowa House of Representatives by appointment after the death of a colleague in 1947. An outspoken critic of Governor Robert D. Blue on education and labor issues, Beardsley successfully challenged Blue in their party’s primary in June of 1948. Beardsley successfully won election and reelection, largely on his instance on a balanced state budget.

After deciding not to run for a third term in 1954, Beardsley’s time in the Governor’s Office came to a sooner than expected end in the November 21 crash. As Beardsley and his wife made their way home from visiting their son Dan at Iowa State University in Ames, the couple found themselves in a fatal crash just north of Des Moines. Buried at New Virginia Cemetery, Beardsley still represents the only Iowa Governor who died while in office. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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