Gaylord Anton Nelson (June 4, 1916 – July 3, 2005) was an American politician from Wisconsin who served as a United States Senator and governor. A Democrat, he was the founder of Earth Day, which launched a new wave of environmental activism.
Nelson was born in Clear Lake, Wisconsin in 1916. He grew up there and was educated in the Clear Lake public schools. In 1939, he majored in Political Science from what is now San Jose State University in San Jose, California. In 1942, he received a J.D. degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School in Madison, was admitted to the bar and practiced law. He also served in the United States Army, seeing action in the Okinawa campaign during World War II. In 1948, he was elected to the Wisconsin State Senate, serving until 1958, when he was elected governor. He ran for the U.S. Senate in 1962, defeating long-time incumbent Senator Alexander Wiley. He was re-elected in 1968 and 1974, but was unseated by GOP candidate Bob Kasten in 1980.
He was elected governor of Wisconsin in 1958, and served two two-year terms before successfully running for Senate in 1962. He served three consecutive terms as a senator from 1963 to 1981. In 1963 he convinced President John F. Kennedy to take a national speaking tour to discuss conservation issues. Senator Nelson founded Earth Day, which began as a teach-in about environmental issues on April 22, 1970...
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