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HomeBreaking NewsFormer Wisconsin Gov. Tony Earl Dead at 86

Former Wisconsin Gov. Tony Earl Dead at 86


Former Wisconsin Gov. Tony Earl died Thursday. He was 86.

Earl served one term as Wisconsin governor, from 1983 to 1987.

Current Gov. Tony Evers remembered Earl as a trailblazer and a friend.

“A formidable leader and public servant, trusted colleague and mentor, and a good and loyal friend, Tony was well-liked and respected by so many,” the governor said in a statement. “Tony was always a staunch defender of our state’s proud traditions, including conservation, and his passing is a significant loss for our state and for all who had the fortune of meeting and serving with him. His wisdom and wit will be well missed.”

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin also remembered Earl as a leader ahead of his time.

“From protecting our environment to appointing Wisconsin’s first African-American cabinet officer to advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, Gov. Earl was a courageous leader who spent his life serving Wisconsin and the progressive cause,” Party Chair Ben Wikler said in a statement. “His legacy is one from which we may all draw inspiration, and which will live on in our state for generations to come.”

He served as the head of the Department of Natural Resources before becoming governor, and always had an eye for conservation.

Early also led on gay rights in Wisconsin. He issued an executive order that created a process for gay people to file discrimination complaints, and he created the Governor’s Council on Gay and Lesbian Issues.

Earl also raised taxes, and he made Wisconsin’s 5% sales tax permanent. Those taxes, the Earl Administration argued, helped dig Wisconsin out of a $1 billion deficit.

Earl lost his 1986 reelection bid to Republican Tommy Thompson, who would go on to be Wisconsin’s longest-serving governor.

Wisconsin’s Democratic U.S. Senator, Tammy Baldwin, was an intern for Earl while he was governor. On Thursday she remembered her time with his office.

“Gov. Tony Earl was a mentor and friend to me, and I am deeply saddened to hear of his passing. From my time as his intern, through his later years, Gov. Earl was always a shining example of what is good about government and the good that government can do, working with Republicans and Democrats to deliver for Wisconsinites and always putting people over politics,” Baldwin said. “Gov. Earl represented the best of the Wisconsin tradition, fighting for working families, advocating for the responsible stewardship of our waters, lands, and wildlife, and never wavering on his commitment to do right by his neighbors.”

Earl’s family said he died Thursday after suffering a stroke.


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