Baldy Hansen died on May 22, 2000, in Austin, Minnesota. Both the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune felt the need to print obituaries.
St. Paul Pioneer Press
"Baldy" Hansen, 90, colorful lawmaker
Former Minnesota state Sen. C.R. "Baldy" Hansen of Austin, one of the most colorful curmudgeons to serve in the Minnesota Legislature in the 1960s and 1970s, died of natural causes Monday at the Austin Medical Center. He was 90.
Hansen insisted on being called Baldy and refused to respond to Senate colleagues who failed to address him by nickname. He even persuaded them to vote to list him as Baldy on the Senate voting board.
A banker and businessman, he ran for the Legislature in 1966 as a Democratic-Farmer-Laborite but "was a Democrat in name only," said Senate President Allan Spear, DFL-Minneapolis, who server with Hansen, "He was one of the most conservative members of the Senate and an anomaly in the DFL."
As chairman of the powerful Senate Labor and Commerce Committee from 1973 through 1976, he was notorious for refusing to hear bills that he didn't support. "The committee was known as 'Forest Lawn,' (after a well-known cemetery) because that's where bills went to die," Spear said.
Born in St. Paul on Aug. 8, 1909, Hansen attended the University of Minnesota before moving to Austin. He was a successful businessman in lumber, appliances, and propane gas before buying the State Bank of Rose Creek and Farmers State Bank of Lyle. He was elected to the Austin City Council and was Austin mayor before voters sent him to the Senate.
When DFLers took control of that chamber in 1972 after 112 years of Republican rule, Hansen took charge of the committee that had authority over everything from banking and utility rates to workers comp and unemployment benefits. "It was a very prestigious and powerful committee, and Baldy pretty much ran the show," said Senate Commerce Committee chairman Sam Solon, DFL-Duluth.
"Baldy was a very crusty chairman," Solon said. "He either liked you or disliked you. You never had to guess where Baldy stood on an issue."
After taking control of the Senate, DFLers wanted to pass a long list of pent-up consumer legislation, including bills to increase the minimum wage, create no-fault auto insurance, and break up a wholesale liquor monopoly. But Hansen blocked their passage.
That sparked a feud between him and the late Senate majority leader Nicholas Coleman. In frustration, Coleman invoked a rarely used rule to pull several high-priority DFL bills out of Hansen's committee to keep them alive. "It was highly unusual for a leader to use that rule against one of his own committee chairmen," Spear said.
Hansen was natty dresser who often wore loud sport coats. Once, when Hansen appeared on the Senate floor in a particularly colorful jacket, Spear recalled, Coleman remarked: "Baldy, it looks like you shot a sofa."
"He represented part of a closing era, a time of curmudgeonly committee chairmen with close ties to certain lobbyists," Spear said.
Displeased with Hansen's obstruction of his caucus' agenda, Coleman recruited DFL candidate Tom Nelson to run against the senator in the 1976 party primary, and his victory ended Hansen's political career.
While he was a cantankerous legislator, he also "had a warm side that most people didn't see," Solon said. For instance, he said, when a teller at Hansen's bank was caught embezzling funds, he refused to prosecute her and instead put her back to work so she could support her family and pay restitution.
After losing his Senate seat, Hansen remained active in the Austin community, participating in numerous clubs and organizations and writing a column for the Austin Daily Herald. His family said he loved fishing, hunting, travel, fine food, cherry pie, Teresa Brewer songs and a good argument.
Hansen is survived by five daughters: Margaret Wollerman and Leone Hansen of St. Paul, Michaell Bednar and Iris Hansen of Austin, and Charlotte Theissen of Fairfield, Conn.; 13 grandchildren; 16 great-grandchildren; and a sister, Margaret Conners of Aurora, Ohio.
Services will be at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Austin. Interment will be at Calvary a Cemetery. Visitation will be 4 to 8 p.m. today and noon to 1 p.m. Thursday at the Clasen-Jordan Mortuary in Austin.
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Charles (Baldy) Hansen dies; was senator, Austin mayor
He was outspoken, conservative DFLer
Colorful, gregarious and outspoken.
That describes Charles R. (Baldy) Hansen, former long-time state senator, Austin mayor and banker. He died Monday from respiratory failure at Austin Medical Center. He was 90.
Hansen was mayor from l954 to 1962. As a DFL senator from 1966 to 1976 he often was seen driving a brightly painted red, white and blue van with "BALDY" emblazoned on both sides.
He was outspoken on several issues, no matter who listened. Hansen told the Minneapolis Tribune in 1972 that he wasn't a "down-the-line party man," often referred to as the "most conservative member of the DFL."
He refused to answer Senate roll calls unless the clerk called him "Baldy."
"Dad was a maverick, a man who had the courage of his convictions," said his third-eldest daughter Michaell Bednar Of Austin. "He always stood up for the underdog and the little
Hansen's straight-shooting quips kept his fellow politicians and journalists on their toes.
Comments such as "I was lied to" and "I don't trust that committee" were often read in newspapers next to his name. Former Sen. Edward Gearty once told the Minneapolis Star in 1973 that he had such "strong feelings" against Hansen that they couldn't be published.
Hansen, as chairman of the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee from 1973 to 1976, "singlehandedly killed so many bills backed by organized labor that the committee got the nickname 'Forest Lawn,' after the California cemetery," the Minneapolis Star and Tribune reported.
"Once in a great while, a senator breaks his word," Hansen said in a 1973 Minneapolis Star story. "It's heartbreaking. Your faith has been destroyed."
Gerry Nelson, once an Associated Press correspondent at the State Capitol, said Hansen was "one of the old bulls of the Senate."
In 1973, Sen. Allan Spear, DFL-Minneapolis, once known as Hansen's political opposite, said, "Obviously Baldy and I disagree on a lot of issues. But I respect his intelligence, his grit to sticking to his guns. He gives us a breadth the Republican caucus doesn't have."
Hansen grew up in St. Paul, where his father had a lumber business. In the 1940s he moved to Austin, where he later owned three banks in the area and went into politics.
His nickname dates to the 1950s.
"If I didn't use "Baldy" to my advantage, somebody else would use it to ridicule me," he told the Minneapolis Star in 1973. "I'm not ashamed of it. Some people have false teeth or fallen arches or something else. I'm happy....People use it as a term of endearment."
In addition to his daughter, Hansen's survivors include four other daughters, Beth Wollerman of St. Paul, Charlotte Theissen of Fairfield, Conn., Iris Hansen of Austin and Leone Hansen of St. Paul.
Services are scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Thursday at Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Austin.
Margaret Elizabeth Hansen
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