In Don Fraser: Minnesota's Quiet Crusader historian Iric Nathanson examines the life and career of one of Minnesota's most beloved and influential statesmen. As a Minnesota state senator U.S. congressman and Minneapolis mayor Don Fraser was deeply involved in the key issues of his era including the civil rights struggle the war in Viet Nam and the efforts to combat urban poverty. Through his nearly 40 years in public office he won the respect of both his constituents who returned him to office time and again and also of those who may have disagreed with his progressive approach to public policy but admired his personal honesty and integrity.
But Fraser's career in politics had its ups and downs. He launched his political career in 1954 by ousting an entrenched legislative incumbent and scored a second upset victory when he defeated a well-known figure for a seat in the U.S. Congress. But sixteen years later Fraser suffered his own unexpected defeat for a U.S. Senate nomination. Fraser rebounded from this loss by returning home to Minneapolis to serve as the city's mayor for 13 years.
The personal side of Fraser's story also holds our interest. It is the story of a man whose modest demeanor masked a strong inner drive and fierce resolve that surprised and often mislead those who battled with him in the public arena. The story also involves a loving and mutually supportive marriage of 64 years to a woman whose expansive personality and public persona has at times outshone those of her more self-effacing husband. In the midst of their personal triumphs Don and Arvonne Fraser also suffered the loss of two daughters one through suicide that left long-standing emotional scars.
During these difficult political times Don Fraser's story offers much food for thought about the value of personal integrity and public service and a stirring account of how communities can work together for change.
Iric Nathanson is the author of more than 30 articles and five books on Minnesota history. His 2010 book Minneapolis in the Twentieth Century: the Growth of an American City was a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award. Iric's articles have appeared in Minnesota History Hennepin History and the StarTribune. He also writes a history feature for the on-line daily MinnPost..