Frank W. Murphy (August 24, 1869-November 22, 1940) is the subject of this article. His rise from a young lawyer starting out in Wheaton, Minnesota in 1893 to leadership of his profession and political prominence during the first four decades of the last century is described and placed within the political and economic circumstances of that period. For this website it is a new and experimental form of legal biography.
Murphy's friends, neighbors and clients in rural Traverse County were farmers, and he became their advocate, using the same skills that brought him to the pinnacle of the state trial bar to lobby for federal farm relief legislation known as the McNary-Haugen bill in the 1920's. His representation of farmers in the 1920's and 1930's is the major theme of his life outside the law.
He entered politics, not as a candidate, but to campaign for candidates who promised to better the lot of farmers. He endorsed Senator Thomas D. Schall, Governor Floyd B. Olson and President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the early 1930's and campaigned strenuously for each of them. He left the Republican Party in 1928 but did not join another--until 1940 when he returned to his roots and endorsed the Republican presidential ticket that included his old ally Senator Charles McNary, who was running for Vice President.
Several of his trials are described, including a long-forgotten lawsuit by enemies of newly-elected Governor Floyd B. Olson to remove him from office for violating the Corrupt Practices Act. The account of the "Ouster" case in 1935 will interest lawyers and political enthusiasts. Lengthy excerpts from the trial transcript and the decision of the Minnesota Supreme Court in Trones v. Olson, 197 Minn. 21 (1936), are posted in the Appendix.
Frank W. Murphy died on November 22, 1940, at age seventy-one. On May 5, 1941, pursuant to a resolution of the Traverse County Board of Commissioners, his photograph was hung in the courthouse in Wheaton. Today, almost eighty years after his death, that photograph still hangs in the jury room of the courthouse.