Wisconsin Public Radio

Former Governor Tony Earl Dies at 86

Earl was governor from 1983-87. Democrat was champion of environment.

By , Wisconsin Public Radio - Feb 23rd, 2023 12:26 pm
Department of Natural Resources Secretary Anthony (Tony) Earl seated at desk. Feb., 1980. Photo from UW-Digitized Collections. (CC BY-ND 4.0)

Department of Natural Resources Secretary Anthony (Tony) Earl seated at desk. Feb., 1980. Photo from UW-Digitized Collections. (CC BY-ND 4.0)

Former Wisconsin Gov. Tony Earl, the 41st governor of the state of Wisconsin, died Thursday at the age of 86.

Earl’s passing was announced by Gov. Tony Evers, whose office said Earl suffered a stroke this past weekend. Earl died Thursday surrounded by his daughters and close family.

“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,” Evers said in a statement. “His wisdom and wit will be well missed.”

Earl’s family also issued a statement through the governor’s office, expressing gratitude for the love and support they’d received.

“Our dad would have been honored by the outpouring of gratitude expressed by all. He would encourage anyone he knew to actively engage in positive change,” said Earl’s four daughters, Julia, Anne, Maggie and Kitty.

Earl was elected in 1982, serving one term as governor from 1983 to 1987. A Democrat, he served at a time when his party also controlled the Wisconsin Legislature, which helped him advance a progressive agenda.

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, a Democrat from Dane County, said in a statement Thursday morning that he was honored to volunteer on Earl’s first campaign for governor when he was in high school.

“It’s where I cut my teeth in state politics as a young Democrat,” Pocan said. “From the first day I met him, he was always the most gracious person, with the goal of cultivating a Democratic bench for the future. Politics was never personal to him, and I’ve taken that lesson to heart. I will miss him. My thoughts are with his family today.”

Prior to becoming governor, Earl served in the state Assembly and spent five years as secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, serving under the administrations of Govs. Patrick Lucey, Martin Schreiber and Lee Dreyfus.

Evers issued an executive order honoring Earl and ordering flags to be flown at half-staff. The governor said details of a celebration of Earl’s life would be released by Earl’s family at a later date.

Editor’s note: This story will be updated.

Tony Earl, former governor of Wisconsin, dies at age 86 was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.

One thought on “Former Governor Tony Earl Dies at 86”

  1. gerrybroderick says:

    A warm and wonderful man who did so much to benefit our state. A life well lived and a legacy to be proud of. He will be missed.

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