1898 : Future Michigan Governor Murry D. Van Wagoner Born

March 18, 2018 all-day

Photo of Murray D. Van Wagoner, longtime state highway commissioner and one-term governor, courtesy of the Archives of Michigan

Though he was only a one-term governor, one could argue that Van Wagoner (March 18, 1898-Jun 12, 1986) was vital to the mid-century boom that made Michigan an industrial powerhouse. As state highway commissioner from 1933 through 1940, he helped build the state’s highway system that carried Detroit and the Big Three automakers into global dominance. He oversaw one of the nation’s first highway needs studies, established the first roadside park on the state highway system and built America’s first permanent state highway travel information center. He oversaw the construction of a Straits of Mackinac causeway that was the first step in construction of the Mackinac Bridge. In his short stint as governor, the Democrat helped eliminate a $27 million deficit, reinstated the state mental hospital, consolidated tax collection and reorganized the Michigan Civil Service Commission that oversees state employees. After two unsuccessful elections, he returned to engineering.

Sources: MDOT, National Governors Association, DTMB

Murray D. Van Wagoner wikipedia entry

Justin A. Hinkley, “Murray who? Meet state office buildings’ namesakes”, Lansing State Journal, October 27, 2015.

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