It may come as a surprise to modern-day Dorchester area residents, our community has played a role in Nebraska’s political history.
Research by the Dorchester Times’ staff has uncovered at least eight Dorchester residents or natives who have served in the Nebraska Legislature.
Of course, it should be noted that from 1866 until 1937, Nebraska had a bicameral legislature with both a state senate and state house of representatives.
When Nebraska implemented its unique unicameral legislature in late 1937, the number of state lawmakers declined from 133 in the bicameral to 43 in the stand-alone chamber. (Today, the Cornhusker State 49 state senators.) Still, we were impressed by the lengthy list of Dorchester’s past political leadership.
Here is the list of the Dorchester residents and natives who served in our state legislature, followed by the years they were in office:
- T.B. Parker (1877-79)
- John J. Edicott (1899-1901)
- William H. Beekly (1901-1903)
- John Chab (1909-11)
- Fred Gustus Johnson (1907-09; 1917-20)
- Charles H. Meacham, Jr. (1923-29)
- Allen J. Murphy (1921-23)
- Don Eret (1983-87)
Of the above public servants, Fred Gustus Johnson, who lived from 1876–1951, was the most prominent. He went on to serve as lieutenant governor and a member of the U.S. House.
A Republican, Johnson was born on a farm near Dorchester. He graduated from DHS in 1893 and from UNL’s college of law in 1903; he was admitted to the bar the same year. He set up practice in Dorchester and did a little farming on the side. In 1911, he moved Hastings to continue his law practice.
Johnson was elected a member of the Nebraska state house of representatives from 1907 to 1909 and again from 1917 to 1919. He was elected to the state senate in 1919. In 1923, Johnson went on to become Nebraska’s lieutenant governor.
Johnson reached the apex of his political career in 1929, when he was elected to serve as a U.S. congressman from Nebraska's 5th district in 1929. He ran in 1930 and 1932, but failed to be re-elected, as Republicans fell out of favor during the Great Depression. He was later elected as a county judge.
Johnson died April 30, 1951. He is buried in Parkview Cemetery in Hastings.