Former WI Gov. Earl passes away following stroke

The 41st Governor of Wisconsin, Tony Earl, has passed away. Gov. Tony Evers office announced the passing Thursday, saying Gov. Earl had been hospitalized after suffering a stroke this past weekend.

Former Gov. Earl was 86 years old. He is survived by his four daughters, Julia Earl, Anne Earl, Maggie Earl Shore, Kitty Earl-Torniainen, and 11 grandkids: Lucy, Eamon, Jack, Ben, Ash, Henry, Deirdre, Will, Silja, Aili, and Kai.

Gov. Evers has ordered United States and Wisconsin State flags to be flown at half-staff effective immediately, until sunset on Friday, March 3. That is when former Gov. Earl’s life will be celebrated.

“It has been an extraordinary honor and a privilege to know former Gov. Earl, and Kathy and I are heartbroken today to announce his passing,” said Gov. Evers. “A formidable leader and public servant, trusted colleague and mentor, and a good and loyal friend, Tony was well-liked and respected by so many. 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. His wisdom and wit will be well missed. Kathy and I send our deepest condolences to his daughters and his family during this tremendously difficult time, and we join the people of Wisconsin in mourning the loss of former Gov. Earl.”

“The family is tremendously grateful for the love and support we’ve received,” said former Gov. Earl’s four daughters, Julia, Anne, Maggie, and Kitty in a statement. “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.”

Former Gov. Earl was the 41st governor of the state of Wisconsin, serving as governor from 1983 to 1987. A Navy veteran and graduate of Michigan State University and the University of Chicago Law School, Gov. Earl served as an assistant district attorney in Marathon County from 1965 to 1966 and as the Wausau City Attorney from 1966 to 1969. In October 1969, Gov. Earl was elected to serve in the Wisconsin State Assembly via special election and was reelected in 1970 and 1972. While in the Wisconsin State Assembly, he served as majority leader beginning in 1972 through December 1974. Following his time in the Wisconsin State Assembly, Gov. Earl served as secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Administration from 1974 to 1975 and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) from 1975 to 1980, serving under the administrations of Govs. Patrick Lucey, Martin Schreiber, and Lee Dreyfus.

Former Gov. Earl was a Wisconsinite through and through—known for his authenticity, his wit, and his kindness, he has remained revered and respected by colleagues throughout his long career in public service, even decades after his time in office concluded. He was also known for pursuing pragmatic policy solutions with comity and respect despite party affiliation, his passion for and commitment to good governance, his leadership in promoting diversity and inclusion, especially for LGBTQ Wisconsinites, women, and communities of color, and being an outspoken critic of polarization and money in politics. Former Gov. Earl was also an active and engaged community member, including serving with distinction on the Board of Directors for the Joyce Foundation.

“Governor Tony Earl was a mentor and friend to me, and I am deeply saddened to hear of his passing,” shared Senator Tammy Baldwin. “From my time as his intern, through his later years, Governor Earl was always a shining example of what is good about government and the good that government can do, working with Republicans and Democrats to deliver for Wisconsinites and always putting people over politics. Governor Earl represented the best of the Wisconsin tradition, fighting for working families, advocating for the responsible stewardship of our waters, lands, and wildlife, and never wavering on his commitment to do right by his neighbors.”