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Former Gov. Wendell Anderson is honored on his 80th birthday

The former governor is credited with the “Minnesota Miracle,” which raised state taxes to pay for education.

Former Gov. Wendell Anderson turns 80 today, and plans to celebrate by taking grandchildren to the Gopher women’s hockey game tonight.

Anderson was governor from 1971 to 1976, and presided over some heady times in Minnesota politics. He oversaw the “Minnesota Miracle,” which reformed the state’s education funding system. He was featured on the cover of Time magazine, wearing a plaid shirt and hoisting a northern pike.

Gov. Mark Dayton has issued a proclamation declaring Friday “Wendell Anderson Day” in Minnesota.

Bill Salisbury of the Pioneer Press says Anderson has been suffering from a bad cold, but says he’s in overall in good health. He told Salisbury:

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“I’m very lucky. I read the St. Paul paper this morning without glasses. The light was good.”

He joked that he had been “very careful in picking out my mother and father,” who both lived well into their 90s.

Anderson, a University of Minnesota grad, played college hockey and was on the 1956 U.S. Olympic hockey team.

He was first elected governor in 1970 and easily won re-election in 1974; two years later, though, his popularity plunged when he arranged to have himself appointed to the U.S. Senate when Walter Mondale was elected vice president. He left elective politics after losing the 1978 Senate race.

Since then, Anderson has been a businessman, lawyer, honorary consul general for Sweden, and he spent 12 years on the University’s board of regents.

Salisbury notes:

Anderson said he was “very lucky” to have served in the Legislature and as governor at a time when “Republicans and Democrats got along.” The GOP controlled the state House and Senate when they passed the Minnesota Miracle.