Donald M. Fraser ’48, Former U.S. Representative and Minneapolis Mayor, Dies at 95
Donald M. Fraser ’48, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1963 to 1979 and as mayor of Minneapolis from 1980 to 1994, died at his Minneapolis home on June 2, aged 95. He was the son of Everett Fraser, the Law School’s third dean, and was a generous Law School benefactor throughout his life.
Born in Minneapolis, Don Fraser attended the University of Minnesota as an undergraduate and served as a radar officer in the Pacific during World War II. After the war, he returned to the University to earn his law degree. As a young lawyer in practice, he became active in Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, working on a number of campaigns until deciding, in 1954, to run for the Minnesota Senate. He served in that body for seven years before being elected to the first of his eight consecutive terms in the U.S. House. His tenure as a congressman was marked by his strong opposition to the Vietnam War, his support for human rights and the environment, and his leading role in exposing the so-called Koreagate bribery scandal.
Having left the House for an unsuccessful campaign for Hubert H. Humphrey’s former U.S. Senate seat, Fraser moved back to Minneapolis and ran successfully for mayor (his four consecutive terms in that office still constitute the longest mayoral tenure in the city’s history). Former police chief Tony Bouza, whom Fraser brought in from New York City to help de-politicize Minneapolis law enforcement, told Fraser biographer Iric Nathanson he found Fraser “thoughtful, decent, intelligent, tough. He’s everything you would want in a mayor. He’s absolutely wonderful.”
In retirement, Fraser maintained his advocacy for such causes as universal preschool, environmental protection, and human rights. Well into their 80s, he and his wife of nearly seven decades, Arvonne Fraser, continued to explore the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness with their children and grandchildren. Arvonne, a women’s rights pioneer and a liberal political force in her own right, passed away in August 2018 at 92.
“Don Fraser’s more than 40 years of public service and dedication to advancing human rights serve as an inspiration to us all,” said Dean Garry W. Jenkins. “His integrity, commitment to justice, and leadership represent the hallmarks of a Minnesota Law education. We are saddened to hear of his death, but we are thankful for his legacy and many contributions to our city, state, and nation.”
A celebration of Fraser’s life will be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 16, at the University’s McNamara Alumni Center, 200 Oak St. SE, Minneapolis.