Capital Times


Date: Monday, May 3, 1993
Section: Local/State
Edition: All
Page: 3A
Byline: By John Patrick Hunter and Matt Pommer The Capital Times

Memorial services are scheduled Wednesday for former Gov. Warren P. Knowles, a moderate Republican who championed environmental causes and supported civil rights.

Knowles, 84, of Milwaukee, governor from 1965 to 1971 and an avid sportsman, died Saturday of an apparent heart attack on the opening day of the fishing season during the Governor's Fishing Opener on Lake Arbutus near Black River Falls.

``He died doing what he loved the most,'' said Ody Fish, a member of the UW Board of Regents while Knowles was governor. ``He was a great outdoorsman.''

Sam Sanfillippo, whose Madison funeral home was handling arrangements, said he and Knowles had been fishing buddies for 50 years. ``He always said if he had to go, he wanted to go when he was fishing or hunting.''

Gov. Tommy Thompson said Knowles was always a gentleman. ``I really got to know him in 1967 when I got sworn in as a freshman legislator,'' Thompson said. ``He's just a fine individual. Everybody loved him. I don't think he had any enemies at all.

Gov. Thompson ordered flags at state office buildings to be flown at half-staff through Wednesday in honor of Knowles.

``Gov. Knowles' death is a great loss for the entire state,'' said Thompson. ``He was a great leader, a visionary environmentalist and a role model for governors to follow. I greatly valued his friendship and his advice. gov. Knowles truly loved this state, and all of Wisconsin will miss him.''

``He was an environmentalist who was instrumental in pushing for funding of programs to preserve the state's natural resources.''

One of Knowles' best-known initiatives was the Outdoor Recreation Act Program, which established a long-range program for buying and improving land for parks, hunting and other recreational uses with the help of cigarette tax revenue.

Raised in River Falls, he attended Carleton College in Minnesota and the UW Law School before he was elected to the state Senate in 1941.

After serving as a Navy lieutenant aboard the USS Nevada, he returned to the Senate in 1945 as Republican floor leader.

He authored legislation creating the state Building Commission and the Legislative Council, which oversees affairs when the Senate and Assembly are in recess.

He was elected lieutenant governor in 1954, 1956 and 1960 before his election as governor in 1964. Knowles defeated then-Attorney General Bronson C. La Follette in the 1968 election.

On several occasions Knowles called out the National Guard to protect the Capitol and other state property.

Knowles pursued private business interests after choosing not to seek re-election when the governorship switched from a two-year to a four-year term.

A brother, Robert Knowles, died in 1985 at age 69.

Sanfillippo said the funeral was scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday at Mount Mary College in Milwaukee.

When his last term expired in 1971, Knowles turned over the reins for a four-year term to Democrat Patrick J. Lucey.

Lucey said Sunday he credits Knowles for many of the ideas he was able to adopt during his administration.

Knowles presided over some of the most turbulent times in Wisconsin history. Anti-war protesters rocked the campuses, and in October 1969 Rev. James Groppi and his followers staged a sit-in at the Assembly.

Then-Sheriff Jack Leslie armed his men and wanted to clean out the protesters, recalled Paul Hassett, then Knowles' executive secretary. Knowles dispatched Hassett and Arvid ``Bud'' Sather, his legal counsel, to talk to Groppi. And he called out the National Guard.

Groppi and his followers left without bloodshed. Singing ``We Shall Overcome,'' they marched through a human corridor of National Guardsmen.

Nor would Knowles put up with the idea that the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus be closed because of anti-war demonstrations.

``I don't think they (the university) knew what a good friend they had in Knowles,'' Hassett said.

He called the peaceful resolution of the sit-in one of Knowles' finest hours.

Illustration: Warren Knowles

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