Robert M. La Follette, Sr.

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Robert M. La Follette was an American politician who was first a Republican and then switched to the Progressive Party. He was a leader of the Progressive movement and was Governor of Wisconsin from 1901 to 1906. From 1906 to 1925, he was a US Senator. Follette also ran for president in 1924 as the candidate for the Progressive Party, but Calvin Coolidge beat him. Follette was known for his reformist ideas throughout his time in politics. Follette was a strong opponent of corporations having too much power. His career changed when a United States Senator paid him money. This was the start of his anger at powerful people and his drive to change things. Follette fought for a number of causes, such as women’s right to vote, racial equality, child labor, railroad rate reform, direct legislation, open government, minimum wage, non-partisan elections, direct elections, and so on, because he was good at organizing things and speaking in front of people. He was called the best proponent of progressivism because of his natural charm and the way he fought against the power of corporations in politics. Also, he was called “Fighting Bob” because he fought for political reforms and supported them his whole life. Years after he died, he was ranked as one of the best senators in U.S. history because of what he did in office and how it changed American history.

Early years and childhood

Robert La Follette was born on June 14, 1855, in the Town of Primrose, Wisconsin, to Josiah La Follette and Mary Ferguson.
Follette had a hard childhood. He grew up in a rural area that was about average in terms of wealth. Because his father died too soon, the Follette family had to sell the family farm to stay alive.

Follette liked to teach students from a very young age. He went to the University of Wisconsin and got his degree there in 1879. He was an average student who did a lot of things with his friends. After high school, he went to law school for a short time and passed the bar in 1880.

Robert Lafollette’s Career

Follette began his legal career in 1880 when he was hired as the Dane County District Attorney. He held the job for two terms before being elected to the United States House of Representatives, where he served for three terms.

Follette lost his Republican seat in 1890 because the Democrats won by a huge amount. After losing, he went back to Madison and started working as a lawyer. During this time, he got a name for himself as a reformer.

Follette’s life changed a lot in the year 1891. A state Republican leader, Senator Philetus Sawyer, tried to bribe him with money. This made him declare war on the Republican Party. He swore that he would fight against rich businessmen and politicians who were dishonest.

Follette built a separate group within the party that focused on voter control to fight against the vices of venality. His new group of Republicans, called “Insurgents,” was mainly against the “stalwarts” in the party.

Follette’s Insurgent group slowly gained a lot of attention, and by 1894, they were fighting the Republican Party for control of the government. His ideas about tax reform, calls for corporate regulation and political democracy, direct control by voters, and protection of consumer rights brought him a lot of attention. He became known for his natural charm, his ability to get things done, and his way with words.

Follette was chosen to be the Governor of Wisconsin in the year 1900. He was elected again in 1902 and 1904, so he stayed in office until 1906. Follette was the Governor of Wisconsin when he came up with a number of progressive reforms, such as the first workers’ compensation system, railroad rate reform, direct legislation, municipal home rule, open government, minimum wage, non-partisan elections, direct election of U.S. Senators, and so on.

The most important thing he did was come up with new ways to do things in politics. The first of these was the Wisconsin Idea. Using this method, he asked top professors of political science at the University of Wisconsin to write bills and run state agencies.

Follette’s second very popular political strategy was called “Roll Call.” To get people to vote for Progressives, he went around Wisconsin and read out loud the votes of staunch Republicans. Its main goal was to let people know how their representatives voted on important issues.

Follette’s books The Wisconsin Idea and Roll Call helped pass a number of reforms that the state legislature had tried to stop in the past. His reputation as a progressive leader grew.

Follette quit his job as Governor of Wisconsin in 1906. He was chosen to be a US Senator in the same year. In his new job, he fought for laws against child labor, social security, women’s right to vote, and other reforms. He became well-known for being a senator who was “not controlled by special interests.”

During his first few years as a senator, Follette helped pass laws about freight rates, labor policies, and how the railroads paid for things. He realized that a small number of strong people controlled most of the country’s economy. Follette changed his focus from railroads to bankers as time went on.

Follette and his wife started a weekly magazine called La Follette’s Weekly Magazine in 1909. It later became a monthly magazine. Later, the magazine was called The Progressive. It worked for causes that were good for society.

Follette was put in charge of the newly elected and newly changed progressives in Congress the same year.
Follette ran for president of the United States in 1912 and tried to get the Republican Party’s nomination, but William Howard Taft won the nomination.

Follette spoke out against the United States being in World War I. He thought that the war would hurt the United States’ reputation and that the country should stay out of it. He led a filibuster in the Senate in 1917 to stop U.S. merchant ships from being armed, and he voted against going to war. He was called pro-German because he spoke out against the war.

Even though he was very against it, America joined the World War. During the war, Follette fought for civil liberties and insisted that the war should be paid for by big businesses. He thought that the war was only good for big business.

Follette used his time and energy after World War I to show how corrupt big businesses were. He thought that the war had given corporations and big businesses a lot of power over the federal government. To fight the same, he brought to light a number of scandals. He was sent back to the Senate in 1922.

Follette agreed to run for president on the Progressive ticket in the 1924 election. Farm groups and labor unions were in favor of him running for office. The Socialist Party also backed him for president. Follette, on the other hand, didn’t get the job. Calvin Coolidge did.

Works of note

Robert La Follette held important jobs in US politics throughout his life. He started out as Governor of Wisconsin, then became a US Senator, and finally became the Leader of the Progressive Movement. In all of his jobs, he stood up against corruption and unfairness.

As Governor, Follette came up with the Wisconsin Idea and Roll Call, two new ways to do politics that helped get a number of progressive reforms passed. Follette also worked as a Senator, where he helped get a number of important laws and changes made in the federal government.

Awards & Achievements

In 1957, after his death, he was named one of the five best U.S. Senators by the Senate Committee. He also tied with Henry Clay for first place in a survey of the ten best Senators in U.S. history that was done in 1982.

Personal History and Legacies

Follette met Belle Case, who would become his wife, for the first time at the University of Wisconsin. On December 31, 1881, they got married at her family’s home in Baraboo, Wisconsin. They were lucky to have four children.
Follette died on June 18, 1925. He died because of heart disease. As of the time he died, he was a U.S. senator from Wisconsin. The Forest Hill Cemetery is where he was laid to rest.

Follette’s two sons, Robert Jr. and Philip went into politics as Progressives to carry on his work. As governor of Wisconsin, Philip Follette was a big deal, but Robert, Jr. took over his father’s seat in the US Senate. Robert was elected three times, and he stayed in the job until 1947.

After he died, many portraits, busts, statues, and paintings were made to honor his work in American politics as the Governor of Wisconsin, a US Senator, and the leader of the Progressive Party.

His house in Maple Buff is now a National Historic Landmark, which is a big deal. In Madison, Wisconsin, there is a school named after him. His name is also one of the best schools for public affairs in the United States, which is at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In the Senate reception room at the US Capitol, there are portraits of him and four other senators who have done a lot for the country.

Estimated Net worth

Robert is on the list of the most popular and wealthiest politicians. We looked at Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider to figure out that Robert M. Lafollette Sr. has a net worth of about $1.5 million.


This politician was a Governor of the United States and then a Senator. He was known as “Fighting Bob” because he was a reformer who fought for changes in politics.

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