Wisconsin’s La Follette helps fund plaque honoring ancestor

Wisconsin Department of Administration mason Richard Vick installs a plaque honoring Robert "Fighting Bob" La Follette on his bust in the state Capitol on Friday in Madison, Wis. Secretary of State Doug La Follette, a distant relative of the former U.S. senator and governor, is helping to pay for the new plaque that will be unveiled on Monday. (AP Photo/Scott Bauer)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette is helping to pay for a new plaque to be installed Friday in the state Capitol honoring one of Wisconsin’s most famous politicians who is also a distant relative of the longtime officeholder.

The bust of Robert “Fighting Bob” La Follette has a prominent place on the first floor of the Capitol Rotunda, but it bears only his name and no explanation of who he was. Doug La Follette, who was reelected in November to his 11th consecutive term as secretary of state, said he walked by it for 30 years without realizing there was no plaque.

Finally, La Follette said the omission dawned on him and he decided to do something about it.

La Follette, 82, won approval for the idea from a committee that oversees the Capitol, on the condition that he raise the $2,700 to pay for it. La Follette said Friday he raised $1,200 but he intends to cover the rest of the cost.

“If the state government can’t afford a couple thousand dollars for the most important political figure in our history, whatever,” La Follette said in an interview. “That’s water under the bridge. … I’m quite willing to make up the difference.”

La Follette said he is a first cousin twice removed of the former governor and 1924 Progressive Party presidential candidate — a party he founded. “Fighting Bob” La Follette was governor from 1901 to 1906, served six years in the U.S. House and just over 19 years in the U.S. Senate. He died in office in 1925.

A state Capitol worker installed the plaque Friday, but it will be kept under wraps until the Monday unveiling. A mockup of the plaque that La Follette revealed last year described “Fighting Bob” as “a founder of the progressive movement and champion of the ‘Wisconsin Idea.'”

“From now on, everybody visiting the Capitol will know who the man was,” La Follette said.


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