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Former Minnesota Attorney General Warren Spannaus dies

Former Minnesota Attorney General Warren Spannaus, who ran for governor in 1982, has died. He was 86.

Warren Spannaus

Warren Spannaus

Spannaus died Monday at a Minneapolis area hospital of complications of cancer, his family told the Dorsey & Whitney law firm, where he was a retired partner.

Spannaus was known for promoting Minnesota’s landmark gun-control law and his longtime friendship and professional partnership with former Vice President Walter Mondale.

The St. Paul native was elected attorney general in 1970 and re-elected twice, serving until 1983. He won the DFL Party endorsement for governor in 1982 but lost in the primary to the eventual winner, the late Gov. Rudy Perpich.

The Star Tribune reports gun-rights advocates created bumper stickers with the slogan “Dump Spannaus” when he ran for governor.

His funeral is scheduled Dec. 4 at Lake Harriet United Methodist Church in Minneapolis.

Gov. Mark Dayton issued this statement.

“Warren Spannaus was a champion for the best interests of Minnesotans, as Attorney General and throughout his career. He expanded that office’s role in safeguarding consumers and protecting our natural resources. I extend my condolences to his family and many friends, who mourn his loss today.”

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith also issued a statement:

“Attorney General Warren Spannaus was a courageous public servant – working to protect Minnesotans from gun violence and our natural resources from pollution. As a private citizen, Warren was compassionate and generous with his time, helping to improve conditions for individuals with mental illness and developmental disabilities. Throughout his life, Warren helped to make Minnesota a better place. I will miss him, and he will be profoundly missed by his wife Marjorie; children Christine, David, and Laura; and all Minnesotans.”

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar also released a statement:

“One of my first jobs in government was as an intern in the consumer division for Attorney General Warren Spannaus. He became a lifelong friend and mentor.

“We worked again together for eight years at Dorsey & Whitney law firm where my office was right next door to his. Warren was a unique figure at the law firm. He would always sit back in his chair and put his feet up on his desk, and the soles of his shoes would inevitably have holes in them. He kept a tin of shoe polish and an old cloth in his desk drawer, and he would often shine his shoes while we talked about work or, more often, politics. For years he and his pal Judge Gerald Heaney would regularly talk on the phone at great length, Warren from the law firm, Judge Heaney from his chambers in Duluth. The topic was always the latest political battle. Like Judge Heaney, Warren never forgot where he came from. At least once a month a man with disabilities who Warren had helped back when he was attorney general would stop by. Warren would always give him a little cash for lunch.

“Warren was always of course very close to my other mentor, Vice President Walter Mondale. It is a lasting testament to their friendship that when Vice President Mondale learned that the University of Minnesota Law School wanted to name its new building after him, he insisted that the student lounge in the building be named after a true friend of the man on the street, Warren Spannaus.

“I’m grateful for all of the things Warren Spannaus taught me, and Minnesota is better for his service.”

Minnesota Lawyer staff contributed to this report.

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