A Minnesota business and political leader with roots in St. Cloud has died.
Wheelock Whitney Jr.'s death was acknowledged Friday afternoon in a statement from Gov. Mark Dayton.
"Wheelock Whitney was an outstanding and influential civic leader throughout his life. He was also a very dear family friend," Dayton said in a written statement.
Whitney grew up in St. Cloud and went on to a successful career as an investment banker. He was the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in 1964 and for governor in 1982.
He also was well-known for his role in bringing professional sports to Minnesota. He was a big part of efforts to entice the Washington Senators to move to Minnesota in 1961, where they became the Minnesota Twins. He then served on the team's board of directors. He also was part of efforts to land the NHL's Minnesota North Stars, and was later a part-owner of the Minnesota Vikings.
"I don’t know there is anybody in Minnesota’s history that has accomplishment as much as he has," said Arne Carlson, former Minnesota Governor. "I would like Minnesotans to pause for a moment and say thank you. I think we owe that."
Whtiney helped fund and lead Carlson's campaign, but the two also formed a friendship through shared political philosophies.
"He was phenomenal, absolutely, phenomenal, no there is no way I could have become Governor without Wheelock Whitney," said Carlson. "It was a relationship where he genuinely cared about good government, and he expected and held me to very high expectation."
Carlson said he remembers how instrumental Wheelock was in his difficult first year in office.
"I’ll never forget coming into a breakfast meeting at the Governor’s residence and he didn’t say anything, he just walked up to me and gave me a hug, and that hug was the turning point, Wheelock had the incredible ability to sense when other people were down, when other people were in need of help," said Carlson.
Whitney brought that same uplifting nature to the business world. Dale Kurschner, Twin Cities Business editor-in-chief, remembered Wheelock's speech last year when Twin Cities business gave him a 2015 Outstanding Directors Lifetime Achievement Award.
"He would lift people up when their spirits were low, but he would always say, you can do better. That carried over to a lot of companies he worked on, HB Fuller, IDS, now Ameriprise, that same spirit became the corporate culture of a lot of companies," said Kurschner.
Kurschner praised Wheelock's vision helping the Twin Cities become an investment hub, but combining his business ambitions with ethics, value and purpose.
Some of Wheelock's most important civic contributions including his work helping with drug addiction and alcoholism. He helped found the organization that became Hazelden.
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman also remembered Wheelock Whitney.
“Wheelock Whitney was a great man, a great leader, and a great politician who worked across the aisle to get things done. My thoughts and prayers are with his family," said Coleman, in a statement.
Whitney leaves behind his wife, Kathleen Blatz, a state supreme court justice, and several children.