Our Historical Markers across Nebraska highlight fascinating moments and places in our state’s past. Today, we’re focusing on Nebraska’s 27th governor, who presided over the horrific Blizzard of 1949 during one of his three two-year terms.
Swedish Heritage Center, US Hwy 77 & E 3rd St, Oakland, Burt County, Nebraska
Val Peterson was born July 18, 1903, in the Oakland Swedish Lutheran Church parsonage, where his grandfather R.N. Swanberg was the pastor. Returning to live in Oakland at age fourteen, Peterson kept busy with school activities and various jobs, including work as a “printer’s devil” for the Oakland Independent newspaper. He attended Wayne State Teachers College before earning a master’s degree in political science from the University of Nebraska. He was a school teacher and superintendent, and published the Elgin Review newspaper. During World War II he served as an Army Air Corps lieutenant colonel, leading flight operations in the China/Burma region. Peterson was elected Nebraska’s 27th governor in 1946, serving three two-year terms. He initiated Operation Snowbound during the Blizzard of 1949. Peterson served in the Eisenhower administration as Federal Civil Defense Administrator, 1953-57, and as U.S. Ambassador to Denmark, 1957-61. He established Oakland’s sister city relationship with Hammenhog, Sweden. As U.S. Ambassador to Finland, 1969-72, he participated in the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) talks. He died October 17, 1983.
Portrait of Governor Val Peterson.