From the Minnesota Alumni Weekly, May 1930.
Since beginning this site over two years ago I've managed to locate many new oddly named political figures through hours of sometimes tedious research, scouring old state books, registers and election results in the hope that a new name might pop up. A few days ago (while perusing a Harvard Law School catalog) I managed to stumble upon one of those names that left me scratching my head in bewilderment, and I think you'll agree that he possesses a truly fascinating name: Melkeor United States Kjorlaug (see addendum at the end of this article for more information.)
While he may not be the first politician profiled here with "United States" as a middle name (see Nephi United States Centennial Jensen's article) Mr. Kjorlaug parlayed a successful career as an attorney in Massachusetts, Minnesota and Texas into a political career, being a three-time Republican aspirant for the U.S. House of Representatives. Despite aspiring to such a lofty office, Mr. Kjorlaug was unsuccessful on all three occasions, and one can wonder if it was his name (and not his politics) that may have scared away potential voters. A good majority of the sources mentioning him abbreviate his rather lengthy name as either "M.U.S. Kjorlaug" or "Melkeor U.S. Kjorlaug".
Melkeor U.S. Kjorlaug was born of Norwegian extraction in Boone County, Nebraska on the 8th of October 1887, one of several children born to Peder and Metta Kjorlaug. His education took place in the public schools of both Nebraska and Minnesota. Following the completion of high school he enrolled at the Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota and in March 1912 won the Minnesota state oratorical contest for Carleton with an oration entitled "Master or Slave". The Public Speaking Review of 1912 gives note of the enthusiastic reception of Kjorlaug's speech, noting that after the winning oration was announced: "the effect was instantaneous and for about fifteen minutes uproarious pandemonium rained supreme."
Following his graduation from Carleton in 1912 Kjorlaug studied at the Harvard Law School in Massachusetts. Following his graduation from the school in 1915, he was admitted to the Massachusetts bar and later settled in Boston. Following his resettlement, the Alumni Magazine of Carleton College notes that Kjorlaug was " connected with the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. He is greatly interested in his work and finds excellent opportunity for social service in his new position."
Kjorlaug eventually removed back to Minnesota and was admitted to the state bar in 1916. He opened a law practice in Minneapolis and married and later had two children, Clark Riegel Kjorlaug (1917-2012) and Audrey Kjorlaug (born 1921). Around 1919 he became affiliated with the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis, where he served as an Instructor in Law for six years (1919-1925). His residency in Minneapolis saw Kjorlaug serve as attorney for the Minneapolis Legal Aid Society and he later was named to the position of Superintendent of the Minneapolis Department of Public Welfare.
Melkeor Kjorlaug first entered political life in 1925 when he was elected to the Minneapolis City Council, representing that city's 13th ward. He served six years on the council and late in his service began a campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives for Minnesota's 5th district. His campaign ad in the 1930 Minneapolis Alumni Weekly touted his tenure as a Harvard graduate and former law instructor, noting that as a candidate Kjorlaug was "aggressive, fearless and honorable." As one of four Republican candidates in that year's primary Kjorlaug came in last, polling only 4,895 votes to former Lieutenant Governor William Ignatius Nolan's winning total of 21,114. Nolan would go on to win election to Congress that November and served two terms, being defeated in 1933. The accompanying electoral result from that year's primary appeared in the 1931 Legislative Manual of Minnesota and is shown below.
Following his congressional primary loss Kjorlaug returned to his duties as a Minneapolis city councilman and also the practice of law. In 1936 he removed from Minnesota to Texas, settling in Houston where he would reside for the remainder of his life. Shortly after his resettlement, Kjorlaug began operating a law practice out of Houston.
Despite being a resident of the Lone Star state for only a few years, Kjorlaug reentered the political arena in 1940, launching another campaign for Congress. In that year he was the Republican candidate from Texas' 7th district, running against popular one-term Democratic incumbent Albert Thomas (1898-1966). When the votes were tallied on election day it was Thomas who emerged victorious, besting Kjorlaug by a vote of 89,796 to 4, 925. Two years following his defeat, Kjorlaug was once again the Republican nominee against Thomas, and the vote count proved to be just as lopsided as the previous election, with Thomas coasting to victory with a vote of 31,038 to Kjorlaug's total of 622. Albert Thomas would go on to serve a total of 29 years in Congress, dying in office in 1966 at age 68. A result from the 1940 congressional election between the two men appeared in the 2007 book Representing Texas and is shown below.
Despite his losing candidacies, Kjorlaug returned to practicing law in Houston, and in 1947 became the Dean of the South Texas Law School. He held this position until 1962 and was an awarded honorary membership in the Ex-Student's Association of the South Texas Law College in 1958. M.U.S. Kjorlaug died at his home in Houston of "coronary thrombosis" on January 15, 1967 at age 79 and was survived by his wife Ellen and two children. He was later interred at the Forest Park East Cemetery in Houston. Ellen Kjorlaug survived her husband by over a decade, dying in July 1978 at age 91 and was interred in the same cemetery as her husband.
M.U.S. Kjorlaug as he appeared in Volume 19 of the Texas Bar Journal, 1956.
From the Corpus Christi Times, January 16, 1967.
You Can Help!
Despite having a little in the way of information available online, I've managed to compile the above biography of Melkeor Kjorlaug, and although what I've written could be considered a decent overview of his life and public career, many aspects of his life remain a mystery, including information on his parents, childhood, early education, marriage and later years. For any descendants or others who may know more about this intriguingly named man, I'd like to invite you to contact me via the site's Facebook page or comment box here. I'd be interested in any and all information you may have concerning Mr. Kjorlaug and his career in the public forum!
A few hours after putting the above article online my "You Can Help" segment shown above received a reply from SNIAPH Facebook fan Chris Heffner, who related to me a very interesting discovery.....Melkeor U.S. Kjorlaug's middle name may not have been "United States", at least according to his Texas death certificate. Through Chris' findings, Mr. Kjorlaug's middle names were "Urdahl Shelldrup", and with that information in hand, I can honestly state that I am now thoroughly confused!
While death certificates have been useful to me in the past (see Nephi U.S.C. Jensen's article for an example) I was unable to find one for Mr. Kjorlaug, that is until Chris related his findings to me. While I usually consider a death certificate or gravestone to be the final arbiter in name discrepancies, I can't quite wrap my head around why exactly a death certificate issued by Texas lists one set of middle names (Urdahl Shelldrup) while the Quinquennial Catalogue of the Law School of Harvard University lists them as "United States", not once but FOUR times throughout the book! If the "United States" listing was a mistake or error on the part of that book's compiler I have a difficult time believing that they'd do it four separate times in the same work.
Since being told of the "Urdahl Shelldrup" middle name I've looked to see if I could find any other references to it but have come up empty. The FamilySearch genealogical website (which houses a number of Texas death certificates) lists "Urdahl Shelldrup" but not "United States", and Ancestry.com lists Kjorlaug by his abbreviated name "M.U.S. Kjorlaug" and "Melkeor Kjorlaug". In light of this new information, I've decided to include both names in the title to Kjorlaug's article here. It is my sincere hope that a relative or descendant will stumble across this page and contribute whatever information they may have and hopefully someday I'll be able to get a definitive answer as to whether Kjorlaug's middle names are "United States" or "Urdahl Shelldrup". Either way, the man's name is still truly unusual!!
Aside from making me aware of the middle name situation, Chris also did me a great favor by locating the names of Kjorlaug's parents, siblings, and burial location.....all of which were unknown to me as of the time of this article's publishing late yesterday (August 22nd.) I'd like to offer forth a hail and hearty thank you to Chris for his responding to the "You Can Help" segment and the time he spent doing further research in regards to Mr. Kjorlaug's life. Your help is most appreciated!