From Memorabilia "Minneskrift" of the International Order of Runeberg, 1968.
As 2014 comes to a close the "Strangest Names In American Political History"makes a stop in Michigan to highlight the life of a man who has duly earned the title "strangest name of the year", and after stumbling across an individual with the initials "U.S.A.", I had an inkling that I was about to unveil a very unusual name. Somewhat needless to say, I was not disappointed! After some quick searching via ancestry.com, I found that those patriotic initials stood for "Uno Sylvanus Augustus Heggblom"...How's that for strange and unusual!!
Despite his being in possession of truly unusual name, little information exists online in regards to Mr. Heggblom, and beneath this odd name rests the interesting story of a Michigan attorney who (in addition to being a seven-time candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives between 1924 and 1948) was active in the affairs of the Augustana Lutheran Church, as well as being a leading figure in the International Order of Runeberg, a fraternal organization devoted to Finnish-Swedish culture and traditions.
A lifelong resident of Michigan, Uno Sylvanus Augustus Heggblom was born in the city of Manistique on March 21, 1898, being the son of John and Christina Heggblom. Sadly I have no interesting tidbits as to how Heggblom came to receive the names "Uno Sylvanus Augustus", but one's imagination can run wild thinking of the possibilities! Young Uno's early schooling occurred at the "Newberry and Munising public schools" and would graduate from the high school in Manistique. Following his graduation, he continued schooling at the Detroit Institute of Technology, the Detroit Teachers College, and Wayne University. In 1922 he earned his bachelor of laws degree from the Detroit College of Law and two years later received his L.L.M (Master of Laws degree) from the University of Detroit.
At the completion of his collegiate studies, Heggblom returned to the Detroit College of Law as a faculty member and later held a teaching position at the Detroit Hudson School. In the early 1920s, Heggblom began the practice of law in Detroit and would be retained as counsel for several businesses in that city, including the Morton and Co. Investment Bankers, the Corporation Finance Co., and the Union Mutual Life Insurance Co.
In 1924 Heggblom made his first move into politics, announcing his candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives from Michigan's 13th district. Running in that year's primary, Heggblom's candidacy was highlighted in the August 1, 1924 edition of the Escanaba Daily Press, which described him as a "Law Enforcement candidate" who conducted a vigorous campaign "through the West Detroit district." Sadly Heggblom's candidacy didn't last past the primary election and another congressional candidacy in 1926 brought more of the same. In total, Heggblom would run for U.S. Representative on a total of seven occasions (1924, 1926, 1932. 1936, 1940, 1944, 1948) but was unable to get his candidacies to extend past the primary election season. One can think that his lengthy name may have been a contributing factor, but, as the Piqua Daily Call notice below illustrates, why would anyone want to vote against a candidate with such patriotic initials?
In 1925 Uno S. A. Heggblom married in Michigan to Ms. Sima Soderback (1902-1982). Heggblom and his wife were wed for over fifty years and their lengthy marriage would see the births of two daughters, Helen (1926-1947) and Ruth Arlene (1927-2010). Prior to his marriage Heggblom began a law practice in Wayne County, Michigan which he would operate for many years afterward, and was later tapped to serve as assistant prosecuting attorney for Wayne County. The Mancelona Herald (which profiled Heggblom's congressional candidacy in 1940) further notes that he established "a record number of convictions without sending innocent men to prison."
Active in Republican Party circles in Michigan, Heggblom was a longstanding member of the Michigan Republican State Central Committee, and, while unsuccessful in his numerous candidacies, would subsequently gain distinction as a public speaker on a variety of topics, including politics, the economy, religion, and the law. As a forceful lecturer (one notice refers to him as a "bull-throated Detroit attorney") Heggblom was in-demand as a speaker throughout Michigan as well as in other states. The notice below (featured in the Lima, Ohio News in May of 1940) records that Heggblom would speak on the "Cause and Cure of Depressions and War", a theme that would play a substantial role in his candidacy that year for a seat in the U.S House of Representatives from Michigan.
A Heggblom speech write-up from the Lima News, May 29, 1940.
As the Republican candidate in the 1940 congressional primary from Michigan's 11th district, Heggblom's candidacy was boomed in several newspapers of the time, including a substantial write-up in the September 5, 1940 edition of the Mancelona Herald (shown below). While touted as "The Anti-War Candidate", Heggblom's campaign notice made sure to note that he was still "Pro-Preparedness but Anti-War" and also issued the following quote on his behalf:
"He says he would resign as Congressman rather than send one American boy to die on foreign soil. He wants our boys to LIVE for their country rather than to DIE for it. He says that if America wants a foreign war let it so decide by a referendum vote of the people. He is on the PEOPLE'S side of every public question."Intoning "to win in November, vote for Heggblom in September", the Mancelona Herald's booming of Heggblom's candidacy seemed to ensure a lock for him at the polls in September, but it was not to be, the nomination instead going to Fredrick Van Ness Bradley. While his congressional candidacy may have come to naught, Heggblom did aid the Republican Party in another facet when he served as part of the Michigan delegation to the Republican National Convention (held in Philadelphia in June of that year) that nominated Wendell Wilkie for the Presidency.
A Heggblom congressional campaign notice from the Mancelona Herald, 1940.
Another Hegbloom campaign advertisement, Munising News, Sept. 5, 1940.
Following his defeat in the primary election of 1940 Heggblom returned to practicing law in Detroit whilst also continuing to accept speaking engagements. In 1944 he again served as part of the Michigan delegation to the Republican National Convention (then being held in Chicago) and in July 1947 made yet another attempt for high office, once again seeking a seat in the U.S House of Representatives. This special primary election had been occasioned by the May 24th death of Representative Frederick Van Ness Bradley, who several years earlier had beaten Heggblom for the Republican nomination for Congress. Bradley's sudden passing had left a vacancy in the House, and in the wake of his death, several Republican candidates (including Heggblom) began vying for the nomination to fill the seat.
In the special primary election held on July 31, Heggblom placed a distant sixth in a field of seven candidates, polling only 1,080 votes compared to winner Charles E. Potter's 5,040. Following his victory Potter would go on to win election to Congress on August 26th, 1947, defeating Democrat Harold Benton. Not one to let a loss get the best of him, Heggblom reentered the political field in September 1948, again throwing his hat in the ring for the Republican nomination for U.S. Representative. In the September 14th primary Heggblom placed fifth in the vote count out of seven candidates, polling just 2,047 votes.
U.S.A. Heggblom in May 1953, from the Munising News.
While Heggblom's status as leading Republican in Wayne County remains an important attribute, his many years of church work also deserves high praise. A member of the Augustana Lutheran Church, Heggblom was described in the Ironwood Globe as having been a "student of the Holy Writ for years" and that he:
"Often substituted for pastors of the church from the pulpit. Hundreds of sermons have been preached by Heggblom in churches of different denominations. For more than 20 years he served as deacon. His activity as a churchman is well known. He taught adult and high school bible classes."In addition to filling in for absent pastors, Heggblom attained high rank in several organizations connected with the Augustana Lutheran Church, including the presidency of the Eastern Michigan District Churchmen and was convention secretary of the Lutheran Men's Organization of Michigan Synod. He was also the only native of Michigan to hold the post of President of the church's Central Conference, which comprised "180 churches."
As a man of Scandinavian descent, Uno S. A. Heggblom spent a good majority of his life heavily involved in the promotion of Finnish-Swedish culture and traditions, being a member of the International Order of Runeberg for over three decades. A fraternal organization devoted to maintaining the cultural traditions of Finnish-Swedish immigrants in the United States, the Order of Runeberg had been established in 1920 from a merger between two other fraternal groups, the Swedish-Finnish Benevolent Association, and the Swedish-Finnish Temperance Association. A past vice president of the Order of Runeberg, Heggblom became President of that order in August 1963 upon the resignation of Hannes Sutherland, who had served as President since 1958. Heggblom held the Runeberg presidency until 1966, and in the following year became "local president" of the Runeberg lodge in Manistique.
Even in his later years, Heggblom continued to be active in political life in Michigan, and at some point in the latter period of his life switched allegiance to the Democratic Party, serving as chairman of the Schoolcraft County Democratic delegation to the 1968 Michigan Democratic Convention held at Detroit's famed Cobo Hall. In 1965 Heggblom and his wife Sima removed from Detroit back to Manistique, and in July 1975 celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary.
After many decades of public prominence, Uno S.A. Heggblom died in Manistique on April 11, 1978, shortly after celebrating his 80th birthday. He was survived by his wife Sima, who, following her death in 1982, was interred alongside her husband at the Lakeview Cemetery in Manistique.
Uno S.A. Heggblom at a Order of Runeberg gathering held in 1967.