Press Release: Gov. Evers Announces Passing of Former Wisconsin Gov. Tony Earl

Office of Governor Tony Evers
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 23, 2023
Gov. Evers Announces Passing of Former Wisconsin Gov. Tony Earl
Governor orders US, Wisconsin flags to fly at half-staff as state mourns loss

MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers today announced the passing of former Gov. Tony Earl, the 41st governor of the state of Wisconsin. After suffering a stroke this past weekend, Gov. Earl was hospitalized, spending his remaining days surrounded and loved by his daughters and close family. Former Gov. Earl passed away peacefully surrounded by loved ones on Thurs., February 23, 2023, at the age of 86. Former Gov. Earl is survived by his four daughters, Julia Earl, Anne Earl, Maggie Earl Shore, Kitty Earl-Torniainen, and 11 grandkids: Lucy, Eamon, Jack, Ben, Ash, Henry, Deirdre, Will, Silja, Aili, and Kai.

Gov. Evers today also signed Executive Order #187 ordering the flags of the United States and the state of Wisconsin to be flown at half-staff effective immediately as the state of Wisconsin honors former Gov. Earl’s service and contributions to the state. 

“It has been an extraordinary honor and a privilege to know former Gov. Earl, and Kathy and I are heartbroken today to announce his passing,” said Gov. Evers. “A formidable leader and public servant, trusted colleague and mentor, and a good and loyal friend, Tony was well-liked and respected by so many. Tony was always a staunch defender of our state’s proud traditions, including conservation, and his passing is a significant loss for our state and for all who had the fortune of meeting and serving with him. His wisdom and wit will be well missed. Kathy and I send our deepest condolences to his daughters and his family during this tremendously difficult time, and we join the people of Wisconsin in mourning the loss of former Gov. Earl.”

“The family is tremendously grateful for the love and support we’ve received,” said former Gov. Earl’s four daughters, Julia, Anne, Maggie, and Kitty in a statement. “Our dad would have been honored by the outpouring of gratitude expressed by all. He would encourage anyone he knew to actively engage in positive change.”

The Earl family also expresses its profound gratitude for the exceptional care he received at the University of Wisconsin Hospital. 

Former Gov. Earl was the 41st governor of the state of Wisconsin, serving as governor from 1983 to 1987. A Navy veteran and graduate of Michigan State University and the University of Chicago Law School, Gov. Earl served as an assistant district attorney in Marathon County from 1965 to 1966 and as the Wausau City Attorney from 1966 to 1969. In October 1969, Gov. Earl was elected to serve in the Wisconsin State Assembly via special election and was reelected in 1970 and 1972. While in the Wisconsin State Assembly, he served as majority leader beginning in 1972 through December 1974. Following his time in the Wisconsin State Assembly, Gov. Earl served as secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Administration from 1974 to 1975 and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) from 1975 to 1980, serving under the administrations of Govs. Patrick Lucey, Martin Schreiber, and Lee Dreyfus. 

Former Gov. Earl’s lasting legacy is marked by his devout support of stewardship and conservation during his time both as governor and as secretary of the DNR. In addition to serving on several boards and commissions, including the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Subcommittee on Energy, Clean Air and Climate Change, the Center for Clean Air Policy, and the Great Lakes Protection Fund, in 2019, Gov. Earl was honored with the renaming of the Peshtigo River State Forest as the “Governor Earl Peshtigo River State Forest.”

Former Gov. Earl was a Wisconsinite through and through—known for his authenticity, his wit, and his kindness, he has remained revered and respected by colleagues throughout his long career in public service, even decades after his time in office concluded. He was also known for pursuing pragmatic policy solutions with comity and respect despite party affiliation, his passion for and commitment to good governance, his leadership in promoting diversity and inclusion, especially for LGBTQ Wisconsinites, women, and communities of color, and being an outspoken critic of polarization and money in politics. Former Gov. Earl was also an active and engaged community member, including serving with distinction on the Board of Directors for the Joyce Foundation.

Executive Order #187 is available here and effective immediately until sunset on March 3, 2023. Executive Order #187 also orders flags to be lowered to half-staff on the date of former Gov. Earl’s future celebration of life. Details for the celebration will be released by former Gov. Earl’s family at a later date.

An online version of this release is available here.