Joseph P. Teasdale

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Joseph Teasdale
48th Governor of Missouri
In office
January 10, 1977 – January 12, 1981
Lieutenant Bill Phelps
Preceded by Kit Bond
Succeeded by Kit Bond
Personal details
Born Joseph Patrick Teasdale
(1936-03-29)March 29, 1936
Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.
Died Script error: The function "death_date_and_age" does not exist.
Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Alma mater Benedictine College
Rockhurst University
Saint Louis University
Military service
Service/branch United States Air Force
Rank Airman 3rd Class
Unit Reserves

Joseph Patrick Teasdale (March 29, 1936 – May 8, 2014) was an American politician from the state of Missouri. A Democrat, he served as the 48th Governor of Missouri from 1977 to 1981.[1]

Early life and education

Teasdale was born in Kansas City, Missouri to parents William and Adah (Downey) Teasdale.[2] Teasdale's father was a prominent Kansas City attorney,[3] His grandfather, William B. Teasdale, was also an attorney, prosecutor, and member of the Missouri State Senate and considered "One of the men who made Kansas City."[4] Joseph Teasdale and his three sisters were raised as devout Catholics.[5] Teasdale was a multi-sport athlete while attending Rockhurst High School and would later be inducted into the school's Athletic Hall of Fame.[5] Following graduation from high school he attended St. Benedict's College in Atchison, Kansas where he was a member of the schools 1954 NAIA National Champion basketball team.[6] Teasdale later earned an undergraduate degree from Rockhurst University, and a law degree from Saint Louis University School of Law.[7]

Professional life

From 1962 to 1966, Joe Teasdale served as Assistant United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, where among his other duties he led the organized crime division.[7] It was also in the early 1960s that he enlisted in the United States Air Force Reserve,[5] with his primary duty being at Whiteman Air Force Base where Airman 3rd Class Teasdale performed legal staff duties for the 442nd Military Airlift Wing.[8] Teasdale was elected Prosecuting Attorney for Jackson County, Missouri in 1966, becoming the youngest person to ever hold that office.[3] He ran his first statewide campaign in 1972, seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Though defeated in the primary, his innovative campaign style earned him name recognition around Missouri and a nickname, "Walkin' Joe".[7] The name came about due to his habit of walking door-to-door all across the Show-Me state greeting potential supporters. It is thought that Teasdale appropriated the tactic from Florida Governor "Walkin' Lawton Chiles. Teasdale campaign officials estimated that he had walked over 1,000 miles in the months leading up to the primary.[7] Even though he lost the primary to Ed Dowd it set the stage for Teasdale to make another, successful, run in 1976.[9]

The 1976 Missouri gubernatorial election provided one of the most surprising upsets in the state's history.[3] Running on a platform of working for common Missourians and vowing to fight big utility company rate hikes, Teasdale painted first-term incumbent Kit Bond as being too friendly to big business interests.[9] The tactic proved successful with many voters angered at Bond's approval of rate hikes, and in what many considered an upset Teasdale was elected governor by 13,000 votes.[7] The victory prompted CBS News anchorman Dan Rather to quip on the air "..the story in the Midwest is not Jimmy Carter, it's Walkin' Joe Teasdale!"[3]

As governor

True to his word on the campaign trail once in the governors office Teasdale fought against utility companies by appointing new members to the Missouri Public Service Commission, the state agency tasked with approving or denying rates.[3] Among other accomplishments were establishing the state's first Division of Aging, boosting funding for the Department of Mental Health, and overseeing the rewriting of numerous health laws.[7] Teasdale also advocated strongly for the Nursing Home Reform Act and removal of sales tax on prescription drugs.[7] He proved willing to reach across party lines as well, supporting Republican Mel Hancock's amendment to limit state taxes.[9] Teasdale also came out strongly against the Meramec Dam project which would have greatly affected rivers in areas southwest of St. Louis.[9] He signed legislation reinstating the death penalty in Missouri in 1977, but later regreted the decision. In 1980 Teasdale made state history by becoming the first Missouri governor in 140 years to have a veto overridden by the state legislature.[7] He angered many in his own party by opposing the cost of constructing the Harry S. Truman state office building in Jefferson City. That anger manifested itself again in 1980 as Teasdale faced a tough Democratic primary challenge from then-State Treasurer Jim Spainhower. He was successful in holding off Spainhower but lost a bitter rematch in the November 1980 general election with Kit Bond.

After leaving the governorship in early 1981 Joe Teasdale returned to the Kansas City area and established a law practice. One of his most notable cases was representing victims and surviving family of the Hyatt Regency walkway collapse.[7] An avid outdoorsman all his life, he often spent time on hunting and fishing trips.[5] Teasdale largely avoided state politics after his defeat, telling one newspaper reporter in 1993 "I wanted to become a normal person again, and I really wasn’t normal before. For 20 years I was completely consumed by politics.”[7] In the late 1990s, his position on capital punishment having changed, he worked to achieve clemency for David Leisure, a man convicted of murder for a 1980 car bombing in St. Louis.[9]

Personal life

In 1973, Teasdale was wed to the former Theresa Ferkenhoff. The couple had three sons, Bill, John, and Kevin.[5] His middle son, John, was a multisport standout at Rockhurst High School like his father before him, and later played offensive tackle at the University of Notre Dame.[10]

Joe Teasdale died on May 8, 2014, in Kansas City, Missouri, of complications from pneumonia.[11]

Election History

1980 gubernatorial election, Missouri[12]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Kit Bond 1,098,950 52.63 +3.08
Democratic Joseph P. Teasdale (incumbent) 981,884 47.02 -3.21
Socialist Workers Helen Savio 7,193 0.34 +0.34
Majority 117,066 5.61 +4.93
Turnout 2,088,027 42.47 +1.13
Republican gain from Democratic Swing
1976 gubernatorial election, Missouri[13]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Joseph P. Teasdale 971,184 50.23 +5.59
Republican Kit Bond (incumbent) 958,110 49.55 -5.63
Nonpartisan Leon Striler 4,215 0.22 +0.03
N/A write-ins 46 0.00 ±0.00
Socialist Workers Helen Savio 20 0.00 ±0.00
Majority 13,074 0.68 -9.86
Turnout 1,933,575 41.34 +1.45
Democratic gain from Republican Swing


  1. Joseph P. Teasdale-National Governors Association
  2. "Joseph Patrick Teasdale obituary". May 11, 2014. Retrieved May 26, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 "Gov. Joe Teasdale: Friend with sincerity, integrity". The Sedalia Democrat. May 23, 2014. Retrieved May 26, 2014. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Men who made Kansas City-William B. Teasdale". 2014. Retrieved May 26, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 "In Memory of Joseph Teasdale". McGilley State Line Chapel. May 10, 2014. Retrieved May 26, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "National Championship team headlines 2011 Ravens Hall of Fame class". Benedictine College athletic department website. October 26, 2011. Retrieved May 27, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 7.8 7.9 "Former Missouri Governor Walkin Joe Teasdale dies". The Kansas City Star. May 8, 2014. Archived from the original on May 11, 2014. Retrieved May 26, 2014. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help); Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Missouri's 'Walkin' Joe' once walked as 442nd Citizen Airman". U.S. Air Force Reserve 442nd Fighter Wing. March 26, 2007. Retrieved May 27, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 "Joseph P. Teasdale: Walkin' Joe Teasdale, Missouri's 48th Governor". St. Louis Public Radio. May 8, 2014. Retrieved May 27, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "John Teasdale bio". University of Notre Dame athletic department. 2001. Retrieved May 27, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Former Missouri Gov. Joseph Teasdale dies at 78". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. May 8, 2014. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "MO Governor Race - Nov 04, 1980". Our Campaigns. Retrieved February 10, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "MO Governor Race - Nov 02, 1976". Our Campaigns. Retrieved February 9, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
Party political offices
Preceded by
Edward Dowd
Democratic nominee for Governor of Missouri
1976, 1980
Succeeded by
Ken Rothman
Political offices
Preceded by
Kit Bond
Governor of Missouri
Succeeded by
Kit Bond