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Yesterday in La Crosse

The Wisconsin Senator known as Tail Gunner Joe died, 63 years ago

Brad Williams



In May of 1957, Senator Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin passed away at age 48, reportedly from a liver inflammation. McCarthy was described in a newspaper story as ‘probably the most controversial’ American politician of the decade, because of his campaign to seek out Communists in America. Several potential successors were mentioned in the media, including Walter Kohler, Warren Knowles, Gaylord Nelson, and William Proxmire.  

A friend of McCarthy’s, Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, had been announced as the keynote speaker for the Wisconsin G-O-P convention to be held in La Crosse that June.  Goldwater would become his party’s presidential nominee 7 years later.  

On the day Senator McCarthy died, the main headline in the La Crosse Tribune was about the appointment of a new county judge, Eugene Toepel.  He was La Crosse’s Republican state Assemblyman at the time.  Toepel was named by the governor to succeed Judge Roy Ahlstrom, who had recently died.   

First Trane to Clarksville!  La Crosse’s Trane Company announced in 1957 that it would build an air conditioner factory in Clarksville, Tennessee.  Trane still makes products today in that Tennessee town, just as in the 1950’s, yesterday in La Crosse.   

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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