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Fred Risser

Fred Risser

Wisconsin Historical Society Image ID: WHi-40696

Fred Risser

On May 4, 2006, Fred Risser celebrated his 50th anniversary as a state legislator, making him the longest-serving state legislator in U.S. history. Fred, who has served in both the Assembly and Senate, is the fourth generation of his family to represent Madison. The four belonged to four different political parties.

Fred’s great-grandfather, Clement E. Warner, was born in 1836 and farmed in Windsor. In 1864 he raised a company for the 36th Wisconsin Infantry and was elected its captain. The regiment was engaged in heavy fighting from Cold Harbor through Appomattox Courthouse, losing 578 of its 1,014 men. Clement was promoted to major, lieutenant colonel, and colonel in command of the regiment in just 100 days, since every officer who outranked him was killed in action. He himself lost his left arm at Deep Bottom, Virginia, in August 1864. He was present at Lee’s surrender. He was elected to the state Senate in 1866 as a member of the Unionist Party. Later, he was Dane County superintendent of the poor.

Fred’s grandfather, Ernest Warner, was born in 1868. He was an attorney and president of the Madison Park and Pleasure Drive Association from 1912 to 1930. He graduated from the UW law school in 1892, served on the Madison Planning Commission, was the first president of the Metropolitan Sewerage District, and served a term from 1905 to 1907 in the senate. As Republican floor leader he was largely responsible for passage of Wisconsin’s Primary Election and Civil Service acts. As president of the Madison Park and Pleasure Drive Association, he improved the parkland the organization had acquired during John Olin’s presidency, and persuaded the city to assume complete financial and administrative responsibility for the park system. Warner Park is named after him.

Fred’s father, Fred Risser, Sr., was born in 1900. Beginning in 1928 he served three terms as Dane County district attorney, then was a Progressive state senator from 1936 to 1948. He authored the state law that created the Governor’s Commission on Human Rights. He was president of Madison’s Council of Human Rights from 1951 to 1952, and was a delegate to the 1952 Republican National Convention. Active in square dancing and a leader in its 1949 revival, he was also a member of the Madison Cosmos Dancing club for more than 40 years.

Mark Gajewski