Orville Lothrop Freeman was born in Minneapolis on May 9, 1918. He received his B.A. degree from the University of Minnesota in 1940. During World War II he served in the South Pacific with the United States Marines, attaining the rank of Major. Freeman earned his LL.B. degree from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1946, was admitted to the Minnesota bar in 1947, and was a member of the Larson, Loevinger, Lindquist and Freeman law firm from 1947 to 1955.
Freeman worked as an administrative assistant to Minneapolis Mayor Hubert Humphrey (1945-1949), where he was in charge of veterans affairs. He was secretary (1946-1948) and chairman (1948-1950) of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL), and was an unsuccessful candidate for Minnesota attorney general (1950) and governor of Minnesota (1952). Freeman went on to serve as governor of Minnesota from 1955 to 1961 and as United States secretary of agriculture from 1961 to 1969.
Returning to private life, Freeman was president of E.D.P. Technology International, Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based computer software and systems design company (1969-1970). He later was president and CEO (1970-1981) and chairman (1981-1984) of Business International Corp., New York City, a research, publishing, and advisory firm that helped companies manage their worldwide operations for maximum profit and growth. Following that he was a senior partner in the international law firm of Popham, Haik, Schnobrich & Kaufman, Ltd. (Washington, D.C.) from 1985-1995. Freeman was a visiting scholar at the Hubert H. Humphrey School for Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota from 1995 to 1997.
Freeman married Jane C. Shields on May 2, 1942, in Washington, D.C., while he was stationed at the Marine Corps base at Quantico, Virginia. Jane Freeman was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on May 25, 1921. She graduated from Marshall High School, Minneapolis, and earned a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Minnesota. The Freemans had two children: Constance Jane (b. 1943) and Michael Orville (b. 1948). Michael Freeman served as a Minnesota state senator and as the Hennepin County attorney, and in 1998 he was a candidate for governor of Minnesota.
Orville Freeman died February 20, 2003, of complications from Alzheimer's disease.
Jane C. Shields was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and educated at the University of Minnesota where she earned a bachelor's degree in political science. It was there she met her husband, Orville L. Freeman, who served as Governor of Minnesota from 1955 to 1961 and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture from 1961 to 1969. Orville and Jane were married in 1942 while Orville was stationed at the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Virginia. They had two children, daughter Constance Jane, and son Michael. Michael Freeman served as a Minnesota State Senator and as Hennepin County Attorney.
Mrs. Freeman has devoted her life to public service, as First Lady of Minnesota and after as a leader engaged in the work of numerous national and international organizations and ambassadorships devoted to the public good, such as the United Nations and UNICEF. Mrs. Freeman served as National President of the Girl Scouts of America from 1978 to 1984 and has remained on their Board of Directors since 1966. As a member of CARE's Board since 1979, Mrs. Freeman led in the organization of a highly effective advocacy arm to support its international humanitarian and development programs. In 1994 she and her husband were honored by CARE by receiving their International Humanitarian Award. She is an active member of the Women's National Democratic Club in Washington, DC, and President from 1988 to 1989. Mrs. Freeman has been an active campaigner not only on her husband's behalf but in U.S. Presidential campaigns as well.
Her husband, Orville Freeman, passed away in 2003. Mrs. Freeman lives in Minnesota.