For decades we celebrated the delightful energy of “Holly Dolly” not always recognizing that we had one here in Minnesota: Sally Pillsbury. With enthusiasm and dogged determination she pushed aside the impossible and made it a reality. To her “No” was simply a longer path to “yes”. She even led the Women’s Movement before there was one.
With her position and financial well being she could easily have cloaked herself in respectable silence and enjoyed her status.
But Sally came out of the Theodore Roosevelt school of involvement and decided to build a better Minnesota for all. With her husband, George, and her brother, Wheelock Whitney, they evolved into what may likely be the most influential trio in Minnesota history. From the 1950’s on, there was rarely a positive development that did not have their fingerprints on it. The University of Minnesota, the Symphony Orchestra, the attraction of professional sports, Minneapolis Community and Technical College, funding of the arts, and on and on all are testaments to the involvement of this extraordinary partnership.
Barely 30 years old, Sally immersed herself in the Eisenhower movement and from there on helped shape and develop the moderate wing of the Republican Party. Elmer L. Andersen, Doug Head, Bill Frenzel, Dave Durenberger, Al Quie and a multitude of other Republican leaders all were benefactors of Sally’s involvement.
I can say without hesitation that there never would have been a Carlson administration without the constant and committed leadership of Wheelock, Sally, George, Lars (my brother) and my wife Susan.
So potent was this force of moderate Republicanism that it produced majority control of the Minneapolis City Council. But they also remained active on the national scene starting with Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 all the way through President George H.W. Bush, who was also a personal friend of the Pillsbury’s and Wheelock Whitney.
But this is not about past accomplishments. Rather it represents hope: a very strong hope that all of us will get into the arena, take on controversy and do all we can to preserve and enhance democracy. If we admire Sally, George and Wheelock there is no greater tribute than to continue their willingness to always be involved for the greater good.