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Ben Nelson
Ben Nelson official photo.jpg
United States Senator
from Nebraska
In office
January 3, 2001 – January 3, 2013
Preceded by Bob Kerrey
Succeeded by Deb Fischer
37th Governor of Nebraska
In office
January 9, 1991 – January 7, 1999
Lieutenant Maxine Moul
Kim Robak
Preceded by Kay Orr
Succeeded by Mike Johanns
Director of the Nebraska Department of Insurance
In office
Governor J. James Exon
Preceded by James M. Jackson
Succeeded by Berri Balka
Personal details
Earl Benjamin Nelson

(1941-05-17) May 17, 1941 (age 81)
McCook, Nebraska, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Diane Nelson
Education University of Nebraska–Lincoln (BA, MA, JD)

Earl Benjamin Nelson (born May 17, 1941) is an American attorney, businessman, and politician who served as the 37th governor of Nebraska from 1991 to 1999 and as a United States Senator from Nebraska from 2001 to 2013. He is a member of the Democratic Party, and as of 2022, the last Democrat to serve as either a senator or governor of Nebraska.

Nelson was an insurance executive before he entered politics. His first run for office was in 1990, when he narrowly defeated incumbent Republican Governor Kay Orr. He was reelected by a landslide in 1994. He ran for an open U.S. Senate seat in 1996, losing in an upset to Republican Chuck Hagel. He was elected to Nebraska's other Senate seat in 2000, and reelected in 2006. He did not run for a third term and left the Senate in 2013, and was succeeded by Republican Deb Fischer.

Nelson was one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate, frequently voting against his party.

Early life, education, and early career

Earl Benjamin Nelson was born on May 17, 1941, in McCook, in southwestern Nebraska. He is the only child of Birdella and Benjamin Earl Nelson. He is an Eagle Scout.

He earned a B.A. in 1963, an M.A. in 1965, and a J.D. in 1970—all from the University of Nebraska.

After graduating from law school, Nelson landed a job as assistant general counsel for Central National Insurance Group of Omaha. After several years in the business, in 1975 the governor appointed him state insurance director. After the administration changed, he returned to work for Central National Insurance as an executive vice president and eventually president.

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