Gary Flakne graciously provided us with a letter that described his father’s achievements, including his major role in renaming St. Louis Park’s streets in 1933. Gary, a former Hennepin County Attorney, passed away on January 3, 2016.
Kleve Julian Flakne served as Mayor of St. Louis Park from 1932 to 1933.
He was born on September 25, 1898, in Beltrami, Minnesota, and moved with his parents to Minneapolis. In 1918 he enlisted in the Marines and served as a bomber pilot in the Dominican Republic. When he was discharged from the Marine Corp. he returned to Minneapolis and held a variety of jobs and decided to go to law school and was successful in completing his law school education, eventually starting a firm entitled Henderson and Flakne with which he practiced a number of years, although his partner, Mr. Henderson, passed away. Henderson had been the Reviser of Statutes for the State of Minnesota.
By 1930 Kleve and his wife Jean were living at 2796 Inglewood Ave. in St. Louis Park. They had two children: Robert (1925-1994) and Gary (1934-2016).
His tenure as Mayor was marked by the fact that St. Louis Park was a small village at the time with a hodgepodge of streets and avenues with no particular structure. I remember as a small child hearing people talk about my dad’s function as Mayor of St. Louis Park and, if memory serves me correctly, the Village Council created a commission to revamp and organize the avenues and streets in St. Louis Park so they bore some semblance of relationship to their neighbor to the east, Minneapolis. The Committee that he formed and led proceeded to then rename and restructure the streets in St. Louis Park to follow alphabetically the streets in Minneapolis. Those apply today with the first, second and third alphabet following in order. I remember as a child hearing my dad talk about how difficult it was to pick up after France Avenue and move on through the, at least at that time, second alphabet and keep the progress going so people would know where they were and what to expect as they proceeded from east to west through the village into its neighboring suburbs. Those names are still there. They obviously used names of states, but also there are two references to Masonic Lodges my father was familiar with, Joppa Avenue being one of those. In case people are wondering how the names got to be where they are, I may be the only one still left alive that can shed some light on it and, hopefully, this would be helpful to the Historical Society.
My dad was a life-long friend of Floyd B. Olson, a fellow Norwegian politician and was his campaign manager in the early 1930s when my father was Mayor. Governor Olson was seeking re-election and after his election, took steps to appoint my father to the Municipal Bench as a Judge. At that point, one had to be a resident of the city in which they were going to be appointed a Judge, and so my father moved from the Inglewood address to a home that he and my mother purchased in Minneapolis at 4901 – 11th Avenue South. They moved there in 1934, which is the same year I was born. I was able to claim that I was born and raised in the same home. My father also ran for Hennepin County Attorney in 1938 and again in 1942. Both times unsuccessful, but it was my first campaign at age four in 1938. I can recall living at the Minneapolis address where we stayed, since Governor Olson died before my father could be appointed Judge. I remember my father telling me he really appreciated my efforts as a four year old, taking my wagon around the block with his campaign literature, but I made the mistake of going to the same house everyday for weeks on end and never got off my block. Finally people would come to him and say, “We’ll vote for you, but have your kid stop bringing your campaign literature to our house.” His race in 1942 ended in the primary where he lost to his eventual law partner, Frank J. Collins.
My father, after his two campaigns for County Attorney, turned to the private practice of law with a number of other associates and gained a significant reputation as an excellent trial lawyer, specifically representing some notorious criminal defendants, not the least of whom was a gentleman by the name of Reuben Shetsky, who was accused and eventually convicted of a killing at the Casablanca Restaurant in downtown Minneapolis. I was a young teenager at the time that and the case went all the way to the Supreme Court with the conviction. It is still on the books today as a noteworthy case on whether you could try someone on a capital crime in absentia, since Mr. Shetsky had decided to leave the state during the trial and the jury convicted him. He was eventually retried and was, I believe, found not guilty in a different Court and in front of a different Judge. My dad also was involved in a significant murder case involving a woman charged with killing her husband and what I believe was a St. Louis Park murder case. That case also went to the Minnesota Supreme Court on the issue of a dying declaration.
As you can probably tell, I was quite impressed by, and influenced by, my father who encouraged me to not only go to law school and graduate, but also become active politically, which I did. While he was not able to be elected County Attorney, I was able to achieve that office in 1974 and served six years as Hennepin County Attorney as sort of a tribute to my father. He died at the age of 62 on October 9, 1960, and is buried along with my mother at Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis.
I hope this fills in some of the blanks and can update the biography which is in your records. I am the only one around that can still do that and I thought it would be helpful to furnish additional information, especially since the invitation was printed . My father was one of eight brothers and one sister and there are no survivors of his family.