Governor Earl with his wife Jane in their home.

Former Governor Earl cites love of reading as key to success

“I grew up in the U.P. [Upper Peninsula of Michigan], so I wasn’t very worldly,” said former Wisconsin Governor Tony Earl in a recent conversation between him and his wife, Jane, and Literacy Network Executive Director Jeff Burkhart.

Two of Gov. Earl’s aunts were schoolteachers and helped to encourage his interest in reading. “I didn’t get little toy trucks and stuff like that for birthdays. I got books, and I’m grateful as can be for that. It really expanded my horizons a lot,” he said.

His love of reading led to greater curiosity about the world. “I was always looking for more things to read. Every book opens up another universe and I couldn’t wait to see what the next one was going to be,” he said.

Gov. Earl’s love of reading translated into success in school and work. He earned a law degree at the University of Chicago, and quickly worked his way up in government from assistant district attorney in Marathon County, to state representative, to majority leader of the state assembly, and then governor from 1983 to 1987.  He was the first Wisconsin governor to name women and African Americans to lead departments.

Jane and Tony Earl have supported Literacy Network for several years, and their dedication comes from seeing the vital importance of literacy in their own lives.

Governor Earl’s top bookshelf holds those treasured books from his aunts. “One of the greatest gifts I got in my life was the gift of reading,” he said.

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