Wisconsin’s Congressman Defensive End
One of the most unusual politicians in Wisconsin’s history was a former defensive end for the Green Bay Packers who grew to have more national influence and clout than even his Vince Lombardi.
A member of Green Bay’s first three championship seasons, LaVern “Lavvie” Dilweg was a Wisconsin native who earned his law degree from Marquette University and began law practice while simultaneously becoming one of the strongest defensive players in Packers history.
Dilweg played both ways at end, but his specialty was being a defensive run-stopper. He played prior to official stats, so Dilweg’s contributions to the championships are difficult to prove statistically. However, Green Bay historian Cliff Christi is one of many researchers who claim Dilweg’s absence from the Pro Football Hall of Fame needs to remedied.
“Give (Dilweg) today’s Super Bowl hype and they’d chisel his face on Mt. Rushmore,” wrote Bob Carroll, the late founder of the Pro Football Researchers Association.
Dilweg’s success on the football field was on half of his story. The other half was his legal and political career that made him a Congressman. In 1928, Dilweg got his first taste of politics. A year after being admitted to the Wisconsin bar, he ran for District Attorney of Brown County, where Green Bay is located. Ironically, Dilweg’s opponent was teammate Verne Lewellen, who also recently passed the bar. Lewellen won the race for District Attorney, but would never hold a political position higher than that in his career.
Dilweg, on the other hand, went on to have a much more influential political career. In fact, Dilweg is the only professional athlete from Wisconsin to be elected to a national office.
After a nine-year NFL career that included being named All-Pro five times and three championships, Dilweg became the was an executive with the Home Owners Loan Corporation until he began his political career. He was elected as the Democrat to the Seventy-eighth Congress and served from January 3, 1943, to January 3, 1945. After an unsuccessful reelection campaign, Dilweg returned to Green Bay to practice law.
The former Packers’ political service in Washington D.C. wasn’t over, however. On April 13, 1961, he became a confirmed member of the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission and worked on the commission until his death on January 2, 1968.
There is only one place Dilweg could be buried after a lifetime spent as a three-time champion with the Packers and fan favorite: Green Bay (Fort Howard Cemetery).
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