Born in South Dakota, Ruben Nelson was the son of a farm family who made his mark in the law, politics, and public service. A graduate of Hamline University, Nelson was admitted to the Minnesota bar in 1928 and established his practice in Breckinridge, Wilken County. He became the senior partner of his own firm, Nelson, Clemmensen, and Reuthen, in 1949. Nelson entered politics as the Breckenridge City Attorney, serving from 1932-1937. He was also the Wilkin County attorney between 1943-1956, after which he began his legislative career by winning a seat in the Minnesota House of Representatives. He continued in the House until his death in 1966, becoming an influential spokesman for the DFL party. He was particularly noted for his skill in floor debate and his compromise proposals over complicated issues. He was selected by his peers as the most effective legislator in 1963.
The Nelson Legislative Papers is a very small collection, consisting of several copied news clippings, a few photographs, and the text of one speech delivered sometime in 1964. The materials are in excellent condition.