Gaylord Anton Nelson (born June 4, 1916) was an American politician. He was born in Clear Lake, Wisconsin. In 1939 he received a BA degree from San Jose State College in California and graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1942. In the same year he enlisted in the US Army and fought in World War II for nearly four years, serving as a first lieutenant during the Battle of Okinawa. After returning to Madison, Wisconsin, Nelson stood for office in 1946 but was not elected. He married Carrie Lee Dotson in 1947 and practiced law from 1946 to 1958. In 1948 he was elected to the Wisconsin Senate and ten years later, in 1958, was elected Governor of Wisconsin. Four years later, in 1962, he was elected to the US Senate
Nelson has always been passionate about the environment. In 1963 he travelled on the Conservation Tour with President John F. Kennedy and was the founder of Earth Day, the first of which was held in 1970. Nelson left the Senate in 1980 and became director of the Wilderness Society in January 1981. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award in September 1995 in recognition of his environmental work.