Ragnvald A. Nestos was born 12 April 1877 in Voss, Norway, to Anders Rognaldson Nestaas and Herborg Pedersdatter. After attending school in Norway, he emigrated at the age of sixteen, arriving at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 31 May 1893 on the SS British Prince. His final destination was Buxton, North Dakota, which an uncle had provided passage for in advance. Nestos attended the normal school in Mayville, graduating in 1900, and subsequently enrolled at the University of Wisconsin where he graduated in 1902. He was then a student in the School of Law at the University of North Dakota, graduating in 1904. During his time at the University of North Dakota, Nestos was active in debate and was a member of Delta Sigma Rho and Phi Delta Theta.
After successful completion of his law studies and admittance to the North Dakota bar, Nestos established a practice in Minot with C.A. Johnson and later became senior partner in the firm of Nestos, Carroll & Herigstad. His political career began in 1910 when, as a Republican, he was elected representative of the twenty-ninth district to the state legislature and, during this two-year term, Nestos was chairman of the tax laws committee. In 1912, Nestos was elected states attorney for Ward County and held that position for two consecutive terms. He ran unsuccessfully to become the Republican candidate for the United States Senate in 1916, losing to the incumbent Porter J. McCumber. Nestos was then elected governor of North Dakota in 1921 following the recall of Governor Lynn J. Frazier and his Nonpartisan League members on the Industrial Commission by the actions of the Independent Voters Association. During the gubernatorial election of 1922, Nestos was elected to a full two-year term, defeating Nonpartisan League leader William Lemke who ran as an Independent. Then, in 1924, Nestos lost in the Republican primary to Arthur G. Sorlie, a Nonpartisan League moderate who went on to defeat the Democratic candidate for governor.
The activities of Nestos were not confined to the political arena. He served on national committees for the Boy Scouts of America and received the Silver Buffalo award from that organization for outstanding service to scouting. Nestos also served twelve years on the national board of education for the Norwegian Lutheran Church in America and had been appointed by President Herbert Hoover to a national advisory committee on illiteracy. He was a member of state and national committees for the Young Men's Christian Association. He worked to secure a state normal school and a public library for Minot, and was a member of the library board there for almost thirty years. He was also a member of the State Library Commission and served as president of the North Dakota Library Association. A lifelong bachelor, Nestos died 15 July 1942 in Minot from complications resulting from a stroke.
Birth and Baptismal Records, Voss, Norway (1877).
Lounsberry, Clement A. North Dakota History and People (Vol. II). Chicago, IL: The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1917.
North Dakota Blue Book (Legislative Manual). Bismarck, ND: Tribune, State Printers and Binders, 1912.
"R. A. Nestos of Minot, Former Governor, Dies." The Minot Daily News, July 15, 1942, 1-2.
"Representative Nestos." North Dakota Magazine 4 (1911): 143-144.
Robinson, Elwyn B. History of North Dakota. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1966.
Yesteryears in Traill ( Traill County History Vol. 1). Dallas, TX: Taylor Publishing Company, 1976.