Dayton was 88 years old when he died Friday, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.
"My Uncle Doug was an extraordinary businessman, philanthropist and leader of our family," Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said of the former Target president. "I have cherished memories of our times together: Duck and pheasant hunting in Heron Lake, serving on the board of a family business and discussing the latest political developments."
Douglas Dayton left Dayton's department stores in 1961 to start Target and retired a decade later.
"With his typical modesty, Doug didn't claim the public recognition he deserved for his success," Gov. Dayton said.
The older Dayton was involved in a number organizations focused on social justice, education, the arts and nature preservation, including serving as chairman of the board for the YMCA, and working on a 40-acre prairie restoration project, which he planned on giving to the state of Minnesota, said Wendy Dayton, his wife of 16 years.
"He really cared about improving the lives of everyone," she said.