The recent State of the State Address symbolically began Dennis Daugaard’s final year as the 32nd Governor of South Dakota. In past posts, this blog has looked at historical milestones, or prospective milestones, set by the contenders to succeed Daugaard: Marty Jackley, Kristi Noem and Billie Sutton. This post will look at similar milestones set by Governor Daugaard. A number of election-related milestones are included below under a separate heading.
Daugaard is the 1st governor in the history of the United States known to be a child of deaf adults, or “CODA,” and is fluent in American Sign Language.
Taking the oath of office at the age of 57 years and 211 days, Daugaard was the oldest newly elected governor to take office since Warren E. Green in 1930. (Walter Dale Miller was 67 when he succeeded to the governorship in 1993, but he was never elected.) This blog looked at each governors’ age in an earlier post.
Daugaard is the only governor to hold degrees from two different universities, USD and Northwestern University. He is the 10th and most recent USD alumnus to serve as governor. USD has had more graduates serve as governor than any other school. As a graduate of Northwestern, Daugaard is the 7th and most recent governor to graduate from a current member of the Big Ten Conference. Daugaard is also the 1st governor to hold a doctoral degree. Earlier governors who were attorneys earned law degrees before American legal education transitioned to the juris doctorate degree in the 1960s.
Daugaard is the 7th and most recent lieutenant governor to be elected governor, and the 1st since the constitutional amendment that provided for the governor and lieutenant governor to run as a ticket.
Daugaard is the 22nd governor to have served in the State Legislature, and the 13th to have served in the State Senate.
Daugaard is the 4th governor from Minnehaha County, following Foss, Boe and Janklow. Minnehaha County is the only county to have produced more than two governors, and along with Day and Spink counties, one of only three to have produced more than one. Minnehaha County residents have run for governor 38 times – by far the most of any county.
Matt Michels, Daugaard’s lieutenant governor, is the longest-served presiding officer in the history of the State Legislature. Michels has presided in twelve legislative sessions – four as speaker of the house while he was a state representative from Yankton, and eight as president of the senate while serving as lieutenant governor. This blog looked at Michels’ record last year.
Daugaard’s 2014 general election vote margin of 124,928, as well as his percentage margin of 45.0%, are both the largest in state history in an election for governor. His 80.9% vote share and 61.7% percentage margin in that year’s Republican primary are the most ever in a primary election for governor.
Daugaard’s reelection was the tenth consecutive Republican victory in gubernatorial elections, continuing the longest streak of partisan control of the governor’s office in state history, going back to 1979. South Dakota has the longest current period of single-party control of the governor’s office of any state in the nation.
Daugaard was the 1st gubernatorial candidate to exceed 50% of the vote in a five-way Republican gubernatorial primary, joining Sigurd Anderson in 1950 as the only candidate to win the nomination outright in a five-way primary.
Daugaard’s 195,017 vote total in 2010 is the highest ever won in an open seat election for governor, as is his vote margin of 73,014 votes. Daugaard’s 61.5% of the vote that year was the largest for an open seat since George T. Mickelson in 1946.
The Republican Party reached a modern high-water mark in the state during Daugaard’s tenure, winning every statewide election from 2010 to 2016 and winning control of the state’s entire congressional delegation for the first time since 1962. In 2016, Republicans elected 89 of 105 legislative seats, the most since 1952.
Daugaard’s 2014 opponent, Susan Wismer, was the first woman nominated by a major party for Governor of South Dakota. The Democratic ticket of Wismer and Susy Blake was the first all-woman ticket in South Dakota history, and the fourth in U.S. history, following Dawn Clark Netsch and Penny Severns of Illinois in 1994, Peppy Martin and Wanda Cornelius of Kentucky in 1999, and Barbara Buono and Milly Silva of New Jersey in 2013. There has yet to be an all-female ticket elected in any U.S. state. This blog looked at the history of female candidates for SD governor in an earlier post.
In observance of Veterans Day, a look at the 12 South Dakota governors who served in the armed forces. The list included 5 U.S. Army veterans, 3 U.S. Navy veterans, 2 veterans of the U.S. Air Force, 2 who served in the U.S. Marine Corps, and 2 who served in the South Dakota National Guard:
Arthur C. Mellette – South Dakota’s first governor served in the Union Army during the Civil War. Mellette had been offered a commission as a lieutenant. His older brother, however, was an invalid and had been drafted into the Army. Mellette turned down his commission to serve in the enlisted ranks in place of his brother.
Charles H. Sheldon – South Dakota’s second governor also served in the Union Army during the Civil War, rising to the rank of captain.
Leslie Jensen – It was more than thirty-five years before another veteran served as governor. Jensen was a member of the South Dakota National Guard’s 147th Field Artillery. In 1916, the unit was deployed to patrol the Texas-Mexico border, and the following year was deployed to France after the United States entered World War I. Jensen was discharged from active duty as a captain in 1919. Following his service as governor from 1937-39, Jensen reentered active duty. He commanded the 147th, which was activated in 1940 as U.S. entry into World War II loomed. Jensen deployed with the unit to Australia, contracted malaria, and was reassigned to General Douglas MacArthur’s Australians headquarters. He is the only WWI veteran to serve as governor, and for that reason Jensen’s Trail of Governors statue portrays him in a WWI-era uniform, and is placed near the Soldiers and Sailors War Memorial building, which is South Dakota’s WWI memorial. Jensen is also the only SD governor to serve on active duty after leaving the governor’s office.
M. Q. Sharpe – Sharpe served in the U.S. Navy from 1907-11. He entered the Navy at 29, after having attended a couple colleges and worked in several jobs. Following his naval service, Sharpe, who was a native of Kansas, followed his mother to South Dakota, when she had established a homestead in Lyman County. He enrolled in the USD School of Law and went on to establish a prosperous practice in Kennebec.
Sigurd Anderson – Anderson was an assistant attorney general when the United States entered World War II. He entered the U.S. Navy as a legal officer and served in the Philippines. Anderson was discharged in 1946, and was elected attorney general later that year.
Joe Foss – No South Dakota governor is better known for his military record than Joe Foss. A member of the South Dakota National Guard since 1937, Foss enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1940 and became a naval aviator. He served as executive officer of Marine Fighting Squadron 121, known as “Joe’s Flying Circus.” Foss downed 26 enemy airplanes in 63 days at Guadalcanal in the Pacific theater during World War II, matching the record set by fighter ace Eddie Rickenbacker in World War I.
Foss was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Flying Cross. His citation said that “His remarkable flying skill, inspiring leadership and indomitable fighting spirit were distinctive factors in the defense of strategic American positions on Guadalcanal.” A photo of Foss receiving his Medal of Honor from President Franklin D. Roosevelt was featured on the cover of Life magazine. Foss was welcomed by 50,000 people upon his return to Sioux Falls in 1943, and became nationally known for his heroic war record.
Following his service overseas, Foss toured the country to promote war bonds, and was discharged as a major in 1946. That year, Foss was a founder of the South Dakota Air National Guard, attaining the rank of brigadier general. He returned to active duty in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, training pilots from 1950-51.
Foss’ heroism is celebrated in South Dakota in many ways, including the naming of the Sioux Falls airport as “Joe Foss Field,” and the designation of his birthday, April 17, as “Joe Foss Day” each year. Foss’ Trail of Governors statue portrays Foss in his naval aviator flight suit, scanning the horizon for enemy airplanes.
Nils Boe – Boe was a Minnehaha County deputy state’s attorney when the U.S. entered World War II. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1942-46.
Frank Farrar – Farrar was a member of the U.S. Army Reserve while attending USD. Following graduation in 1953, Farrar served on active duty for two years during the Korean War, being discharged as a captain in 1955.
Richard F. Kneip – Kneip was in the U.S. Air Force from 1951-55, serving in occupied West Germany.
Harvey Wollman – Wollman served in the U.S. Army from 1958-60.
William J. Janklow – Janklow dropped out of high school in 1956 and joined the U.S. Marine Corps to avoid being sent to reform school. He was injured during the Quemoy-Matsu crisis off the coast of mainland China and was honorably discharged in 1959.
George S. Mickelson – Mickelson joined the U.S. Army after graduating from USD in 1965. Mickelson served in Vietnam and was discharged in 1967. Mickelson’s oldest son, G. Mark Mickelson, was born in Fort Knox, Kentucky in 1966 while his father was on active duty.
It was good this week to see Gov. Harvey Wollman at the Buffalo Roundup in Custer State Park. Gov. Wollman was kind enough to introduce himself to my son, Henry, who is named after my grandfather, State Sen. Henry Poppen. Grandpa Poppen and Harvey Wollman sat across the aisle from each other in the State Senate in the 1970s.
Harvey Wollman is already SD’s only living Democratic governor or lieutenant governor. This week, Wollman also became the only living Democrat to have served as the SD Senate Majority Leader, due to the sad passing of Roger McKellips of Alcester last month, and of Homer Kandaras of Rapid City this week.
McKellips had been Senate Majority Leader when the Democrats controlled the State Senate in 1993-94. Kandaras was Senate Majority Leader in 1975-76; he followed Wollman as Majority Leader after Wollman was elected lieutenant governor.
Like Wollman, there is only one living Democrat who has served as House Majority Leader, Larry Piersol of Sioux Falls. Piersol is now a federal judge on senior status. There is also only one living Democrat to have served as House Speaker, Gene Lebrun of Rapid City. Piersol and Lebrun both held their leadership positions in 1973-74. The House was split 35-35 for those two sessions, and House rules dictated that the Democrats, as the party of the sitting governor, were deemed to be the “majority” party.
Democratic majority leaders are rare in South Dakota because Democratic control of a legislative chamber is rare. Since statehood:
1891: A coalition of Democrats and populist “Independents” controlled the State House. There were 20 Democrats and 44 populists in the coalition, and 58 Republicans in the minority.
1897: The Populist/Democratic “fusion” ticket elected Andrew E. Lee as governor, and also won narrow control of both legislative houses. The Senate had 20 Populists, 2 Democrats, and 21 Republicans for a 1-seat majority. The House had 35 Populists, 10 Democrats, and 39 Republicans for a 6-seat margin.
1933-37: The first time Democrats won control with a Populist coalition was during the Great Depression. In 1932, Tom Berry was elected governor and Democrats won control of both houses. Democrats controlled the House and the Senate in 1933 and 1935. (In this era, the Legislature only met every other year.) After the 1936 election, Republicans won back control of the House, but Democrats retained control of the 1937 Senate by a 1-seat martin.
1959: Ralph Herseth was elected governor in 1958, and on his coattails Democrats won control of the Senate 20-15. Herseth had been the first Democrat to be considered “Senate Minority Leader,” and his successor Art Jones was the first Democrat to be the Senate Majority Leader. The House remained Republican and the House Speaker, Archie Gubbrud, defeated Herseth for reelection in 1960 as Republicans retook both houses.
1973-76: Dick Kneip was elected governor in 1970, and in 1972 voters rewarded him with a Democratic legislature by the narrowest possible margin. Democrats held the Senate 18-17, with Harvey Wollman as Majority Leader. As noted above, the House was a 35-35 tie and Democrats won the “tie-breaker” of a Democratic governor. Larry Piersol was Majority Leader and Gene Lebrun was House Speaker. In 1974, Kneip was reelected, but Republicans won two House seats to take a 37-33 majority. Democrats picked up a Senate seat, expanding their narrow margin to 19-16. Wollman had been elected lieutenant governor and Homer Kandaras became Majority Leader. Republicans retook control of the House in 1976, and have held it ever since.
1993-94: Democrats won a State Senate majority of 20-15 in 1992, with Lars Herseth becoming President Pro Tempore and Roger McKellips becoming Majority Leader. Gov. George S. Mickelson was in the final two years of his term; he died in 1993 and Walter Dale Miller served as governor during the 1994 session. Republicans retook Senate control in 1994, as Bill Janklow returned as governor, and have held it ever since.
In recent years, Democrats made gains in 2006 and 2008. They peaked in the Senate in 2007-08, with the Republican majority narrowed to 20-15. Senate Minority Leader Scott Heidepriem, who had led the expanded Democratic caucus, ran for governor in 2010, but was defeated by Lt. Governor Dennis Daugaard as Republicans retook strong legislative majorities: 30-5 in the Senate and 50-19 in the House. In the time since, Republican supermajorities have strengthened, most recently 29-6 in the Senate and 60-10 in the House.
It appears that 2018 will see Senate Minority Leader Billie Sutton, a Democrat from Burke, attempt against long odds to win the Governor’s Office and to increase Democrat influence in the legislature.
Roger McKellips’ death last week was the latest signal of the passing of a by-gone era. Most of the longtime leaders of the South Dakota State Legislature from the 1980s and early 1990s have passed away. That era began to fade away with the passage of legislative term limits in 1992 (which passed, ironically, as an afterthought to an attempt to limit the terms of members of Congress, which was later ruled unconstitutional).
By 1993, nine of these fifteen “old bulls” had left the legislature, and that year the Democrats controlled of the Senate for the first time since the 1970s. April 19, 1993 brought the tragic death of Governor Mickelson. The late 1990s saw the emergence of a new generation of leaders, such as Mike Rounds, Larry Gabriel, Steve Cutler, and Bernie Hunhoff, and term limits brought greater turnover in these positions that continues to the present day.
Any list like this is subjective, but here are some of the “Old Bulls” of that pre-term limits era, listed alphabetically. Of the fifteen legislators listed, only three are still with us, and six of them have died since 2012. They are all remembered fondly for their statesmanship:
Joseph H. Barnett (R-Aberdeen). “Papa Joe” Barnett, an Aberdeen attorney, was a legendary House leader; it was said he was held in such high regard that legislators of both parties would pass legislation solely on his word. Barnett served for 19 years, entering the House in 1967 and serving until his sudden death in 1985, at the age of only 53. Barnett was speaker pro temper in 1971-72, house minority leader in 1973-74 (during the session in which the House was split 35-35 and Democrats were considered the “majority” because of their control of the Governor’s Office), speaker of the house 1976-76, and house majority leader from 1979 until his death in 1985. Barnett’s grandson, Steve Barnett, is the state auditor and is a candidate in 2018 for secretary of state.
Jim Dunn (R-Lead). Jim Dunn entered the State House in 1971 and, after one term, entered the Senate in 1973, where he served for twenty-eight years. Dunn worked for the Homestake Mining Company, and he represented the unique interests of his Black Hills district and its major employer. Dunn was assistant senate majority leader from 1989-92, serving alongside Majority Leader Jerry Lammers. When Democrats won control of the Senate in 1993, Dunn became assistant minority leader. He returned as assistant majority leader from 1995-98. In 1999 and 2000, Republicans gave Dunn the special title of “senior assistant majority leader.” Both Dunn and Majority Leader Mike Rounds were set to be term-limited in 2000, and this special title allowed Dunn to remain in his leadership role while Barb Everist of Sioux Falls was groomed to replace Rounds as majority leader in 2001. Dunn left the Senate in 2000, and his thirty years of service makes him the longest-serving legislator in state history. He died in 2016.
Robert Duxbury (D-Wessington). Bob Duxbury, a Hand County farmer, was secretary of agriculture in the Kneip and Wollman administrations, and ran for the legislature after Wollman left office in 1979. Duxbury was a senator in 1981-2, served in the House 1985-98, and was house minority leader from 1987-94. He moved to the Senate in 1999, probably anticipating the effect of term limits, and served there until 2004. Of all the “old bulls” featured on this list, Duxbury was the last to leave the legislature, and this blogger fondly remembers from my 2001 service as a Senate page that Sen. Duxbury’s reputation as a gentleman was well-earned. He passed away last summer, in June 2016.
Harold W. Halverson (R-Twin Brooks). Harold Halverson, an insurance executive and farmer, spent one term in the House, from 1971-72, before becoming an institution in the Senate, serving from 1977-2000. Halverson was the Senate’s president pro tempore from 1990-92, and after Democrats took control of the chamber in 1992 he served as Minority Leader in 1993-94. Republicans regained control in 1994, and Halverson, conscious of the effect that term limits would have on legislative leadership, made a fateful and forward-looking decision. Rather than serve as senate majority leader himself, he returned to the position of president pro tempore, and supported 40-year-old Mike Rounds to be majority leader. Halverson was among the first legislators forced to out by term limits in 2000; he retired rather than run for the House. Halverson died in 2002.
Homer Harding (R-Pierre). Homer Harding, an automobile dealer, represented Pierre in the Senate for 18 years, from 1971-88. He was senate minority leader in 1975-76, and became majority leader when Republican retook the Senate, serving from 1977-88. Harding was defeated for reelection in 1988 by Democrat Jacqueline Kelley. Two years later, in 1990, Harding was elected state treasurer as newcomer Mike Rounds defeated Kelley for state senator. Harding remains in good health and lives in Pierre, where his son, Steve Harding, recently became mayor.
R. Lars Herseth (D-Houghton). Herseth is the son of Ralph E. Herseth, the state’s 21st governor, and Lorna Herseth, who was secretary of state from 1973-79. Like his father, he farmed near Houghton and represented the area in the legislature. Lars Herseth entered the House in 1975 and became minority leader in 1979. He served until 1986, when he forewent reelection to run for governor. Herseth won an upset victory over former Governor Dick Kneip in the Democratic primary, and narrowly lost the general election to George S. Mickelson, another son of a former governor. Following his defeat, Herseth returned to the legislature, winning a seat in the Senate in 1988. He served there until 1996, where he was president pro tempore during Democrats’ rare period of control in 1993-94, and then minority leader in 1995-96. Herseth is still alive and engaged in Democratic Party politics; his daughter, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, served in the U.S. House from 2004-11 and recently became president of Augustana University.
Jerome B. Lammers (R-Madison). Lammers was an attorney from Madison and a former Lake County State’s Attorney, and he served in the House from 1977-92. He was speaker pro tempore 1981-82, house speaker 1983-84, and majority leader 1987-92. Lammers was nominated to serve on the Board of Regents after he left the legislature, but the Democratic-controlled Senate rejected his nomination. He continues to live in Madison, where he continues to practice law.
Mary McClure (R-Miller). Mary McClure was a teacher who first entered the Senate in 1975. She was the first woman to serve in a major leadership position in the legislature, serving as president pro tempore from 1979-89. McClure was a leader of the George Bush for President campaign in South Dakota in 1988, and following his victory, she joined fellow legislator Debra Anderson, a former house speaker, in the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. After her first husband passed away, McClure married another former senator, John Bibby of Brookings, and thereafter was known as “Mary McClure Bibby.” She passed away in July 2016.
Roger McKellips (D-Alcester). This blog wrote about McKellips after he passed away last week. McKellips was a banker whose father, Ernest, had sought the Democratic nomination for governor in 1954. Roger McKellips served one term in the Senate from 1977-78, then ran for governor himself in 1978. He upset Lt. Governor Harvey Wollman in the Democratic primary, but lost a competitive general election to Attorney General Bill Janklow. McKellips returned to the Senate, where he served from 1981-94. He immediately became assistant minority leader in 1981-82, was minority leader 1983-92, and was majority leader when the Democrats won control of the senate in 1993-94. McKellips retired as majority leader in 1994, as Republicans retook control that year.
Walter Dale Miller (R-New Underwood). Miller, a Meade County rancher, entered the House in 1967 and served there until 1986. He was assistant majority leader in 1972, majority leader from 1975-78, speaker pro tempore 1979-80, speaker of the house 1981-82, and returned as majority leader in 1986 after the death of Joe Barnett. In 1986, George S. Mickelson selected Miller as his running mate, and Miller became the state’s first full-time lieutenant governor in 1987. When Governor Mickelson died in the state plane crash in 1993, Miller became governor. At 67, he was the oldest new governor in state history and, with 27 years of experience in Pierre, the most experienced. Miller served during tumultuous times: the aftermath of Mickelson’s death, massive flooding, a prison riot, and the shutdown of video lottery. Seeking a full term in 1994, he lost a close primary to former Governor Bill Janklow. Miller died in September 2015.
Henry A. Poppen (R-De Smet). Henry Poppen farmed in the Spirit Lake community, north of De Smet, and he is this blogger’s maternal grandfather. Poppen entered the State Senate in 1967, and served 13 terms, retiring after 26 years in 1992. For most of his tenure, he served on the Senate Appropriations Committee, which he chaired from 1981-92. Longtime reporter Terry Woster wrote a very kind reminisce of Poppen when he died in 2005.
George Shanard (R-Mitchell). Shanard, who owned and operated a number of grain elevators, represented Mitchell in the Senate from 1975-92. He was assistant majority leader, alongside majority leader Homer Harding, from 1977-88, and then majority leader himself from 1989-92. Shanard passed away in 2012.
Harold Sieh (R-Herrick). Sieh, a Gregory County farmer, served in the State House from 1971-86, and chaired the House Appropriations Committee from 1981-86. He died in office in 1986, and his widow, Edna, was appointed to complete his term.
Jim Stoick (R-Mobridge). Stoick, a grocer, served in the House from 1975-78 and the Senate from 1979-92. He served as the Senate Appropriations Committee’s vice chair, alongside chairman Henry Poppen, until the two both retired in 1992. Stoick died in 2004. His grandson, Jordan Stoick, served as Congresswoman Kristi Noem’s chief of staff from 2011 until earlier this year.
Royal “Bud” Wood (R-Warner). Bud Wood, a farmer, entered the House in 1967, beginning his legislative service the same year as Joe Barnett, Walter Dale Miller and Henry Poppen. He left the legislature in 1992 after a 26-year legislative career. Wood was assistant minority leader 1975-76, speaker pro tempore 1987-88, and house speaker 1989-90. He died in 2009.
All pictures are taken from the 1985 Legislative Manual, or “Blue Book,” as all fifteen legislators listed served during that session. It is also among the only Blue Books that included color pictures.
Yet, over the years, several books have been written about South Dakota’s governors. This post is an attempt to create a comprehensive list of those biographies. Not included are shorter articles or biographical sketches, general histories of the state, or books that compile sketches of every governor (such as Lynwood Oyos’ Over a Century of Leadership, or this blogger’s own humble efforts).
One clear takeaway from this list is that there is room for more work in this area. Many South Dakota governors would be good subjects. Of particular urgency are biographies of Richard F. Kneip and William J. Janklow, both major figures for whom first-hand sources are still living.
(If a reader is aware of a biography that has been overlooked, please let me know on this blog’s contact page.)
Peter Norbeck and George Norbeck, The Norbecks of South Dakota (1938). (This is a history of Norbeck’s ancestors, written by Gov. Norbeck and his brother, although it also includes some information about Gov. Norbeck’s early life.)
Lydia Norbeck and Nancy Tystad Koupal (ed.), “Recollections of the Years,” South Dakota Department of History Report and Historical Collections, Vol. XXXIX, pp. 1-147 (State Publishing Co., 1979). (As with the Crawford biography above, this was technically an article in the SD State Historical Society’s annual journal, but at 147 pages is comparable in length to the books on this list. Nancy Tystad Koupal of SDSHS edited Mrs. Norbeck’s recollections and added some explanatory materials.)
Walter Simmons, Joe Foss: Flying Marine (E. P. Dutton & Co., 1943). (This book was first published during World War II, before Foss’ political career, and therefore focuses entirely on his war record.)
The Argus Leader reports that Roger D. McKellips passed away on Friday, August 18. McKellips, 94, was an Alcester banker and a longtime state legislator. McKellips served in the State Senate from his Union County district from 1977-79 and 1981-95.
In 1978, following his first term in the Senate, McKellips sought the Democratic nomination for Governor. His opponent was Lt. Governor Harvey Wollman. Early in 1978, incumbent Governor Dick Kneip had announced that he would resign to accept an appointment as U.S. Ambassador to Singapore. As a consequence, at the time of the June primary, Lt. Governor Wollman was “governor-in-waiting.”
Despite that, McKellips narrowly defeated Wollman in that primary, with Pierre farmer John Bohr running a distant third. In fact, the Associated Press initially declared Wollman the winner, only to withdraw its call due to a tabulation error. Wollman subsequently served five months as governor, after Kneip left office that summer.
In the 1978 general election, McKellips was joined on the ticket by Gregory County rancher Billie H. Sutton, a fellow state senator. Sutton’s grandson, also Billie H. Sutton, is currently the senate minority leader and a 2018 Democratic candidate for governor. The younger Sutton’s campaign treasurer is Gary McKellips, son of Roger.
The McKellips/Sutton ticket lost to the Republicans, Attorney General Bill Janklow and House Speaker Lowell Hansen. Janklow/Hansen won 56.6% and McKellips/Sutton won 43.4%. It is the first of 10 straight gubernatorial wins by Republicans, which the younger Sutton hopes to end in 2018.
After losing in 1978, McKellips returned to the Senate in the 1980 general election and served from 1981-95. He immediately joined the caucus leadership, serving as assistant minority leader in 1981-82, minority leader from 1983-92, and majority leader in 1993 and 1994 when the Democrats won control of the Senate. As the Argus Leader noted, McKellips was the most recent Democrat to lead a majority caucus in either legislative chamber.
Roger McKellips was not the first member of his family to run for governor. His father, Ernest F. McKellips, a former mayor of Alcester, sought the governorship in 1954. He lost the Democratic primary to Buffalo County rancher Ed Martin, who lost the fall election to Joe Foss.
Recently, the South Dakota Hall of Honor, which recognizes South Dakotans who received the Congressional Medal of Honor, was relocated to the first floor of the State Capitol. The display had previously been in the Soldiers and Sailors War Memorial Building, where it was not prominent to the public and was not handicapped-accessible.
The new display is worth seeing during a visit to the State Capitol. The display features the complete Medal of Honor citations for each recipient, and they describe truly remarkable acts of heroism and valor. Below is a list of South Dakota’s recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor, with a hyperlink to the citation added to each recipient’s name and excerpts from the citations.
Charles D. Roberts – Spanish-American War. “Gallantly assisted in the rescue of the wounded from in front of the lines under heavy fire of the enemy.”
Willibald C. Bianchi – World War II. An excerpt: “When wounded early in the action by 2 bullets through the left hand, he did not stop for first aid but discarded his rifle and began firing a pistol.”
An excerpt from the Foss citation: “Engaging in almost daily combat with the enemy from 9 October to 19 November 1942, Capt. Foss personally shot down 23 Japanese planes and damaged others so severely that their destruction was extremely probable.”
Arlo L. Olson – World War II. An excerpt: “Although 5 German soldiers threw handgrenades at him from a range of 5 yards, Capt. Olson dispatched them all, picked up a machine pistol and continued toward the enemy. Advancing to within 15 yards of the position he shot it out with the foe, killing 9 and seizing the post.”
Herbert A. Littleton – Korean War. An excerpt: “When an enemy hand grenade was thrown into his vantage point shortly after the arrival of the remainder of the team, he unhesitatingly hurled himself on the deadly missile, absorbing its full, shattering impact in his body.”
Woodrow W. Keeble – Korean War. An excerpt: “With complete disregard for his personal safety, Master Sergeant Keeble dashed forward and joined the pinned-down platoon. Then, hugging the ground, Master Sergeant Keeble crawled forward alone until he was in close proximity to one of the hostile machine-gun emplacements. Ignoring the heavy fire that the crew trained on him, Master Sergeant Keeble activated a grenade and threw it with great accuracy, successfully destroying the position. Continuing his one-man assault, he moved to the second enemy position and destroyed it with another grenade. Despite the fact that the enemy troops were now directing their firepower against him and unleashing a shower of grenades in a frantic attempt to stop his advance, he moved forward against the third hostile emplacement, and skillfully neutralized the remaining enemy position.”
Patrick Henry Brady – Vietnam War. An excerpt: “The friendly ground force, pinned down by enemy fire, had been unable to reach and secure the landing zone. Although his aircraft had been badly damaged and his controls partially shot away during his initial entry into this area, he returned minutes later and rescued the remaining injured. Shortly thereafter, obtaining a replacement aircraft, Maj. Brady was requested to land in an enemy minefield where a platoon of American soldiers was trapped.”
Michael John Fitzmaurice – Vietnam War. The Michael J. Fitzmaurice State Veterans Home in Hot Springs is named in his honor. An excerpt from his citation: “Realizing the imminent danger to his comrades, and with complete disregard for his personal safety, he hurled 2 of the charges out of the bunker. He then threw his flak vest and himself over the remaining charge. By this courageous act he absorbed the blast and shielded his fellow-soldiers. Although suffering from serious multiple wounds and partial loss of sight, he charged out of the bunker, and engaged the enemy until his rifle was damaged by the blast of an enemy hand grenade.”
Leo K. Thorsness – Vietnam War. Thorsness was a prisoner of war for nearly six years – among his fellow prisoners was future U.S. Senator John McCain. Thorsness ran for U.S. Senate in 1974, losing to incumbent George McGovern, and for U.S. House in 1978, losing the open seat very narrowly to Tom Daschle.
An excerpt from the Thorsness citation: “Upon being advised that 2 helicopters were orbiting over the downed crew’s position and that there were hostile MlGs in the area posing a serious threat to the helicopters, Lt. Col. Thorsness, despite his low fuel condition, decided to return alone through a hostile environment of surface-to-air missile and antiaircraft defenses to the downed crew’s position.”