Oldest and Youngest SD GOV’s

The three major candidates for Governor of South Dakota are Republicans Kristi Noem and Marty Jackley and Democrat Billie Sutton.  In earlier posts, this blog looked at various historical milestones each candidate has reached, or would reach if elected.  (You can see those here:  Jackley, Noem, and Sutton.)

Although Sutton is an underdog to the eventual Republican nominee, if elected he would set a milestone as the youngest governor in South Dakota history, taking office at age 34 and breaking Richard F. Kneip’s record of 37.  This potential milestone has been mentioned by bloggers including Tom Lawrence and Cory Heidelberger.

Heidelberger also calculated the age of each governor upon assuming office.  A similar chart is provided below, ranking each of the state’s 32 governors by age:

# Governor Date of birth Date of inaugural Age at inaugural
29 Walter Dale Miller October 05, 1925 April 19, 1993 67 yrs, 196 days
13 Warren E. Green March 10, 1869 January 06, 1931 61 yrs, 302 days
11 Carl Gunderson June 20, 1864 January 06, 1925 60 yrs, 200 days
12 W. J. Bulow January 13, 1869 January 04, 1927 57 yrs, 356 days
32 Dennis Daugaard June 11, 1953 January 08, 2011 57 yrs, 211 days
16 Harlan J. Bushfield August 06, 1882 January 03, 1939 56 yrs, 150 days
30 William J. Janklow September 13, 1939 January 07, 1995 55 yrs, 116 days
17 M. Q. Sharpe January 11, 1888 January 05, 1943 54 yrs, 359 days
8 Frank M. Byrne October 23, 1858 January 07, 1913 54 yrs, 76 days
14 Tom Berry April 23, 1879 January 03, 1933 53 yrs, 255 days
2 Charles H. Sheldon September 12, 1840 January 03, 1893 52 yrs, 113 days
23 Nils A. Boe September 10, 1913 January 05, 1965 51 yrs, 117 days
7 Robert S. Vessey May 16, 1858 January 05, 1909 50 yrs, 234 days
22 Archie Gubbrud December 31, 1910 January 03, 1961 50 yrs, 3 days
3 Andrew E. Lee March 18, 1847 January 01, 1897 49 yrs, 289 days
21 Ralph E. Herseth July 02, 1909 January 06, 1959 49 yrs, 188 days
6 Coe I. Crawford January 14, 1858 January 08, 1907 48 yrs, 359 days
5 Samuel H. Elrod May 01, 1856 January 03, 1905 48 yrs, 247 days
31 M. Michael Rounds October 24, 1954 January 07, 2003 48 yrs, 75 days
1 Arthur C. Mellette June 23, 1842 November 02, 1889 47 yrs, 132 days
19 Sigurd Anderson January 22, 1904 January 02, 1951 46 yrs, 345 days
9 Peter Norbeck August 27, 1870 January 07, 1917 46 yrs, 133 days
28 George S. Mickelson January 31, 1941 January 06, 1987 45 yrs, 340 days
15 Leslie Jensen September 15, 1892 January 05, 1937 44 yrs, 112 days
10 William H. McMaster May 10, 1877 January 04, 1921 43 yrs, 239 days
18 George T. Mickelson July 23, 1903 January 07, 1947 43 yrs, 168 days
4 Charles N. Herreid October 20, 1857 January 08, 1901 43 yrs, 80 days
26 Harvey L. Wollman May 14, 1935 July 24, 1978 43 yrs, 71 days
24 Frank Farrar April 02, 1929 January 07, 1969 39 yrs, 280 days
20 Joe Foss April 17, 1915 January 04, 1955 39 yrs, 262 days
27 William J. Janklow September 13, 1939 January 01, 1979 39 yrs, 110 days
25 Richard F. Kneip January 07, 1933 January 05, 1971 37 yrs, 363 days

Notes:  This chart calculates the age at which each governor first took office.  It does not include second or third consecutive terms.  William J. Janklow is listed twice – once when he took office in 1979, and again when he returned to office in 1995.  Unlike Heidelberger’s chart, this chart does not attempt to include “months” in the age, as a “month” is not a standard length.

29 Miller
SD’s oldest governor, Walter Dale Miller

The oldest governor, Walter Dale Miller, was 67 when he succeeded to office upon the death of Gov. George S. Mickelson.  The oldest elected governor was Warren E. Green, who was 61 when he took office in 1931.  The three oldest elected governors – Gunderson, Bulow, and Green, served in a row from 1925 to 1933.

Likewise, three of the four youngest governors – Farrar, Kneip, and Janklow – were elected consecutively in the 1960s and 1970s.

Here is the same chart again, inserting Noem, Jackley, and Sutton in their prospective places:

# Governor Date of birth Date of inaugural Age at inaugural
29 Walter Dale Miller October 05, 1925 April 19, 1993 67 yrs, 196 days
13 Warren E. Green March 10, 1869 January 06, 1931 61 yrs, 302 days
11 Carl Gunderson June 20, 1864 January 06, 1925 60 yrs, 200 days
12 W. J. Bulow January 13, 1869 January 04, 1927 57 yrs, 356 days
32 Dennis Daugaard June 11, 1953 January 08, 2011 57 yrs, 211 days
16 Harlan J. Bushfield August 06, 1882 January 03, 1939 56 yrs, 150 days
30 William J. Janklow September 13, 1939 January 07, 1995 55 yrs, 116 days
17 M. Q. Sharpe January 11, 1888 January 05, 1943 54 yrs, 359 days
8 Frank M. Byrne October 23, 1858 January 07, 1913 54 yrs, 76 days
14 Tom Berry April 23, 1879 January 03, 1933 53 yrs, 255 days
2 Charles H. Sheldon September 12, 1840 January 03, 1893 52 yrs, 113 days
23 Nils A. Boe September 10, 1913 January 05, 1965 51 yrs, 117 days
7 Robert S. Vessey May 16, 1858 January 05, 1909 50 yrs, 234 days
22 Archie Gubbrud December 31, 1910 January 03, 1961 50 yrs, 3 days
3 Andrew E. Lee March 18, 1847 January 01, 1897 49 yrs, 289 days
21 Ralph E. Herseth July 02, 1909 January 06, 1959 49 yrs, 188 days
6 Coe I. Crawford January 14, 1858 January 08, 1907 48 yrs, 359 days
5 Samuel H. Elrod May 01, 1856 January 03, 1905 48 yrs, 247 days
33? Marty J. Jackley October 13, 1970 January 05, 2019 48 yrs, 84 days
31 M. Michael Rounds October 24, 1954 January 07, 2003 48 yrs, 75 days
1 Arthur C. Mellette June 23, 1842 November 02, 1889 47 yrs, 132 days
33? Kristi Noem November 30, 1971 January 05, 2019 47 yrs, 36 days
19 Sigurd Anderson January 22, 1904 January 02, 1951 46 yrs, 345 days
9 Peter Norbeck August 27, 1870 January 07, 1917 46 yrs, 133 days
28 George S. Mickelson January 31, 1941 January 06, 1987 45 yrs, 340 days
15 Leslie Jensen September 15, 1892 January 05, 1937 44 yrs, 112 days
10 William H. McMaster May 10, 1877 January 04, 1921 43 yrs, 239 days
18 George T. Mickelson July 23, 1903 January 07, 1947 43 yrs, 168 days
4 Charles N. Herreid October 20, 1857 January 08, 1901 43 yrs, 80 days
26 Harvey L. Wollman May 14, 1935 July 24, 1978 43 yrs, 71 days
24 Frank Farrar April 02, 1929 January 07, 1969 39 yrs, 280 days
20 Joe Foss April 17, 1915 January 04, 1955 39 yrs, 262 days
27 William J. Janklow September 13, 1939 January 01, 1979 39 yrs, 110 days
25 Richard F. Kneip January 07, 1933 January 05, 1971 37 yrs, 363 days
33? Billie H. Sutton March 16, 1984 January 05, 2019 34 yrs, 295 days

Sutton would be 34 years, 295 days old – more than three years younger than Dick Kneip was – if he took office on January 5, 2019.  (Although a new governor can take office any time after the New Year, traditionally the inauguration is held on the first Saturday in January.)

Noem would be 47 years, 36 days old, and as the first female governor she would nearly the same age as the first male governor, Arthur C. Mellette, who was also 47 when he took office on the day that South Dakota became a state, November 2, 1889.

Jackley would be 48 years, 84 days old, only 9 days older than Mike Rounds when he took office in 2003.  Jackley first came to Pierre in 2009 when Gov. Rounds appointed him as attorney general to replace Larry Long, who had been appointed a circuit judge.

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