On June 16, 2017, the Trail of Governors unveiled new statues of Govs. Tom Berry, Leslie Jensen, Sigurd Anderson, and Joe Foss at the State Capitol. Family and friends of all four former governors attended the unveiling, as well as Gov. Dennis Daugaard and former governors Frank Farrar and Mike Rounds.
Tom Berry was a Mellette County rancher, known for his folksy humor. While running for governor during the Depression-era election of 1932, Berry promised to “take an axe” to the state budget, and after he was elected he cut state spending by twenty-five percent. His sculpture by John Lopez portrays these traits – Berry poses in a cowboy hat and western suit, smiling as he leans upon a fencepost, holding his “budget-cutting” axe in his hand. The statue is slated to stand in downtown Pierre, joining Peter Norbeck, Nils Boe, and Harvey Wollman at the corner of Pierre Street and Dakota Avenue. In the meantime he is on display at the Cultural Heritage Center.
The statue of Leslie Jensen pays tribute to Jensen’s service in World War I. A member of the South Dakota National Guard, Jensen’s unit was deployed to patrol the Texas-Mexico border in 1916, and then to France during World War I in 1918. After he served as governor, Jensen’s unit was once again activated for service in World War II, with Jensen in command. He served in Australia and, after contracting malaria, was transferred to General Douglas MacArthur’s headquarters. Sculptor James Van Nuys portrayed Jensen in his World War I-era uniform, and the statue will be erected in front of the Soldiers and Sailors World War Memorial Building, which is the state’s memorial to World War I. Until the Capitol Avenue construction is completed in September, Jensen will be on temporary display at the South Dakota National Guard museum.
Sigurd Anderson was an old-fashioned orator, and South Dakotans would travel from miles around to hear Anderson’s lengthy speeches. He also loved people. Anderson never forgot a name or a face, and as his daughter put it, “Where two or more were gathered,” Anderson would be present to speak. Sculptor James Michael Maher captures Anderson’s friendliness, his love for people, and his skill as an orator with his statue. After the unveiling, Maher took the Anderson statue back to his studio for finish work. It will be on temporary display at the Cultural Heritage Center until street construction is completed this fall, at which time it will be installed in front the Sigurd Anderson Building on Capitol Avenue.
Joe Foss wore many hats throughout his life: governor, football commissioner, NRA president, and outdoors television host. But he earned his reputation, as well as the Congressional Medal of Honor, for his heroism as a naval aviator at Guadalcanal during World War II. Sculptors Lee Leuning and Sherri Treeby chose to portray Joe Foss in this defining role: wearing his flight suit, staring up at the horizon for enemy planes. His statue will be on temporary display at the South Dakota National Guard museum until this fall, when it will be installed in front of the Joe Foss Building on Capitol Avenue.