Lutherans most common among SD Governors

First Lutheran Church
First Lutheran Church, Sioux Falls. Lutherans are most common among SD governors.

To date, South Dakota’s thirty-one governors have all considered themselves to be Christian.  Twenty-nine of them have been members of Protestant churches.

Lutheranism is the most common affiliation, in large part because the 1950s and 1960s saw the election of four Norwegian Lutheran governors:  Sigurd Anderson, Ralph Herseth, Archie Gubbrud and Nils Boe.  Earlier governors had been members of other mainline Protestant churches, reflecting their roots in the American northeast and Great Lakes regions.  As old religious divisions have faded away, South Dakota has seen two Roman Catholics elected governor:  Dick Kneip in the 1970s, and Mike Rounds in the 2000s.

Here is the complete list:

  • St._Joseph_Cathedral_Sioux_Falls_25
    St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Sioux Falls.  Two SD governors have been Roman Catholic.

    Lutheran (8) – Peter Norbeck, W. J. Bulow, Sigurd Anderson, Ralph Herseth, Archie
    Gubbrud, Nils Boe, Bill Janklow, Dennis Daugaard

  • Methodist (7) – Samuel Elrod, Robert Vessey, Warren E. Green, Tom Berry, George T. Mickelson, Joe Foss, George S. Mickelson
  • Presbyterian (4) – Charles Herreid, Coe Crawford, Harlan J. Bushfield, Frank Farrar
  • Congregational (3) – Arthur C. Mellette, Frank Byrne, M. Q. Sharpe
  • Baptist (3) – Charles Sheldon, Andrew E. Lee, Carl Gunderson
  • Episcopalian (2) – William H. McMaster, Leslie Jensen
  • Roman Catholic (2) – Richard F. Kneip, Mike Rounds
  • Mennonite (1) – Harvey Wollman
  • Non-denominational Protestant (1) – Walter Dale Miller

(These classifications are made based on the best available biographical information.  It is possible that some governors changed affiliations during their lives.  No attempt has been made to distinguish, for example, specific denominations of “Lutherans.”)

Looking ahead to the major contenders for governor in 2018, Marty Jackley would follow Kneip and Rounds as the third Roman Catholic governor.  Billie Sutton would be the fourth Baptist, although the first since Carl Gunderson served in the 1920s.  Kristi Noem attends a non-denominational evangelical church, and so like Walter Dale Miller would be considered “non-denominational Protestant.”