Bill Janklow, an institution in South Dakota politics who was known for his brashness and pushing things to completion, has died at age 72.
“As South Dakota’s attorney general, governor and congressman, the colorful politician dominated the state’s political landscape for more than a quarter century, changing the face of the state’s economy, education system and tax structure. Even his enemies — and there were many — admitted the Republican had a talent for getting things done, even as they complained that he ran roughshod over his opponents. …
“Janklow was known as a brilliant lawyer, a dynamic and brash speaker and an innovative governor. He had a long list of accomplishments, including saving rail service for much of the state, cutting property taxes and leading the nation in connecting classrooms to the Internet.
“To me, it seems indisputable he was South Dakota’s greatest governor,” Dave Knudson, a former legislator who served two stints as Janklow’s chief of staff said after Janklow announced he had brain cancer. Janklow was driven to solve problems, Knudson said.
Janklow also served as a U.S. congressman. His term was cut short in 2003, after Janklow sped through a stop sign and killed a motorcyclist. Janklow was convicted of second-degree murder.
If you’re interested in Janklow’s life, you should take a few minutes to watch the video of his final press conference. Janklow called reporters in November, after he learned that a tumor had tangled its way around his brain and he had little time left.
In the 13 minute video, Janklow lays out his case for living life to its fullest.
“I wanted to just tell you all that no human being ever had more fun in life and in work than I did,” he said.
When a reporter asked how he’d like South Dakotans to remember him, sadness took over his voice.
“I want them to just understand one thing: I gave a damn about what I did,” he said. “I enjoyed it. And I did what I felt was right. And if I had to do it over, I’d do everything I did, but I’d stot at a stop sign.”