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William J. Janklow papers

Identifier: MS-253

Content Description

William J. Janklow Papers document the activities of William "Bill" Janklow, former governor and congressman of South Dakota. These materials span Janklow's multiple public offices as well as his personal life.


  • Creation: 1958 - 2012


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research with some restriction. Some folders are not available for access as they contain personally identifiable information on constituents such as Social Security numbers, email addresses, credit card numbers, and bank account information.

Researchers are advised to contact the Archives and Special Collections prior to visiting. Advance notice may be needed to retrieve items for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers must obtain a signed Permission to Publish Form if they wish to reproduce, broadcast, or otherwise disseminate information from published and unpublished works held by ASC. Permission to reproduce, broadcast, or otherwise disseminate information materials from ASC does not constitute permission from the holder of copyright or literary rights. The researcher is responsible for securing permission from the copyright holder to publish or reproduce content from materials found in the collections.

Biographical / Historical

William John Janklow was born in Chicago, IL on September 13th, 1939 to Arthur and Lou Ella Janklow. Arthur, a prosecutor at the Nuremburg Civil Trials in Germany, died of a heart attack in 1950. Lou Ella moved Bill and his five siblings to her hometown of Flandeau, SD in 1954. Janklow dropped out of Flandreau High School in 1956 at the age of 16. He then enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, completing basic training at Camp Pendleton in San Diego, CA. Janklow served in the 1958 Quemoy-Matsu international crisis where his left leg was injured, resulting in an honorable discharge in 1959. Upon returning from military service, Janklow married Mary Dean Thom of Flandreau, SD in 1960. That same year, Janklow enrolls in courses at the University of South Dakota, graduating in 1964 with a degree in business administration. Janklow completed his law degree at USD in 1966 and took up work at the Legal Aid Services of the Rosebud Reservation. Janklow served as the Chief Legal Officer of the Rosebuds' Legal Aid Services from 1967-1972. In January 1973 Janklow practiced law at the private firm of Srstka and Janklow in Pierre, SD until he is appointed as Chief Prosecutor at the South Dakota Attorney General's Office under Attorney General Kermit Sande in May of 1973. As Chief Prosecutor, Janklow prosecuted AIM activists surrounding the highly publicized 1973 occupation at Wounded Knee. In 1974 Janklow defeated Kermit Sande to become Attorney General of South Dakota. It is during this time that Janklow is disbarred from practicing law on the Rosebud Reservation due to unresolved criminal allegations brought against him. In 1978 Janklow defeated Roger McKellips to become Governor of South Dakota. In 1980 Janklow convinced lawmakers to uncap state interest rates, encouraging Citibank to move its credit card operations to South Dakota in 1981. In 1982 Janklow defeated Mike O'Connor to begin his second term as governor. This election was won by the largest margin of victory in any South Dakota governor's race at 71 to 29 percent. In 1984 Janklow turned USD Springfield into a prison and changed the mission of Dakota State University from a teacher's' college to a computer school. Janklow ran for senate in 1986, but was defeated in the primary by Jim Abdnor. After the conclusion of his second term in 1986, Janklow practiced law for a private legal frim until 1994. During this time Janklow continued work on the case Janklow v. Viking which began in 1983. In this case, Janklow sued Viking Press for libel printed in Peter Matthiessen's book, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, regarding Janklow’s time on the Rosebud Reservation. Janklow lost this suit with the final appeal being made in 1990. In 1994 Janklow defeated Walter Dale Miller to begin his third term as governor. This term is notable for Janklow’s initiative to bring the internet to every public school in South Dakota. Prison laborers were utilized to achieve this goal. In 1998 Janklow was elected for this fourth term as governor. This term was marked by responses to the Spencer Tornado of 1998, the creation of a WWII memorial in Pierre, and the decade-long debate involving the expansion of the DM&E railroad. Nearing the completion of his final term as governor in 2002, Janklow defeated Stephanie Herseth to become South Dakota's sole representative in the lower chamber of the United States Congress. During his first year in Congress, Janklow killed motorcyclist Randy Scott in a motor vehicle accident. Janklow was found guilty of second-degree manslaughter, sentenced to 100 days in jail, and resigned from Congress. After serving his jail sentence, Janklow resumed practicing law as a private attorney, forming the Janklow Law Firm in 2006 with his son, Russ Janklow. It is during this time that Janklow remains involved with the DM&E Railroad dispute, representing landowners who are at risk of losing property due to DM&E's grant of eminent domain. Janklow announced that he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in 2011. He died on January 12th, 2012 at the age of 72 in Sioux Falls, SD. He has been known as a fan of water-skiing, snowmobiling, and the music of the 1950s.


13 Sept. 1939: Birth, Chicago, IL
1939-1956: Raised, Chicago, IL and Flandreau, SD
1956-1959: U.S. Marine Corp.
3 Sept. 1960: Married, Mary Dean Thom
1964: Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, University of South Dakota
1966: Juris Doctorate, University of South Dakota
1966-1972: Chief Legal Officer, SD Legal Services, Rosebud Reservation
Jan-May 1973: Private practice with William Srstka
1973-1974: Chief Prosecutor, SD Attorney General’s Office
1975-1979: Attorney General, SD
1979-1987: Governor, SD
1987-1994: Private legal practice; 1987-1989: Dougherty, Dawkins, Strand & Yost; 1990: Woods, Fuller, Shultz & Smith
1995-2003 Governor, SD
2003- Jan 20 2004: Congress, SD, U.S. House of Representatives
2004-2011: Private legal practice
12 January 2012: Death, Sioux Falls, SD


530 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The William J. Janklow Papers are arranged into four record groups:

William J. Janklow Gubernatorial Papers
This group is further divided into sub-groups representing groupings of the papers as they were received and accessioned by the State Archives.
William J. Janklow Personal and Political Papers
This group is further divided into series corresponding with the chronology and format of the materials.
William J. Janklow Staff Papers
This group is divided into sub-groups corresponding with a specific staff member.
William J. Janklow Audiovisual and Sound Media Collection
This group is divided into series and sub-series corresponding with format.

Where possible, the original order of provenantial filing systems have been maintained within the sub-group or series level of each record group.

Processing Information

Record Groups for this collection are determined by provenance.
The Gubernatorial Papers originate in the Office of the Governor. The Personal and Political Papers originate in the offices of the Janklow law firm and Janklow’s private residence. The Staff Papers originate with specific members of Janklow’s staff at various stages in his political career. The Audiovisual and Sound Media Collection originates in Janklow's private media library.

William J. Janklow papers
Michael Seminara
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Repository Details

Part of the USD Archives and Special Collections Repository