Bill Janklow (1939-2012)

Bill JanklowWilliam J. Janklow was born in Chicago, Illinois on September 13, 1939.  He served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1956–1959.  He received his Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from the University of South Dakota in 1964 and then went on to receive his law degree in 1966 from the University of South Dakota School of Law.

After receiving his law degree, he was a Legal Services lawyer for several years providing legal services to Native Americans on nine Indian Reservations in South Dakota.  In 1973 he was appointed the Chief Prosecutor of South Dakota and quickly earned a reputation as a top trial lawyer.  In 1974 he was elected to serve as the South Dakota Attorney General and held that position until 1978 when he was first elected as the Governor of South Dakota.  He was easily re-elected for his second term as Governor in 1982 with 70.9% of the vote, the highest percentage ever won by a gubernatorial candidate in the state’s history.

Barred by state law term limits to run for governor again in 1986, he joined the law firm of Woods, Fuller, Shultz & Smith in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and continued his private practice with the firm until 1994 when he was handily elected again as the Governor of South Dakota.  He was re-elected in 1998 and is the only person in state’s history to serve sixteen years as governor, making him the longest serving governor in South Dakota history today. Following his second two terms as governor, he was elected as South Dakota’s Congressman for the U.S. House of Representatives and served in that capacity until 2003.

In 2006, he formulated the Janklow Law Firm, Prof. L.L.C where he practiced law with his son, Russ Janklow. 

South Dakota's longest serving Governor, former Attorney General, former Congressman and Founder of Janklow Law, Prof. L.L.C passed away on January 12, 2012.  Bill was best described not as Governor, Attorney General or Congressman, but as an advocate for those that needed a voice.  He started his career as a lawyer and it's only fitting that he spent his final years fighting for the rights of those in need.


Legal Legacy

Mr. Janklow argued and won three cases in the United States Supreme Court, one case in which he was sitting Governor of the State of South Dakota, the only time this has been done in our nation’s history: 

South Dakota v. Opperman (1976) involved Fourth amendment issues related to inventory searches of impounded vehicles. 

Rosebud Sioux Tribe v. Kneip (1977) involved the diminishment of the Rosebud Indian Reservation.  Initially, Justice Powell voted to reverse, but changed his mind following oral argument.  Justice Powell wrote to Chief Justice Burger: “The argument of the Attorney General of South Dakota pretty well persuades me that the history for two-thirds of a century rebuts the presumption.” 

Reeves v. Stake (1980) involved the Market Participant Exception to the Dormant Commerce Clause of the United State Constitution.  When Chief Justice Warren Burger asked Mr. Janklow to begin his oral argument, the Chief Justice announced that the clerk had informed him that Mr. Janklow’s appearance and handling of the oral argument was apparently the first time in our nation’s history that a sitting governor had appeared and argued a case for his state. 

Mr. Janklow established precedent and principle in many of his lower court cases: 

In State v. Plenty Horse, Mr. Janklow argued that the “key man system” of jury selection was biased against Native Americans and in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  The South Dakota Supreme Court agreed, and the Legislature then passed legislation creating the current method of jury selection in the state. 

Outraged at predatory lending practices, Mr. Janklow took a dispute over $371.68 to the South Dakota Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of Mr. Janklow’s client in Smashed Ice v. Lee. 

One of Mr. Janklow’s jury victories, Brandriet v. Norwest Bank, has become a leading case on fraud and fiduciary duty. 

Mr. Janklow had various legal experiences in both the public and private sectors: 

Mr. Janklow previously served as general counsel for Blue Shield of South Dakota, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, the Devils Lake Sioux Tribe of North Dakota, the Three Affiliated Tribes of North Dakota, and the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. 

The governors and attorneys general of South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana hired Mr. Janklow to represent all three states as Special Counsel on Missouri River litigation against the United States of America and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

Mr. Janklow provided the legal work to create Sinte Gleska University on the Rosebud Reservation, the first Native American University in the United States.  On behalf of Black Hills State University, the University of South Dakota, and the University of Northern Colorado, Mr. Janklow served as Sinte Gleska’s first adjunct professor of accounting and first adjunct professor of government. 

Mr. Janklow defended 23 individuals in federal and state court for murder or manslaughter, including representation of a murder defendant in US District Court, where he found the actual murderer, obtained a confession, and secured the release of his client, Marie Spotted War Bonnett. 

Following rioting in Custer by the American Indian Movement (AIM), Mr. Janklow, as Special Prosecutor for the South Dakota Attorney General, convened a grand jury, which handed down 45 individual indictments.   A year later, Mr. Janklow prosecuted and convicted AIM leader Dennis Banks. 

Mr. Janklow debated Indian activist Browning Pipestem before the convention of Chief Justices of the 50 Supreme Courts of the United States. 

Mr. Janklow lectured at Harvard, the University of Colorado, UCLA, Rutgers, the University of Utah, the University of Minnesota, the University of Wisconsin, Creighton University, the University of Texas, Nova American University, the University of South Dakota School of Law, and the University of South Dakota.   

Mr. Janklow was a speaker at the South Dakota Law Review Banquet, a judge at the South Dakota School of Law mock trial, a presenter at numerous continuing State Bar legal education seminars, and gave the keynote address at the South Dakota School of Law hooding ceremony. 


  • University of South Dakota School of Law, Juris Doctorate, 1966
  • University of South Dakota, 1964


Honors and Awards

Legal Awards

  • Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory – A.V. Rated
  • Mr. Janklow was selected as the outstanding Legal Aid Services attorney in the nation, out of over 2,500 lawyers working nationwide.
  • Mr. Janklow was appointed by President Gerald Ford and confirmed by the US Senate to a position on the first Legal Services Corporation Board of Directors.
  • Leadership Award, Lawyers for Civil Justice, 2003
  • Fall Criminal Seminar, South Dakota Trial Lawyers Association, 1988
  • Media & Law Symposium, University of South Dakota School of Law, 1995
  • Reverence for Law Award, Fraternal Order of Eagles
  • National Legal Services Corporation – Appointed by President Gerald Ford and confirmed by the U.S. Senate

Education Awards 

  • South Dakota Education Association Friend of Education Award
  • Friend of South Dakota Parent Teacher Association
  • Associated School Boards of South Dakota
  • South Dakota Association of School Superintendents
  • South Dakota Association of School Districts
  • Eagle Award (Outstanding Leader in Distance Education in America), Distance Learning Association of the United States
  • Digital State 2000 National Award: South Dakota First Place Higher Education, South Dakota First Place K-12 Education, The Center for Digital Government
  • President’s Award for Electronic Education, Northern State University
  • Distinguished Alumnus Award, University of South Dakota
  • Person of the Year Award, Dakota State University
  • Innovators & Influencers Hall of Fame, Dakota State University, 2010
  • Honorary Doctorate, South Dakota School of Mines & Technology
  • Honorary Doctorate, Huron University
  • Wiring the Schools Award, Hill City School District
  • Aberdeen Adjustment Training Center
  • Black Hills Workshop & Training Center
  • Award for the Governor’s Camp for the Gifted, University of South Dakota School of Education
  • Recognition Award, South Dakota Head Start Association
  • Friend of the Library, South Dakota Library Association
  • MathCounts Honorary Chair (twice)
  • East Central Multi District Board of Education
  • Distinguished Speaker Award, University of South Dakota Farber Forum
  • DakotaDome Appreciation Award, University of South Dakota
  • Life Member, University of South Dakota Alumni Association

Natural Resources Awards 

  • Distinguished Service Citation, Upper Missouri Water Users Association
  • Certificate of Recognition, James River Water Development District
  • Appreciation Award, South Dakota Association of Rural Water Systems
  • President’s Club, South Dakota Association of Conservation Districts
  • Outstanding Contribution & Service Award, American Council for Renewable Energy
  • South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Award
  • Most Valuable Snowmobiler Award, Snowmobile Magazine
  • Appreciation Award, South Dakota Farmers Union
  • Associate Member, South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association
  • Key to Agriculture Award, South Dakota Women Involved in Farm Economics
  • Appreciation Award, Department of Agriculture Wildland Fire Suppression Division
  • Outstanding Service Award, Future Farmers of America
  • Honorary FFA Degree, Future Farmers of America
  • Outstanding Support Award, South Dakota State Fair
  • Appreciation Awards, South Dakota State Fair, 1983, 2002
  • South Dakota 4-H Hall of Fame Honorary Member
  • Outstanding Leadership in South Dakota Agriculture Award, South Dakota Antique Tractor Association
  • Leadership Award, South Dakota Horticultural Society
  • Outstanding Engineering Achievement – Governor’s Park, Pierre, South Dakota Engineering Society

Human Resources Awards 

  • Appreciation Award, Make-A Wish Foundation of South Dakota, 1985, 1986, 1998, 2002, 2005
  • Leadership Appreciation Award, South Dakota Association of the Deaf
  • Support & Service Award, Association of Retarded Citizens
  • Appreciation Award – Friend of the Disadvantaged & Handicapped, Black Hills Special Services
  • Bull’s Eye Award, West River Mental Health Center
  • Gubernatorial Leadership Award, National Alliance on Mental Illness
  • Recognition Award, South Dakota Human Services Forum
  • Distinguished Public Service Award, South Dakota Association for the Deaf and Communication Service for the Deaf
  • Humanitarian of the Year Award, South Dakota Right to Life
  • Salvation Army Award
  • South Dakota State Adoption Council
  • Outstanding Service to Public Health Award, South Dakota Public Health Association
  • Christmas Seals Award, South Dakota Lung Association
  • Shot in the Arm Award, American Diabetes Association
  • Distinguished Public Service Award, South Dakota Academy of Family Physicians
  • Family Statesman Award, South Dakota Family Policy Council
  • Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame
  • American Motorcycle Association Award
  • Distinguished Service to Community Transportation Award
  • Appreciation Award, First National Bank of Omaha
  • Students Against Drunk Driving
  • Certificate of Recognition, South Dakota State Historical Society Board of Trustees
  • Certificate of Sincere Appreciation for Restoration Funding, First Presbyterian Church, Flandreau, South Dakota
  • Council of State Governments Award
  • Most Influential Man Award, Eyes on You Magazine, 1983, 1995
  • Best Elected Official Award, Eyes on You Magazine, 1995
  • Support of Public Safety Services Award, Chicago Fire Department
  • Outstanding Service Award, South Dakota Corrections Association
  • Friend of Law Enforcement, South Dakota Peace Officers Association

Military & Veterans Awards 

  • Corning/Foss Award, South Dakota National Guard Enlisted Association, 1997, 1998
  • Outstanding Support & Leadership Award, National Guard Association of South Dakota
  • Distinguished & Outstanding Service Award, South Dakota National Guard
  • Appreciation Award, South Dakota Air National Guard
  • South Dakota Association of Insurance Agents – for Honoring WWII Veterans
  • Honorary Commanding Officer of WWII Veterans of HDQs Battery 2nd Battalion 147th Field Artillery, Flandreau, SD
  • Appreciation Award for Veterans’ Issues, Legionnaires of South Dakota
  • Guardian Award, National World War II Memorial
  • Honorary Black Hills Bandit, Ellsworth Air Force Base
  • Exceptional Service Award, Selective Service System

Community & Country Awards 

  • Special Efforts Award, Clear Lake City Council
  • Dedication &Service Award for Grizzly Gulch Fire, Citizens of Deadwood
  • Key to the City, City of Madison
  • Pierre Pride Award, City of Pierre
  • Key to the City, City of Watertown
  • Honorary Member, Hoven Fire Department
  • City of Sioux City, Iowa, Appreciation Award
  • 823 Campaign Badge of Honor, for service in 1958 as a US Marine assisting their national defense, Republic of China (Taiwan)
  • Longlive Friendship Award, Republic of China (Taiwan)

Representative Appellate Cases

  • North Star Mut. Ins. Co. v. Antonie, No. 08-4131, 2009 WL 1563928 (D.S.D. June 3, 2009)
  • North Star Mut. Ins. Co. v. Antonie, No. 08-4131, 2009 WL 790190 (D.S.D. March 24, 2009)
  • In re J.D.MC., 2007 SD 97, 739 N.W.2d 796
  • State v. Holsing, 2007 SD 72, 736 N.W.2d 883
  • Brandriet v. Norwest Bank South Dakota, N.A., 499 N.W.2d 613 (S.D. 1993)
  • State of S.D. v. Hazen, 914 F.2d 147 (8th Cir. 1990)
  • Reeves, Inc. v. Stake, 447 U.S. 429 (1980)
  • Rosebud Sioux Tribe v. Kneip, 430 U.S. 584 (1977)
  • State v. Bad Heart Bull, 257 N.W.2d 715 (S.D. 1977)
  • South Dakota v. Opperman, 428 U.S. 364 (1976)
  • O’Neal v. Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, 482 F.2d 1140 (8th Cir. 1973)
  • Crowe v. State of S.D., 356 F.Supp. 777 (8th Cir. 1973)
  • Smashed Ice v. Lee, 200 N.W.2d 236 (S.D. 1972)
  • Application of Wright, 199 N.W.2d 599 (S.D. 1972)
  • Crowe v. State, 194 N.W.2d 234 (S.D. 1972)
  • Capp Homes, Inc. v. Ferguson, 191 N.W.2d 171 (S.D. 1971)
  • Application of Wright, 189 N.W.2d 447 (S.D. 1971)
  • Town of Wood v. Good Shield, 188 N.W.2d 757 (S.D. 1971)
  • State v. Plenty Horse, 184 N.W.2d 654 (S.D. 1971)
  • Iyotte v. U.S., 402 F.2d 698 (8th Cir. 1968)