LESLIE JENSEN was born in Hot Springs, South Dakota. He received an LL.B. degree from the University of South Dakota. In 1916 and 1917 he served on the Mexican border with the U.S. Army and was a Captain of the American Expeditionary Forces from 1917 to 1919. From 1922 until 1934 he was a collector for the Internal Revenue Service. He became president and general manager of the People’s Telephone and Telegraph Company. In 1936 he defeated incumbent Governor Thomas Berry to face-as had his recent predecessors-the effects of the Great Depression. During Jensen’s single term as governor, the legislature created a state department to implement the new federal Social Security Act. In addition, despite the financial demands of the relief effort, the Jensen administration was able to balance South Dakota’s general fund and eliminate a twenty-year-old overdraft as well as to reduce the state’s bonded indebtedness and provide for refunding of rural credit bonds at lower rates of interest. In 1938 Jensen opted to run for a seat in the U.S. Senate rather than seek reelection to the governorship, but he was defeated in the election. He went on to serve as a Colonel in the U.S. Armed forces from 1941 until 1945, when he returned to Hot Springs.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.
Who Was Who in America, Vol. IV. Chicago: Marquis-Who's Who, Inc.
South Dakota State Historical Society