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Richard Francis Kneip
South Dakota

Gov. Richard Francis Kneip

  • January 5, 1971 - July 24, 1978
  • Democratic
  • January 7, 1933
  • March 9, 1987
  • Minnesota
  • South Dakota State University, St. John's University
  • Married Nancy Lou Pankey; eight children
  • Resigned
  • Ambassador
  • Air Force


RICHARD FRANCIS KNEIP was born in Tyler, Minnesota. He served in the U.S. Air Force with the occupational forces in Germany from 1951 until 1955. After returning to the United States, he attended South Dakota State University at Brookings and St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. He then started a dairy business. In 1964 he was elected to the South Dakota Senate, holding the position of Minority Leader for the last four years of his tenure, after which he was elected governor. During Kneip’s gubernatorial terms, tensions ran high in the American Indian community as traditionalists-spurred by the African-American civil rights movement-fought the status quo with respect to government-sanctioned tribal leadership. In 1973, members of the American Indian Movement occupied Wounded Knee in protest against the officially sanctioned tribal authorities. Over the seventy-one day occupation, two people were killed and twelve were wounded, including two U.S. Marshals. And in 1975, two FBI agents were killed on the Pine Ridge Reservation. During this time, Kneip worked with a task force to help resolve disputes between tribal governments and the state government. Kneip also consolidated 160 state agencies, boards, and departments into 16 in order to make the executive branch more efficient and responsible. He chaired the Midwestern Governors’ Conference and the Democratic Governors’ Association. He was also a member of the Executive Committee of the National Governors Association from 1972 to 1973. He resigned as governor in July, 1978 when he was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Singapore. He died at the age of fifty-four.


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.

South Dakota State Historical Society

Who Was Who in America, Vol. IV. Wilmette, IL: Marquis Who’s Who: Wilmette, IL.

Recent South Dakota Governors