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William J. Janklow
South Dakota

Gov. William J. Janklow

  • January 1, 1979 - January 6, 1987
    January 7, 1995 - January 7, 2003
  • Republican
  • September 13, 1939
  • January 12, 2012
  • Illinois
  • University of South Dakota
  • Married Mary Dean Thom; three children
  • Representative
  • Marines


WILLIAM J. JANKLOW was born in Chicago. After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1956 to 1959, he received a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Dakota in 1964 and a law degree from the same university two years later. He was chief legal officer for the South Dakota Legal Services System on the Rosebud Reservation from 1966 to 1973, after which he started a private law practice. He was state Attorney General from 1975 to 1979 and served two terms as governor, from 1979 to 1987. He then returned to private practice until his reelection as governor in 1994 and again in 1998—the first South Dakota governor to be elected four times. During his second two terms, Janklow won legislative approval for a 30-percent statewide reduction in property taxes for agricultural land and owner-occupied homes. Under his policies, prison crews built affordable housing for the elderly. His focus on children included an expanded immunization program, more adoptions for traditionally long-term foster children, and more technology in education. During his final years in office, all primary and secondary schools were wired for multiple technologies, all schools were connected via a statewide Intranet, and all middle schools and high schools were provided with video-conferencing equipment for distance education. Janklow went on to win election to the U.S. House of Representatives, but resigned one year after taking office when he was convicted of manslaughter after his car struck and killed a motorcyclist while going through a stop sign.


South Dakota State Historical Society

Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

Governors of the American States, Commonwealths and Territories, National Governors Association, 2000.

The Free Dictionary

Recent South Dakota Governors