Three new Governor’s Trail statues unveiled in Capitol Rotunda
The state of South Dakota honored three governors Friday.
The unveiling ceremony for three new statues for the Trail of Governors brings the total number of statues on the trail to 15. When complete, all the people who have served as governor will be honored, lining a path from downtown to the Capitol complex.
Since 2012, three new statues, sculpted by South Dakota artists, have been unveiled and placed in the Capital City each year. This year, it was the turn for Warren E. Green, the state’s 13th governor; Nils Boe, the 23rd governor, and Mike Rounds, South Dakota’s 32nd governor and now a U.S. senator.
And in a first for the Trail of Governors, two of the men are posed with their dogs.
Green was a farmer and former legislator from Hamlin County. Although he had finished dead last in the Republican primary, the leading candidates deadlocked at the Republican Convention and Green was nominated as a compromise. According to the information provided during the ceremony, he served at the height of the Great Depression.
His statue conveys the difficult days of the “Dust Bowl” era, portraying him clutching his hat with his jacket blowing in the wind, and holding in his hand some topsoil that is fast being blown away.
Sculptor Lee Leuning, who created the sculpture along with Sherri Treeby, said Green was a leader during the toughest times for the state.
“The concept was the ‘Dirty Thirties’ governor and the anguish they went through. My grandfather was a contemporary of his, from a farm not far away from his. The ones that worked the hardest and innovated, survived,” he said. The people who stuck it out came from strong stock, Leuning said.
“The images of him in that wind, with a handful of dirt, topsoil, as it’s being blown out of his hand and the anguish he’s feeling — it’s meant to be a history lesson.”
Leuning said he wanted to capture the feeling of a 65 mph wind, but when he posed for the statue, the wind speed was only 30 mph. So he had a friend train a leaf blower on him to get the details right.
The statue will be placed to the north of the Capitol on Nicollet Avenue.
Nils Boe served from 1965 to 1969, the state’s 23rd governor. An attorney from Sioux Falls, Boe previously served two terms as speaker of the house, and was the only bachelor to serve as governor. While serving as speaker, his fellow legislators had presented him with a puppy, known as “Beagle Boe.”
Sculptor Michael Mahe said it was hard to get a handle on Boe at first, because he was a quiet man. But in researching him, two details stood out. The first was his reading glasses, which he always had on him. The second was Beagle Boe, who was well known in Pierre and would accompany him on trips to Zesto for ice cream.
The statue which will be placed downtown on Pierre Street near BankWest, which sponsored the statue.
M. Michael Rounds was South Dakota’s 31st governor before being elected to the U.S. Senate. He is the first South Dakota governor to go into the U.S. Senate since Harlan J. Bushfield in 1942.
An avid pheasant hunter, Rounds expanded of public hunting opportunities. His statue portrays Mike ready for the hunt, with his shotgun in hand and his dog, Baby, at his side.
Maher, the sculptor, said he had ample access to Sen. Rounds and his design was inspired by his many talks with the governor.
The statue will be placed on the Governor’s Mansion grounds on Capitol Avenue, near the Pierre neighborhood where the Rounds family grew up.
‘The best job’
At the unveiling Friday, Rounds said he was honored to be selected — and be enshrined among the governors with whom he has personal connections.
“Joe Foss is the governor that brought our family to Pierre, when dad decided to become the first highway safety director. And I remember Nils Boe. Because Nils Boe was the governor, when I was about 10 years old, that I delivered newspapers to.”
Boe had the best Halloween candy in town, Rounds said: “Full-sized Snickers bars.”
Rounds the Senator said being South Dakota governor is “truly the best job in the world.”
“Every day, you can actually get things done. If a problem needs fixing, you work directly with departments and legislature and fix it.”
Also, when he spoke Friday, Rounds honored one of the most avid supporters of the Trail of Governors project, who had died Wednesday. Pat Adams was the daughter of Gov. George T. Mickelson and the sister of Gov. George S. Mickelson.
Rounds admired the detail on the statue of Green.
“You can see the wind blowing, can’t you?” he asked.
He also pointed to the glasses Boe had in his hand.
“That’s definitely Nils,” he said.
He recounted a story his father told about Boe.
“I sat down across the desk from him,” Rounds recalled his father saying of Boe. “He was asking me questions, and I said something to him about something. He threw the glasses across the desk at me. And he says, ‘That’s not the way we’re going to do it.’”
There was one other detail — the puppy by Boe’s side.
“And I remember that beagle. But that beagle grew up.”
Cheryl Haussman, granddaughter of Gov. Green, told a story about him that she heard from her father. After he lost the election and was driving away from Pierre, he sang a song that was popular back then — “I’ll Guess I Have to Change My Plan.”
Even though he was content to stay out of politics, he was still interested.
“I remember him sitting reading, reading with horned-rimmed glasses — and maybe a magnifying glass — the Congressional Record,” she said. “I was 11 years old when he died. When I was 10 or 11, he dictated a letter to me. I was a good printer. He dictated a letter to me to then-Sen. Karl Mundt (of South Dakota). Grandpa still liked to communicate with the politicians,” she said.
Haussman said seeing a statue of Green was an unusual experience.
“I have a word for it — surreal. It’s like a little bit of a time warp going back in history,” she said.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard said the unveiling was another success for the Trail of Governors committee, which has organized the project. With 15 statues in place, they have reached the halfway point.
He also had some personal memories.
“It’s especially enjoyable for me to recognize my good friend Mike Rounds. I wouldn’t be governor if not for him. He’s been a good mentor to me, and a great public servant to the state,” Daugaard said.
The statues will be on display at the Cultural Heritage Center until they are permanently placed on the streets.
Next year, three more statues will be placed on the Trail. Two of them have been named already — Tom Berry, the 14th governor; and Joe J. Foss, the 20th governor.