SIOUX FALLS, South Dakota (Reuters) - Former four-term South Dakota Governor Bill Janklow, an outspoken, brash fixture of the state whose political career was brought to an end by a traffic accident, died on Thursday of brain cancer, state officials said.
Janklow, 72, said in November he was dying from a “very far advanced” cancer he had learned about only a few weeks earlier. He said the cancer had spread throughout his brain and he planned to submit to experimental treatments.
Elected as state attorney general in 1975 and to his first term as governor four years later, Janklow lured the credit card business of Citibank to South Dakota 30 years ago, driving a financial services boom for what was then a mainly farming state.
The former governor also served a brief stint in the U.S. House of Representatives before resigning in 2003 after a manslaughter conviction following a fatal car crash.
David Volk, a former South Dakota state treasurer and friend of Janklow’s since 1974, said the former governor was an inspirational leader who never backed away from a decision because he thought it might be politically dangerous.
“He saw things that needed to get done and had courage to go out and do it and that’s not an easy thing,” Volk said in a telephone interview. “I never heard him say ‘How is that going to impact us politically?’ He would say ‘I have to if it’s good for South Dakota.’”
After Janklow’s death, South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard asked that all flags fly at half-staff in the state until Janklow’s funeral, expected sometime next week.
“Our prayers go out to Mary Dean and to the Janklow family,” Daugaard said in a statement. “He will always be remembered as a strong leader and one of our state’s most consequential governors.”
Another former South Dakota Governor, Mike Rounds, described Janklow as “the epitome of a leader who stood up for his people all the time.”
In a brief news conference with reporters in November at his Sioux Falls law office, Janklow said he had not been feeling well, but initial tests had not revealed a problem. Additional tests were conducted and a brain scan uncovered the cancer.
Janklow had been undergoing experimental treatments at the Mayo Clinic, and recently entered hospice care in Sioux Falls.
Janklow described himself as outspoken and opinionated and would have done everything the same way if he had it do over again with one exception: He would stop at the stop sign.
Janklow ran a stop sign in 2003 and collided with a motorcycle ridden by Minnesotan Randy Scott, killing him. Convicted of manslaughter, Janklow served 100 days in prison.
Reporting By Ann Nachtigal, James B. Kelleher; and David Bailey; Editing by Paul Thomasch and Cynthia Johnston