Personalities: Joe Foss

Oct 12, 2017

Radio host Chuck Anderson traveled to Joe Foss's Scottsdale, Arizona home in 1996 for an interview with one of the most famous and accomplished South Dakotans ever.

Very few people achieve as much as Joe Foss did in his lifetime. After the death of his father in 1933, Foss had to take over the family farm near Sioux Falls. He was still in high school and was suddenly responsible for taking care of his mother and younger siblings. His younger brother eventually took over, allowing Foss to graduate from high school and earn a degree from the University of South Dakota.

Joe Foss joined the South Dakota National Guard in 1937 and entered the U.S. Marine Corps in 1940. He worked his way into fighter aircraft and combat. He became America's top flying ace, earning the Congressional Medal of Honor for actions during 1942 and 1943.

While on duty in the Pacific, Foss met Navy Lieutenant Richard M. Nixon. 

Joe Foss became a world-wide celebrity during the war. He was recalled from combat to the U.S. and was sent with other war heroes and celebrities on war bonds sales tours. Foss also trained newly recruited airmen at a base near Los Angeles, where he met and rubbed elbows with many of the biggest movie and radio stars of the day, including Bob Hope, Phil Harris, and John Wayne.

Joe Foss, South Dakota Governor

After the war, Joe Foss entered politics, serving two terms in the South Dakota Legislature. Foss was elected South Dakota governor in 1955 and served two terms. He ran for the U.S. House in 1958 but lost to George McGovern. 

In 1959, Foss helped established the American Football League, the forerunner of today's American Football Conference. He became the AFL's first commissioner and with other sports executives of the day, essentially created the Super Bowl.

Joe Foss also helped create two of the first TV programs dedicated to hunting and the outdoors. "Outdoors with Joe Foss" and "The American Sportsman."

Joe Foss held strong opinions about faith, family, and what he saw as the American way of life. He also spoke his mind. In the clip below, Foss talks about his time as the head of the National Rifle Association.

Later in life, Joe Foss became an author and lecturer who emphasized the importance of hard work, personal responsibility, and faith in God. Foss died in 2003 at the age of 88.

Listen to part one of Chuck Anderson's interview with Joe Foss:

Part two:

Part three: