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South Dakota History Classroom - 1961 Governors Forum

South Dakota Governors
Ralph Herseth (L), Merrill Q. Sharpe, and host Leonard Jennewein

The South Dakota State Archives, located at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre, has collected, digitized, and made footage from a 1961 history "classroom" broadcast available to SDPB. The film, created in 1961 as part of the state’s celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the establishment of Dakota Territory, features short interviews of former South Dakota Governors.

Former governors involved with the program included Governor William H. McMaster (by letter), Governor Leslie Jensen, Governor Merrill Q. Sharpe, Governor George T. Mickelson, Governor Sigurd Anderson, Governor Joe Foss, Governor Ralph Herseth and then-Governor Archie Gubbrud.

The interview was filmed at the Keloland television studio in Sioux Falls in early March 1961. The Governors each had a few minutes to talk about the challenges they faced during their time in office. They also talked about the key accomplishments of their administrations. A common theme from the later governors was the importance of Missouri River water development.

Leonard Jennewein, DWU history professor

This film was part of a for-credit history course, which included 31 televised lectures taught by Leonard Jennewein, a professor of history at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell. Enrolled students could earn 2 semester hours of credit. They were provided an outline, a book list and other aids. The class included homework, two quizzes and a final exam. The main textbook used was Herbert Schell’s "South Dakota, Its Beginning and Growth."

Over 200 students enrolled in the class and it is very likely that this was the first distance learning class offered in the state of South Dakota. The class aired on Keloland television affiliates across the state, beginning on February 7, 1961 at 7:00 a.m. and 7:30 a.m., Tuesday & Thursday mornings with a special 8:00 a.m. showing in Mitchell on Saturday mornings.

Dakota Wesleyan televised history course description.

In 1961, South Dakota and North Dakota celebrated the centennial of the establishment of Dakota Territory. Various events were held throughout the state to commemorate the anniversary. A number of county and town history books were published, a Who’s Who in South Dakota 1961 and Dakota Panorama were also published. The state had a Dakota Territory Centennial Commission which was chaired by Professor Jennewein.

Communities throughout the state held parades, dances, picnics, and historical excursions. There were numerous speeches, proclamations, press releases, a centennial song, essay writing contests, Oldest Citizen contests, and burying of time capsules.

In addition, both the Smith-Zimmerman Museum in Madison and Gavin’s Point National Fish Hatchery near Yankton were dedicated during the centennial year.

This unprecedented gathering of Governors was also a part of that the centennial celebration.

Centennial Celebration Poster
South Dakota History Classroom - 1961 Governors Forum

South Dakota Governor Leslie Jensen (1937-1939)

South Dakota Governor Merrill Q. Sharpe (1943-1947)

South Dakota Governor George T. Mickelson (1947-1951)

South Dakota Governor Sigurd Anderson (1951-1955)

South Dakota Governor Joe Foss (1954-1958)

South Dakota Governor Ralph Herseth (1959-1960)

South Dakota Governor Archie Gubbrud (1961-1965)

Preview: South Dakota History - 1961 Governors Forum

SDPB will broadcast the entire 30:00 program on Thursday, July 2, 2020 at 8:00pm CT/7:00pm MT.

Learn More


Listen to an SDPB Radio interview with Matthew Reitzel, Manuscript Archivist, South Dakota State Archives.
From "In The Moment," broadcast and recorded May 18, 2020.

"In The Moment"