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WOSTER: Janklow takes rightful place

These two portraits of former Gov. Bill Janklow were unveiled Friday at the Capitol in Pierre. (Courtesy of Patrick Callahan/Oahe TV)

There was a time, right after Bill Janklow finished the 16th year of his four terms as South Dakota’s governor, when I’d walk past the portraits of other governors on the walls of the Capitol building’s first floor and feel some anger that his picture wasn’t among them.

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He’d have been the last one on the north wall on the east wing of the building. The row of portraits starts with Arthur C. Mellette. Where Janklow’s portrait should have been after his first eight years (1979-1986) was a bare wall. He returned to the governor’s office after eight years away. After his second eight years (1995-2002) a second bare patch of wall represented where his portrait might have gone. He wouldn’t agree to have a portrait painted, either time.

Terry Woster, Daily Republic ColumnistOne morning when I arrived at the Capitol press room quite early shortly after the end of his second term, with the building still quiet and peaceful, I cut a page containing a black-and-white photograph of Janklow from one of the Blue Books and taped it to the wall where his portrait wasn’t. It stayed there a few hours, but soon it was gone, and the wall was bare again. I did it again later in the legislative session, and again, someone removed the photograph.

There were those who believed that Janklow refused to have his portrait painted after his first two terms because he always intended to sit out a term or two and then run again. I dismissed that — for the most part. Not completely, because my mind wouldn’t let go completely of the thought that, well, if any politician in South Dakota had thought that far ahead and thought it might be possible to run again, and win again, it would have been Janklow.

There were others who believed the former Flandreau kid was simply too stubborn to have his portrait painted like the rest of the men who have been chief executive of South Dakota. I dismissed that — again, for the most part. Janklow could be a stubborn guy, whether he was a young legal aid lawyer fighting to change the way jury pools were picked, a brash young governor leading the entire South Dakota Legislature to Washington, D.C., to talk about the farm crisis in the 1980s, or an older man who had suffered a political defeat in a big race for U.S. Senate and who was learning the incredible joys of grandchildren and trying to find ways to use technology to bring the world’s knowledge to the urban and rural schools of his home state.

I never did hit on a good reason for his refusal to authorize a portrait. I covered the guy as a news reporter for 40 years. I saw him in all sorts of locations and situations, and it just didn’t make sense to me. He liked being governor, loved it, in fact. He was proud of the fact that people elected him four times, twice as many as anyone else in state history. But he didn’t agree to have his portrait up on the wall.

Well, it’s up there now. Strike that. They’re up there now. Governor Janklow (and while he was a member of Congress after being governor, I will always think of him as Governor Janklow) died in January 2012. His family decided it was time his portraits took their places among the other governors of South Dakota, and they commissioned a Watertown artist, Joshua Spies, to do the honors.

Yesterday morning, the public got a look at the two paintings in a gathering in the Capitol rotunda, just a few feet from the governor’s inner office. Later, the two portraits joined those of the other governors of South Dakota on the north wall of the east wing.

I missed the ceremony, but I stopped for a moment on my way home from work, just to see for myself that the portraits were really there. I realized I’d been angry because the wall of governors is our history, and Janklow was a big piece of that history. His portrait should have been there. Now it is. Twice.