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updated 06/17/2019

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updated 06/17/2018

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Three new governors to join the trail in Pierre

PIERRE, S.D. – The South Dakota Trail of Governors Foundation will host the unveiling of three statues honoring the state’s past governors at 1 p.m. CDT on Friday, June 12 in the Capitol Rotunda at Pierre.

The statues honor:

  • 4th Gov. Charles Herreid by artist John Lopez
  • 18th Gov. George T. Mickelson by artist James Michael Maher
  • 25th Gov. Richard Kneip by artists Lee Leuning and Sherri Treeby

Gov. Herreid had close ties to the South Dakota communities of Leola, Eureka and Aberdeen where he lived. Gov. G.T. Mickelson was born in Selby and had business interests there both before and after being elected governor. Elkton, Arlington, Salem and Sioux Falls are towns Gov. Kneip once called home. Individuals from all these communities are expected to attend the ceremony. Many Mickelson and Kneip family members as well as friends and donors will witness the unveiling of the statues.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard will speak at the event, as will Pierre Mayor Laurie Gill, and the South Dakota artists creating the sculptures will share what inspired their vision of each leader. The new statues will be added to the trail which begins in downtown Pierre and follows a path to the state’s Capitol grounds. Gov. Herreid’s statue will be placed in the downtown Pierre area while the Gov. G.T. Mickelson and Gov. Kneip bronzes will be at the Capitol grounds, installed during the month of June. These life-size bronzes will bring the total number of governor statues along the capital city’s trail to 12. The project honoring the state’s chief executive officers is the only one of its kind in the United States.

The Kneip and Mickelson statues are fully funded, while donors for Gov. Herreid’s statue are being sought. Each statue requires a donation of $68,000 and those contributing one-quarter ($17,000) or more receive name recognition on the statue’s plaque for the governor they honor.

The foundation’s board is made up of a small group of volunteers who started the project in 2011. Donors from across South Dakota and several states have contributed a total of $910,000 so far, as well as $500 for an endowment fund. The S.D. Community Foundation provides funding guidance and oversight.

Renditions Started of First “Trail of Governors” Statues

Story from The Miller Press

THIS IS ONE OF TWO proposed statues of Harlan J. Bushfield by artist Jim Maher, and the Facebook site states the Trail of Governors Foundation “likes” it.

Renditions started of first ‘Trail of Governors’ statues

This is the year that at least three of the previous governors of South Dakota will be erected along the “Trail of Governors,” which will connect the State Capitol and the Missouri River in Pierre.

The Trail of Governors Foundation has commissioned South Dakota artists to create life-sized, bronze statues of the state’s past governors.

The governor statues will follow the timeline and order established working from outside inward, i.e. the first year’s statues will include an early governor (Mellette) and a recent governor to leave office (Miller), as well as a mid-timeline governor (Bushfield).

Arthur C. Mellette was the final territorial governor (March 11-October 1, 1889), and the first governor of South Dakota when it became a state (1889-1893).

Walter Dale Miller was governor from 1993 to 1995. The Meade County rancher’s statue promises to have a Western aspect.

And the “mid-timeline” governor whose statue should be placed in 2012 is Harlan J. Bushfield, a Miller native who was South Dakota’s 16th governor, from 1939 to 1943.

James M. Maher of Belle Fourche has been commissioned to create the Bushfield statue, and he has provided two renditions.

The Trail of Governors Foundation was established in 2010. The foundation is relying entirely upon private donations and corporate underwriters to fulfill its vision. Dakota Prairie Bank and Leroy and Charlene Foster are providing interest-free loans to underwrite a portion of this project and up to four sponsors are needed to fund each statue. The South Dakota Community Foundation is also a project partner and all donations are tax-deductible. Up to four sponsors are needed for each South Dakota governor and donations are tax-deductible.

Pierre businessman Rick Jensen is the foundation’s president. He said the statues will form a trail through the state’s Capitol grounds and downtown Pierre which people can follow to learn more about South Dakota’s 30 previous governors as well as the state’s history. He said there is no other project like this in any other state.

Creation of the governors’ statues will be an ongoing process, which will continue to honor future governors.

Sneak Peek Slated for Governor Miller Statue

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 14, 2011
Contact: Rick Jensen, President, Trail of Governors Foundation, (605) 454-0689,

PIERRE – A likeness of former South Dakota Governor Walter D. Miller will don a cowboy hat and clutch his family’s branding iron, according to Trail of Governors Foundation officials.

The life-sized, clay model of Governor Miller will be on display from 1-2 p.m. Thursday, December 15, at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. The public is invited to view the sculpture and visit with South Dakota artist Lee Leuning who is one of four artists sculpting South Dakota’s former governors. Governor Miller and his family are also expected to be in attendance.

“This is an exciting milestone in the Trail of Governors project,” said Foundation President Rick Jensen of Pierre. “This will be the first life-sized model that we have seen and it’s made even more special by the fact that Governor Miller and his family will be present to witness the finished product.”

The Trail of Governors Foundation is a non-profit organization headquartered in Pierre, with membership throughout the state. The organization was established in 2010 with the goal of creating life-sized, bronze statues of South Dakota’s former governors. The statues will be privately funded and erected in Pierre.

“South Dakota is a small state and our governors are held in high esteem,” Jensen said. “They are friends, neighbors and relatives. They are real people and we want to honor them and our rich history.

“The sculpture of Governor Miller will portray him in a very personal light,” Jensen added. “In this sculpture, as well as others, we want to portray the person instead of the office. Governor Miller will be shown in western gear and his family brand will be prominently featured. I believe people will be amazed with the incredible detail of each sculpture.”

The Trail of Governors Foundation hopes to erect at least three bronze statues per year. Up to four major sponsors will be accepted for naming rights to each statue and these donors will be recognized on a plaque incorporated into the sculpture. The group is encouraging donations of any size via its Web site, and all donations – both large and small – will be recognized on the project’s Web site.

In 2012, the foundation plans to erect statues of former governors Arthur Mellette, Harlan Bushfield and Walter D. Miller. Jensen said the selection was based upon a formula which includes a recent governor, an early governor and one from the middle. A schedule has been developed based upon this formula, but additional governors may be created if donors come forward with sufficient funding. The South Dakota Community Foundation is handling donations.

“We plan to follow the schedule as best we can, but we anticipate instances where someone is especially passionate about a particular governor and will want him sculpted sooner,” Jensen said. “When this happens, we will do everything we can to ensure the statue is moved up in the schedule.”

Four South Dakota sculptors have been chosen to create the statues: John Lopez of Lemmon, James Michael Maher of Belle Fourche, Lee Leuning and Sherri Treeby of Aberdeen. These artists are well-known for their sculptures throughout South Dakota and have created public and private art works in numerous U.S. cities. Lopez is sculpting the trail’s first statue of Gov. Mellette, Maher is sculpting Gov. Bushfield and Leuning/Treeby are sculpting Gov. Miller.

“This is truly a South Dakota project,” Jensen said. “We are receiving positive feedback from people across the state. It is a great way of recognizing these leaders who contributed so much to South Dakota and there is no other project like this in any other state.”

For more information and to learn how to sponsor a statue, visit or email The organization also encourages people to following the project’s progress on Facebook.

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