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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