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Joe Foss in his days as commissioner of the American Football League. Photo courtesy of Arlington Cemetery.
Joe Foss in his days as commissioner of the American Football League. Photo courtesy of Arlington Cemetery.

Joe Foss Remembered

For a 9-year-old newspaper boy in Pierre, balancing 50 to 100 papers on a bike was a challenge. One day in 1956 I hit a rut and crashed into the pavement. Newspapers scattered across the highway. With a badly skinned knee and embarrassed, I saw a black limousine coming straight at me. I scrambled to get out of harm’s way as the car screeched to a halt. 

A man in a suit stepped out of the limousine and began picking up newspapers. I didn’t know he had been a fighter pilot in World War II or that he scored 26 personal aerial victories against the Japanese. I didn’t know he had been shot down over the Pacific or had received the Bronze Star, the Silver Star, the Purple Heart and the Congressional Medal of Honor.

I didn’t know that in 1941, he was the Officer of the Day, in charge of base security at Pensacola, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He rode around its perimeter defending against Japanese invaders on the only transportation available…a bicycle.

Was this on his mind as he saw me take a spill in the middle of the airport highway? When he said, “Let me help pick up your papers,” I was in awe. Without fanfare, Joe Foss, the governor with a state to manage and a plane to catch, took a few minutes to help a kid with a skinned knee.


Editor's Note: This story appeared in the July/August 2008 issue of South Dakota MagazineTo order a copy or to subscribe, call 800-456-5117. The author, Dave Beckwith, was a retired California pastor who grew up in Pierre. His story later appeared in the book Chicken Soup for the Republican's Soul.


05:07 pm - Tue, April 17 2012
Neil Andersen said:
When I was around 5/ less or more a little. Joe Foss flew his plane to Northville S.D
to make a speech at the school. The whole town came out to watch him take off from the stubble field. I was up looking in his plane...a piper cub I believe. He walked you and used his hand to ruffle my hair. Everyone laughed. I don't remember if he said anything, but it was pretty cool.
04:02 am - Wed, April 18 2012
dave tunge said:
My Dad worked with Joe in Pierre and also in the Air Guard. I have fond memories also as a kid but especially flying with him. Joe used his cub as a tool to fly around the state for various engagements. I got to ride in the back seat a couple times.
Maybe I caught the flying bug from him. Maybe even influenced my choice of a cub that I use now.
I never did think Joe was much of a politician but more of a cross between Mark Twain and Will Rogers. Tom Brokaw was spot on when he wrote that Joe's era was the greatest generation.
04:23 pm - Mon, May 14 2012
Vince Flynn, MD said:
When I was a student @ the U. of South Dakota in the late '50's, I visited my Aunt and Uncle in Pierre for Thanksgiving vacation. My friend, Mike Mulally, invited me out to check out the town one night. He said we should stop by and see his friend, Gov. Joe Foss. Well, we did and joined Gov. Foss and his family in his home for an evening of home movies. It was very memorable. Then many years later I reminded Joe of that evening when I saw him at and airshow and bought his autobiography. I was very honored to meet a real hero.
06:17 pm - Mon, May 14 2012
Gordon Williamson said:
I was selected to attend Boys State from Mitchell, SD in 1957. Joe Foss was Governor then and many of us were able to meet him and talk with him He became my instant hero. Because of that I earned the Navy wings of gold and flew fighter jets. As hard as I tried I couldn't get an aerial victory though.
Sidenote, Tom Brokaw was elected Governor of BS that year, and formed a close relationship with Gov Foss.
And later I would join Beta Theta Pi fraternity at USD and become brothers with Vince Flynn and Milke Mullaly.
05:58 am - Tue, May 15 2012
Laura said:
Thanks for the fun Joe Foss memories, guys!
07:52 am - Sat, May 19 2012
Mike Mullally said:
For sefveral years my mother, Kitty, taught dance to many kids from the Pierre, SD, area. During that time Joe Foss was elected governor of SD. He and my father, Eddie, had developed a friendship over the years, and when Joe announced his candidacy for Governor my dad became one of his most active was elected he offered my dad, a life long Democraupporters. After he was elected Gov., Foss offered my dad a position in his administration. One hitch, my dad had to switch parties, which he did. Eddie Mullally became a Joe Foss Republican.
Gov. Foss's daughter, Cheryel was born with ereberal Paulsey. my mother, had done a lot of work with SD Crippled Children's Society. So she offered to work with Cheryel when the Foss's moved to Pierre. We spent a lot of time with the Foss family. So it was not unusual for me to hang out at the Governor's Mansion. I thought Brother Flynn might enjoy an evening with the Governor and his family. So I took him there and we had a great time.

Mike M.
01:02 pm - Mon, June 11 2012
Bill Thompson said:
My Aberdeen American News paper route included the Northern State campus and residential houses south of the campus, including our own house on Marshall Road. At its peak my route had over 200 customers, and rather than count my papers before delivering, I always carried one extra copy. The policy didn't make economical sense, but it helped the day a Boys Stater stole a paper from me and the day I gave the extra copy to Gov. Foss. He was on campus for a meeting, and I saw him go into the Wolves Den with some other fellows. So I grabbed the extra paper out of my bag, followed him into the Wolves Den, and gave it to him. He was most appreciative.That paper route paid for my orthodontic treatments, and the savings bonds I bought helped pay for my college education even into my junior year.
01:18 pm - Mon, June 11 2012
Mary Ann Reder Frandsen said:
My Dad, Al Reder, was a rancher in Perkins County, S.D. and a friend of Joe Foss. Dad was a pilot so we had a landing strip up on our "Hill" top. Before, during and after Joe was our governor, it wasn't surprising that he would fly in to visit us, always asking my Mom "what's for lunch"? As a kid, I was awestruck by the stories from this spontaneous, big, kind, humerus World War II Ace. We remained friends long after my Dad died and I spoke with him last in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he had retired, about a year before he passed. I have so many fond memories of this great American and he will always remain My Hero!
M A Frandsen
Spokane, Wa.
06:59 pm - Mon, March 18 2013
Cauthon said:
There is another fun story; a minister sent it to the NRA magazine, American Rifleman, about one of his parishioners. Briefly, the lady had a flat tire, and for whatever reason was not able to change it herself. A large black car stopped, and a large man in a dark suit offered to change the tire, which he did. She offered payment, but he informed her that this was “courtesy of the State of South Dakota, I’m the Governor, Joe Foss.” The reason for the letter was of course that he was then the new President of the NRA.
12:18 pm - Wed, April 23 2014
renee stapel said:
wow i did not know anything about Joe foss

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