Jim Abdnor had almost slipped into the history books when he died Wednesday.
The former legislator, lieutenant governor, congressman and senator was 89 when he died at a hospice in Sioux Falls Wednesday. He had last served in elective office in January 1987, so an entire generation had grown up not knowing him on the public stage.
They missed a unique figure who rose to prominence and power due to a skill with people, and a desire to achieve. Abdnor was a short, unremarkable looking man who was afflicted with a speech impediment, but he became a U.S. senator despite that minor flaw.
In 1986, then-Gov. Bill Janklow challenged Abdnor in the Republican primary. Janklow, who died earlier this year, said Abdnor didn’t have the speaking skills to serve in the Senate and to take on Tom Daschle.
This was Abdnor’s response:
And he went on to defeat Janklow in the primary, too. it was the only loss of Wild Bill’s colorful career, and the final victory for Jim Abdnor, who lost to Daschle that fall.