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Former South Dakota Gov. Richard Kneip Dies At 54

March 10, 1987

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) _ Richard Kneip, a former diplomat and South Dakota governor credited with modernizing state government during the 1970s, has died at age 54.

Kneip, who had cancer, underwent an operation last Thursday, said his doctor, Gregory Naughton. He died Monday.

The Democrat, who was governor from 1971 until he left to become U.S. ambassador to Singapore in 1978, proposed the reorganization of the executive branch into the cabinet system that was approved by voters in 1972.

He also worked to reform the state’s tax system. Late in his tenure, the Legislature repealed the tax on household appliances and personal property, a levy that had been known as the liar’s tax.

He also was known as a vigorous campaigner.

″I think Dick Kneip revolutionized campaigning in South Dakota,″ Bill Dougherty, Kneip’s lieutenant governor from 1971 to 1975.

″I don’t think there ever has been or ever will be anybody who could campaign the way he did on a person-to-person basis,″ Dougherty said. ″He could shake hands with everybody in South Dakota, and he did.″

Republican Gov. George Mickelson said Kneip ″stands among our governors as a forward-looking progressive leader.″

″It was Gov. Kneip who began the process of reorganization of state government, making it more accessible and more responsive to the public’s needs,″ he said in a statement.

″He pulled state government, kicking and screaming, into the 20th century,″ said George Cunningham, who managed Kneip’s unsuccessful bid to regain the governorship last year. ″Instead of just bringing in political hacks, he brought in professionalism.″

Survivors include his wife, Nancy, and eight sons.

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