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Former South Dakota Governor Dies

March 10, 1987

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) _ Former Gov. Richard Kneip, remembered by colleagues as a whirlwind political campaigner who streamlined state government and worked for tax reform, died Monday. He was 54.

Kneip died at McKennan Hospital of an inoperable cancer, according to Dr. Gregory Naughton, his personal physician. Kneip had been hospitalized for more than a week.

″I think Dick Kneip revolutionized campaigning in South Dakota,″ said Bill Dougherty, Kneip’s lieutenant governor from 1971-75.

″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, who ordered flags flown at half-staff in Kneip’s honor, said the former Democratic governor had many friends in both political parties.

″Dick Kneip stands among our governors as a forward-looking progressive leader,″ Mickelson said in a statement released in Pierre. ″It was Governor Kneip who began the process of reorganization of state government, making it more accessible and more responsive to the public’s needs.″

Kneip was elected to the state Senate in 1964, serving three terms. He was named minority leader in the middle of his first term.

Kneip, governor from 1971 until he left to become U.S. ambassador to Singapore in 1978, also worked to reform the state’s tax system. Late in Kneip’s term, the Legislature repealed the personal property tax on household appliances and other items - a tax that had become known as the liar’s tax.

He was in Singapore until 1980, and later was president of Nelson Laboratories in Sioux Falls.

Kneip modernized state government and chose the right people to run state agencies, said George Cunningham, who managed Kneip’s unsuccessful bid to regain the governorship last year.

″He pulled state government, kicking and screaming, into the 20th century,″ Cunningham said. ″Instead of just bringing in political hacks, he brought in professionalism.″

Kneip is survived by his wife, Nancy, and their eight sons.