Richard F. Kneip

Richard Francis Kneip (January 7, 1933 – March 9, 1987) was an American diplomat and politician who served as the 25th governor of South Dakota from 1971 until 1978 and the 6th United States Ambassador to the Republic of Singapore. He was a member of the Democratic Party and the first Catholic Governor of South Dakota.

Richard Kneip
Dick Kneip.jpg
6th United States Ambassador to the Republic of Singapore
In office
August 7, 1978[1] – September 25, 1980
PresidentJimmy Carter
Preceded byJohn H. Holdridge
Succeeded byHarry E. T. Thayer
25th Governor of South Dakota
In office
January 5, 1971 – July 24, 1978
LieutenantWilliam Dougherty
Harvey L. Wollman
Preceded byFrank Farrar
Succeeded byHarvey L. Wollman
Member of the South Dakota Senate
In office
Personal details
Born(1933-01-07)January 7, 1933
Tyler, Minnesota, U.S.
DiedMarch 9, 1987(1987-03-09) (aged 54)
Sioux Falls, South Dakota, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Alma materSouth Dakota State University
St. John's College
Military service
Branch/serviceUnited States Air Force
Years of service1951–1955

Early life and educationEdit

Kneip was born on January 7, 1933, in Tyler, Minnesota, to Berniece and Frank Kneip, who lived in Elkton, South Dakota. He was of Luxembourgish ancestry.[2] He attended South Dakota State University and St. John's University. He served in the U.S. Air Force and then owned a wholesale dairy equipment distributorship in Salem, South Dakota. He married Nancy Lou Pankey.[3]

Early political careerEdit

He served in the South Dakota Legislature as a State Senator from 1965 to 1971.[4]

Governor of South DakotaEdit

When Richard F. Kneip was elected governor of South Dakota in 1970, defeating the Republican incumbent Frank Farrar, he was only the fourth governor elected from the Democratic Party since statehood. Known to the state's voters as "Dick", Kneip gained popularity through his "people to people" campaigns. Kneip memorably did launch his 1970 campaign for governor with radio ads asking "What is a Kneip?".

Taking office two days shy of his 38th birthday, Kneip is the youngest governor the state has ever elected. Kneip and his wife, Nancy, moved into the governor's mansion, along with their eight sons.

Kneip's first term was noted for major reform efforts. He successfully overhauled the organization of state government by creating a cabinet system. Kneip was re-elected in 1972, and became the last governor of South Dakota to serve a two-year term. He twice served two-year terms and then was elected to a final four-year term in 1974. This made Kneip the first governor to be elected three times. Kneip appeared on the November 19, 1977, episode of Saturday Night Live as one of the five finalists in the show's "Anyone Can Host" contest, which was won by Miskel Spillman.

Educational effortsEdit

Some of Kneip's most significant achievements was preventing the closure of South Dakota State University's now-J. Lohr School of Engineering and opening the four-year University of South Dakota School of Medicine.

Wounded Knee Incident of 1973Edit

At the start of Kneip's second term in 1973, the state gained national attention because of a standoff between Native American activists and government agents at Wounded Knee, later known as the second Wounded Knee Incident.

Foreign serviceEdit

Kneip resigned as governor on July 24, 1978, a few months before the expiration of his third term. He had been selected by President Jimmy Carter to become the United States ambassador to Singapore.

Death and legacyEdit

Kneip sought to return to the governor's mansion in 1986, but he narrowly lost his party's nomination in the state Democratic Party primary to nominee Lars Herseth that June.[5]

Although he had pondered yet another attempt at returning to public life, Kneip was diagnosed with cancer in early 1987. He died in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on March 9, 1987, at the age of 54. He is the most recent Democrat elected to the Governorship of South Dakota.

In 1997, U.S. Highway 14 from Brookings to Elkton, was officially designated as the Richard Kneip Memorial Highway.[6]


  1. ^ "Richard Francis Kneip". Office of the Historian.
  2. ^ Biographical Directory of the South Dakota Legislature, 1889–1989 (1989), p. 608.
  3. ^ "Richard F. Kneip". National Governors Association. Retrieved September 2, 2012.
  4. ^ "Richard Kneip from Elkton, SD". South Dakota Hall of Fame. Retrieved March 31, 2010.[dead link]
  5. ^ Kundert, Alice (June 3, 1968). "Official Election Returns and Registration Figures For South Dakota Primary Election" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 22, 2011. Retrieved November 14, 2007.
  6. ^ Soyer, Jim. "Part of Highway 14 Named After Former Governor Dick Kneip". Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved November 14, 2007.

External linksEdit

Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for Governor of South Dakota
1970, 1972, 1974
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Governor of South Dakota
Succeeded by
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by United States Ambassador to Singapore
Succeeded by