James Abdnor, former U.S. Senator, died yesterday at a hospice in Sioux Falls. He served four terms in the House of Representatives and managed to unseat George McGovern from the U.S. Senate in 1980.
Yesterday, James Abdnor’s lawyer confirmed his death at age 89. The news about the senator’s death was initially announced by his family, but the lawyer added that Abdnor had “no specific medical condition” and that he died from natural causes. The funeral service will be held this Saturday at Pierre’s Lutheran Memorial Church.
John Thune, Abdnor’s assistant during his Senate terms, said that the senator “was one of the most decent people to ever serve South Dakota in public life and was a great inspiration to me toward public service”. Thune added in a statement for The Associated Press that James Abdnor “was a hardworking and effective fighter for South Dakota, and one of the most decent and genuine people to ever hold elective office”.
The truth is that James Abdnor was one of the few politicians able to come clean about their faults. He once said referring to his public speaking skills: “God didn’t make me a flashy speaker, that’s for sure. But we got a lot of flashy speakers in Congress. And if speeches solved problems, we wouldn’t have any problems”.
James Abdnor was also proud of his origins and used to joke saying he got off his tractor and moved into Washington. In the late 1940s, the former U.S. senator was a highschool teacher and had a 4,000 acres farm where he raised cattle and grew wheat. “I’m a farmer” he was saying back in 1986, “I’ve dug more field dirt out of my ears than anyone in Congress. I treasure that heritage”.
The former South Dakota congressman had a life and politics interpretation that is difficult to come across among today’s representatives. Plus, he managed to put South Dakota on the map for the Congress, given that the state had only one House member and two senators.
“You’d be surprised how these agencies like to talk to people that handle money that might affect them” said James Abdnor in a statement for The Associate Press back in the early 90’s. “When you’re a small state like South Dakota, it’s the only committee as far as I’m concerned when you only have two or three people representing you”.