A life-long friend and political scientist says Bill Janklow's tenure as governor makes him the most influential chief executive in state history.
Janklow and Bob Burns go back six decades. These childhood pals from Flandreau forged a bond that endured the ups and downs of Janklow's storied and controversial political career.
Former SDSU political science professor Bob Burns says Janklow displayed a boldness in youth that would be a hallmark of Janklow's years in politics.
"The name 'Wild Bill' probably applied equally at that time as it did later in his political career. He was never a man that failed to stand out," Burns said.
Burns rates his onetime childhood friend as the best governor to ever serve South Dakota.
"I say that in part because of his 16 years as governor and the multiple accomplishments during those 16 years. He was anything but a passive governor," Burns said.
Burns says Janklow was driven by a firm belief in using government to help the people of South Dakota.
"Even though identified as a Republican, he was not at all bashful about harnessing the resources and the authority of government to achieve different ends, different objectives that he considered to be in the best interest of the citizens of the state," Burns said.
Burns last spoke with his old friend when Janklow called him last month in what would turn out to be their farewell talk.
"He shared a lot of experiences that we had and he had a very clear mind in doing that, and I want to say too that he expressed great remorse over the death of the motorcyclist," Burns said.
Burns says Janklow's responsibility for the death of Randy Scott will taint his legacy, but not overshadow it.
"Many in the state have a view of Governor Janklow as a hard-nosed individual and there's an element of truth to that; we can't deny that side of him. But I remember more his friendship and his loyalty and his sharing with friends and family and those in need," Burns said.
Janklow burst upon the political scene as an aggressive prosecutor in South Dakota Indian Country. But Burns says Janklow also had many friends who were Native Americans and championed their causes.