Bill Janklow's announcement he's suffering from brain cancer is sending shockwaves across South Dakota. The former governor has received support from family and colleagues, including one of his closest friends since childhood.
Former South Dakota State University political science professor Bob Burns has known Janklow since their days growing up in Flandreau. He found out about Janklow's terminal brain cancer on Wednesday, well before the former governor made his announcement.
"He is a very complex individual, both in his personal life and he was a very complex individual as a governor and as a member of the U.S. House," Burns said.
Burns says their lifelong friendship didn't always mean agreeing on the issues, which would cause some grief with others.
"There were times where my colleagues would be very supportive of Bill and therefore, me," Burns said. "And there were many times when they were not quite as supportive of Governor Janklow and wondered sometimes why I could be supportive of him."
Regardless of politics, Burns believes Janklow's the best governor in the state's history. Although he was known for his confrontational and sometimes, combative style, Burns says it's part of the political game and that often times, it was misunderstood.
"I think he was always anxious and continues to be anxious to clear the air," Burns said. "If he sees a difference with an individual, he likes to be upfront about it."
And as Janklow enters the final stage of his life, Burns hopes people remember him for more than just politics and more than just his 2003 car crash that killed a motorcyclist.
"He has been so charitable in so many ways, to strangers, to friends and to families," Burns said. "And I think that is something that really needs to be known about Bill by everyone in this state."
Burns says it's tough to put a label on Janklow, both personally and professionally, because of the way he led his life. Even though Janklow's known as a Republican, Burns says he often used any and all government resources, something that doesn't necessarily fall under conservative ideology.