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Former Reporter Tells Own Stories Of Janklow

January 13, 2012, 5:05 PM by Brady Mallory

Former Reporter Tells Own Stories Of Janklow
It's not just the politicians who got to know Bill Janklow. As you might imagine, the journalists who covered him have a few stories of their own.

A former KELOLAND News reporter reached out to us. Fred Ertz was the reporter in Pierre when Janklow started his career. KELOLAND News was able to chat with Ertz via Skype, to bring you some stories that didn't air on television. 

"His passion for South Dakota was just really, really honest and true," Ertz said.

But it's the stories you may not have heard that can make that same man great.

"My great uncle was running for tribal council and there was an issue," Ertz said.

When his Great Uncle Buster was young and living on the Cheyenne River Reservation, he put a saddle on a horse that wasn't his.  He was accused of stealing, which put an end to his campaign. Ertz's says he got a call from his Grandma who said the family needed Janklow.

"And of course I'm stepping over the line as a journalist, because I said I would certainly ask him. I explained it to Janklow and within three to four weeks he had signed a pardon.  Because he didn't think it was right and he understood the case.  He said, 'we're going to fix that,'" Ertz said.

Call it a personal favor, but Ertz says the pardon came from Janklow's love of the people of South Dakota.  When Janklow helped remove South Dakota's limit on interest rates, it brought Citibank to Sioux Falls.  The former governor knew it was a big deal, so, Ertz got one of Janklow's famous phone calls at two in the morning.

"’He said, what are you doing?’  I said, 'I'm sleeping, what are you doing?'  He said, 'You have to be at the airport tomorrow!  We landed Citibank!'"

Ertz says Janklow commanded attention long before he was governor.  When reporters were learning how to handle courtroom stories, they turned to Janklow's cases because of sharp mind and fast tongue.  For Ertz, it was better than any show.

"Janklow was reality TV before reality TV was part of what we live everyday," Ertz said.

To Ertz, these are the stories that created Bill Janklow, a lot of heart with just a touch of humor.

"He said, 'what are you doing?'  I was there in a softball uniform, I said, 'I had a softball game to go to.'  He goes, 'Ahh, you probably won't win anyway. Why don't you come with me to the lake, we'll have a hell of a lot more fun!'  I later called him to tell him we won the tournament and he said, 'Well, that's a fluke!'"

I asked Ertz if anyone was like Bill Janklow.  He said New Jersey Governor Chris Christie reminds him a bit of the former governor.  But, on the flip side, he says Janklow was like nobody else.

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