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Tobias On Janklow

January 12, 2012, 9:49 PM by Kelly Bartnick

Tobias On Janklow
SIOUX FALLS, SD - Bill Janklow's close friends say there were two sides to the often brash and strong-willed man.
He was also extremely compassionate, and regarded loyalty above all else.

Marc Tobias worked with the former governor and congressman since the beginning. The two had a relationship that spans 40 years.

"He wasn't a politician first," Tobias said. "Being a politician was a vehicle for him to accomplish what he thought needed to be accomplished."

Tobias knew Janklow as deeply as anyone could. The two first met working in the Attorney General's office. Tobias said even though Janklow was a tough prosecutor, he never forgot his roots as a legal aid lawyer on the Rosebud Indian Reservation.

"He could be crazy as we all know, and he could be very difficult to work for. But having said that, he had a heart of gold. He was always for the underdog," Tobias said.

Tobias stood with Janklow during his election as South Dakota's Attorney General in 1975 and again for his four-terms as governor. Tobias said during that time, Janklow knew seven Presidents personally, including Bill Clinton and both Bushes.

"The Secret Service would come over at 10:30 p.m. and say, 'Governor, President Bush is bored. He wants you to come over to the White House to see him.' This is the kind of relationship the guy had with world leaders," Tobias said.

But despite his high-profile relationships, Tobias said Janklow never lost sight of the South Dakotans he represented.

"He was up in the northeast corner up in the Webster/Aberdeen area and said, 'I need you to get a hold of somebody at the Lake Norden Nursing Home. There's a lady there that's 89 and about to die. She's an ardent supporter. I gotta stop by and see her,'" Tobias said. 

Tobias said while Janklow had an impressive presence, he was also impressed by many things. An excursion to try and find a big screen television for the Governor's mansion online eventually led to South Dakota schools being among the most wired in the country. 

"He said, 'Weber, this is the damnedest thing I have ever seen. I need you to come to Pierre and talk to us about the Internet. I want this in every classroom in the state,'" Tobias said. 

Tobias helped Janklow establish a state-wide radio network for emergency responders. And he was also part of the governor's emergency response team. He said Janklow personally responded to every major disaster during his terms. Tobias remembers the Spencer Tornado as one of the worst.

"I was over at his house for dinner," Tobias said. "It was a Saturday night, and we're watching KELO weather. We never believed KELO weather. And Jay Trobec is talking about a big storm coming. And typical Janklow, he said, 'Don't listen to these guys on television." 

Just a few hours later, Janklow called Tobias and they set out to the disaster zone. Tobias said the brash man did worry what the public said about him, including the media. Of all Janklow's ups, there were downs too. Janklow was driving Tobias's Cadillac in 2003 when he ran a stop sign, striking and killing Minnesota motorcyclist Randy Scott. 

"I think how he handled the accident was eloquent. In one sentence, he told everybody in South Dakota how he felt about it. And as he said, 'If I had it to do all over again in my career, the one thing I would do differently was stop at a stop sign,'" Tobias said. "He was my buddy. He changed my life."

Janklow served time in jail and community service for his 2003 manslaughter conviction. He began practicing law again in 2006.

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