Remembering Congressman Reifel


A planned middle school in Sioux Falls will be named after the country’s first Lakota congressman. 

The Sioux Falls School District made the announcement Thursday. 

Reifel was a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota. 

He represented South Dakota in the U.S. House from 1961-1971. 

An attorney in Sioux Falls describes the Republican lawmaker as one of the most inspiring people he’s ever met. 

Rolly Samp just marked five decades of practicing law. 

But as a young man in college you would have found him working as chief of staff for Congressman Ben Reifel’s South Dakota office. 

Samp knows everything about the politician’s life story starting at the beginning.

“He was born in a log cabin on the Rosebud Reservation,” Samp said. 

He can detail many of the late leader’s accomplishments, including…

“He, along with Senator Mundt, appropriated money for the EROS data center,” Samp said. 

He recalls the times the two traveled together.

“If there was a farmer working on a fence line he’d have me stop the car. He’d run down the ditch and he wouldn’t just shake hands, but he’d have a quality visit with that farmer,” Samp said. 

Samp says he’s someone who loved people. 

His life story is one that Samp thinks Sioux Falls students will find inspiring. 

“That anybody can make it if you work at it. He had no money; he did not have powerful friends; he was truly a man of the people,” Samp said. 

Samp went on to become Reifel’s attorney up until he passed away in 1990. 

Last year, Dakota Wesleyan University Professor Sean J. Flynn released a book about Reifel’s career. 

Meanwhile, the Sioux Falls School District’s next high school will be named after Thomas Jefferson.

The school board will vote on the names next week. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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