SOIUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Former South Dakota Gov. Frank Farrar, whose uncanny rise to politics as a young man quickly morphed into a career as a banker and philanthropist, died Sunday. He was 92.
Gov. Kristi Noem has ordered flags to be flown at half-staff in memory of Farrar.
“Frank was an incredible leader for our state and a mentor to me over these past years, as well,” Noem said. “His heart for people and his enthusiasm for public service have been an inspiration.”
Known as the “boy wonder” who was the youngest person ever elected state attorney general, Farrar became the state’s 24th governor in 1968. Farrar ran unopposed for the Republican nomination and easily won the general election.
But his political fame was short-lived. He had the distinction of being the last elected incumbent governor to lose reelection when, in 1970, he lost his bid for a second term to Democrat Dick Kneip, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported.
“It was the only election I lost in my life,” he said in a 2014. interview “You usually beat yourself rather than get beat by someone else.”
Born in Britton, South Dakota on April 2, 1929, Farrar served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War and retired from the Army Reserve as a captain. After earning his law degree from the University of South Dakota in 1953, Farrar worked as an agent for the Internal Revenue Service. He later became a judge in Marshall County and also served as a state’s attorney.
In 1962, Farrar won the attorney general’s race, taking office at the age of 33. Six years later he took over as governor amid the snowiest winter in South Dakota history, where some portions of the state saw more than 100 inches of snow. The federal government airlifted supplies into the state, including snow removal equipment, to help state crews open roads to beleaguered towns.
Farrar left politics and focused on banking and philanthropy. He was recognized was his work for many not-for-profit organizations including the March of Dimes, Boy Scouts and South Dakota Community Foundation. He was inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame in 2006.
“Frank Farrar’s philanthropy has positively impacted many organizations, including the Hall of Fame,” said Hall of Fame CEO Greta Chapman. “And, like many others, we will be forever grateful to Frank Farrar. We are honored to be able to preserve and share his legacy for future generations.”
At 65, after being told he had terminal cancer, Farrar began competing in triathlons and Ironman competitions, which he credited for his longevity and to helping him beat cancer.
Farrar was preceded in death by his wife, Patricia, whom he married in 1953 while stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia. She died in 2015. The two had five children.