John William Larson
October 22, 1927 – June 22, 2020
John William Larson died June 22, 2020.
John William Larson was born in the family home at Geddes, SD, on Oct. 22, 1927.
He was named for his grandfathers, one brought from Sweden as an infant and the other sent west from Boston to South Dakota on the Orphan Train.
His father, Harold J. Larson, was an attorney, who later became an ATF agent, administrator in the Rural Credit Program and finally a county judge. His mother was a former nurse and homemaker.
Growing up, he lived in Geddes, SD, Huron, SD, Burke, SD, and Salem, SD. He graduated from high school in Salem, SD, and always considered Salem, SD, to be his hometown.
Graduating from high school during World War II, he volunteered for the service and was assigned to the Army Air Corps where he was trained as a weatherman. By the time his training was completed, the war was winding down and he was sent directly to Japan where he served in the occupation.
There he was the highest-ranking enlisted man at the Tokyo airbase, responsible for preparing forecasts for the Far East Air Force.
Following his discharge, having completed the equivalent of two years of college as part of his military training, he applied both to law school and medical school. His acceptance to law school arrived first and he had already finished the summer semester of law school before receiving his acceptance to medical school.
While in law school, he met and married Flora A. Sippel, the daughter of a retired pastor. Their marriage lasted more than 70 years until his death. Together they had three children – David, Linda and Dean.
Graduating from law school, he had the opportunity to work for former Attorney General and Governor M. Q. Sharpe in the small town of Kennebec, SD. Working for Sharpe provided him with experience unusual for
a small town lawyer. Among his notable cases were three appointments as special assistant attorney general to argue test cases in the South Dakota Supreme Court and representing the State of South Dakota’s claim for school and public lands lost to the Pick Sloan Project.
Known for his hard work, he was a skilled trial lawyer and a deadly cross examiner. In addition to the normal work of an attorney, he was especially proud of his work in representing several rural electric cooperatives in
bringing electricity to western South Dakota.
While practicing law in Kennebec, SD, he was named to serve on the first Board of Bar Examiners, the state Judicial Counsel and later the South Dakota Board of Regents, where he served as president of the board. His proudest accomplishment while on the board was to bring about the creation of South Dakota’s degree granting medical school.
After practicing law for over 35 years, he was given the opportunity to teach at the University of South Dakota School of Law of Vermillion, SD, where he taught evidence, civil procedure, real property transactions and
was coach of the client counseling team. He is the original author “South Dakota Evidence” and is believed to have been the first professor at the USD School of Law to publish a book through a national publisher.
He was awarded the Marshall McKusick Award, the highest award given to a South Dakota lawyer, for lifetime achievement in law.
During all this, he also found time to build a boat and become a pilot. He was also an outstanding photographer and produced his own panoramic photos used as exhibits in the Pick Sloan cases.
Over the years he was a member of the United Methodist Church of Kennebec, SD, United Church of Christ of Chamberlain, SD, United Church of Christ of Vermillion, SD, and the Desert Garden United Church of Christ of Sun City West, AZ.
Men like my father do not die, they live on in memory as clearly as in life, in the things that they have taught us and in the values, passed down.
Grateful for having shared his life are his wife, Flora Larson; a son, David Larson and wife, Maryalice; a daughter, Linda Drennan and husband, Peter; seven grandchildren and one great grandchild.
He was preceded in death by his parents and a son, Dean W. Larson, MD.