Vol. 9 Luxembourgers in the United States: Richard F. Kneip

Richard Francis Kneip was the 25th governor of South Dakota and the 6th United States Ambassador to Singapore.

Kneip was born on January 7, 1933, in Tyler, Minnesota, to Bernice DeSales Pederson and Frank Joseph Kneip. His grandfather Mathias Kneip was from Munshausen, a village in northern Luxembourg, in the commune of Clervaux.

Richard Kneip served in the U.S. Air Force, and then in the South Dakota Legislature as a State Senator from 1965 to 1971. He was elected senate minority leader and served on the Constitutional Revision Commission.

When Richard F. Kneip was elected governor of South Dakota in 1970, he took office two days shy of his 38th birthday, and thus became the youngest governor the state has ever elected. Kneip's first term was noted for major reform efforts. He successfully overhauled the organization of state government by creating a cabinet system. He was re-elected in 1972, and became the last governor of South Dakota to serve a two-year term. He twice served two-year terms and then was elected to a final four-year term in 1974.

Kneip also made his mark on higher education. He supported establishing a four-year medical school at the University of South Dakota, and opposed closing the engineering school at South Dakota State University. He converted Southern State University, in Springfield, into a branch of USD focused on technical education.

Kneip resigned shortly before his term ended, in 1978, to accept an appointment from President Jimmy Carter as U.S. Ambassador to Singapore. He returned to South Dakota in 1980, where he worked as president and general manager of Nelson Laboratories. Kneip sought a return to the governor’s mansion in 1986, narrowly losing the Democratic primary. He passed away the following year, on March 9, 1987, and was interred at St. Michael’s Cemetery in Sioux Falls.

The Richard F. Kneip Building in Pierre is named in his honor, and U.S. Highway 14 from Brookings to Elkton was officially designated in 1997 the “Richard F. Kneip Memorial Highway.”

Kneip was honored in 2015 by the Trail of Governors with a life-size bronze statue by sculptors Lee Leuning and Sherri Treeby. The statue, placed in Pierre on Broadway Avenue near the Capitol Lake peninsula, portrays a genial Kneip with his shirtsleeves rolled up, his necktie loosened, and his hand outstretched in welcome.

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