John W. Larson

John W. Larson

October 22, 1927 – June 22, 2020

Men like my father do not die, the live on in memory as clearly as in life, in the things that they have taught us and, in the values, passed down.

John William Larson was born in the family home at Geddes, South Dakota, October 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, Huron, Burke and Salem, South Dakota. He graduated from high school in Salem and always considered Salem 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 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 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, 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 the 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 Atty. Gen. 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, 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, 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 the 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, UCC Chamberlain, UCC Vermillion, and the Desert Garden UCC of Sun City West, AZ.

He is survived by his wife Flora, son David (Maryalice), daughter Linda Drennan (Peter), Seven grandchildren and one great grandchild. He is preceded in death by his parents, and his son Dean W. Larson, MD.

Chamberlain Sun

116 S. Main Street 
Chamberlain, South Dakota 57325 

(605) 234-1444 (o)
(605) 234-1445 (f)