“A Good Life”
Bill Dougherty was born April 6, 1932, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the son of William J. and Alice Dougherty. After attending Mark Twain Elementary School and then graduating from Sioux Falls Washington High School in 1950, he attended South Dakota State University, graduating in 1954 with a degree in Agriculture Economics.
Both of Dougherty’s parents died when he and his brothers, Thomas and Michael, and his sister, Susan, were still young. He simultaneously held the family of four together and started managing his father’s livestock commission house at the Sioux Falls Stockyards. He was the owner and manager of the Adams Dougherty Livestock Commission Firm from 1954 to 1973. In 1965, he was president of the Sioux Falls Livestock Foundation.
Dougherty became active in politics as the chairman of John F. Kennedy’s 1968 South Dakota primary victory over Vice-President (and South Dakota native) Hubert Humphrey and Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy.
On the evening of June 4, 1968, Senator Robert Kennedy placed a phone call from the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles to Bill Dougherty at the Kennedy election victory party in Sioux Falls. Kennedy thanked Dougherty and his campaign team for “one of the best efforts I have seen anyplace”, saying, “You did a great job.” Kennedy said to Dougherty, “I’m looking forward to meeting you in Chicago and meeting you at the inauguration.” (An audiotape recording of that conversation still exists.) That night, Kennedy won both the California and South Dakota primaries, but a few hours after making the call to Dougherty, Kennedy was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel.
In the summer of 1968, Dougherty chaired South Dakota’s delegation at the National Democratic Convention in Chicago. He served the Democrat National Committee from 1968-1974.
In 1970, South Dakota voters elected Dougherty lieutenant governor (an office separate from that of the governor on the ballot at that time). They re-elected him with almost 60% of the vote in 1972.
During 1970-1972, Dougherty was a top advisor and strategist on South Dakota Senator George McGovern’s campaign for the presidency. He traveled through 49 states on that campaign. Journalist Hunter S. Thompson featured Dougherty prominently in his book Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72.
In 1973, Dougherty was at the epicenter of one of the most controversial moments in legislative history. A state income tax bill (HB 549) endorsed by Democrat Governor Richard Kneip had passed the House of Representatives 37-33. The Senate Taxation Committee, however, subsequently voted “do not pass” on the measure. On the floor of the Senate, Democrat Senator Curt Jones of Britton moved that the ‘not’ be stricken from the report of the Committee on Taxation in order for the bill to be placed in the Senate calendar for consideration. The vote on the Jones motion was deadlocked, with 17 yeas and 17 nays. (Holger Anderson, a Republican Senator from Sioux Falls, was excused that day.) As President of the Senate, Dougherty voted only when his vote was determinative. Although he was lieutenant governor to a popular second-term governor who proposed and championed the income tax measure, Dougherty was personally opposed to it. Rather than vote for the motion, Dougherty declared the motion lost.
Dougherty challenged four-year incumbent Governor Richard Kneip in the 1974 Democrat gubernatorial primary. Kneip prevailed in the primary and that autumn was elected to what was at that time an unprecedented third term for a South Dakota governor. (William Janklow was elected to a third term in 1994 and a fourth term in 1998.) Dougherty was the chairman of Senator McGovern’s hard-fought and successful re-election effort in South Dakota. He also led Senator Ted’s Kennedy’s 1980 South Dakota primary victory over incumbent President Jimmy Carter.
After serving four years as lieutenant governor, Dougherty began a long lobbying career before the state legislature in 1975. His clients have included Apple Computer, Avera Health, Citibank South Dakota, Kraft Foods, 3M, Petroleum Marketers, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, Altria, and the South Dakota Wholesale Liquor Dealers. As a lobbyist, Dougherty has been instrumental in guiding elected officials through many of the most heated controversies in our state’s history, including telephone deregulation, the ETSI (Energy Transportation Systems, Inc.) pipeline, the Oahe Irrigation Project, corporate hog farming, and video lottery.
From 1975-1980, Dougherty was the owner and operator of Acme Personnel in Sioux Falls. From 1980-1992, he was the president and owner of Western Temporary Services. He also served as chairman of the board of directors of Sun Bank.
Dougherty’s community service includes active membership on the Avera McKennan Hospital board of directors (1981-1999), the Avera McKennan Foundation (1999), the South Dakota Banking Commission (1981-1985), and the Sioux Falls Airport Board (2003-present). He was a member of the Elks Club from 1955-1975 and Knights of Columbus from 1954-1974. He has been a Rotary Club member since 1971. He served as chairman of March of Dimes in 1962 and chairman of the Minnehaha County chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society in 1966. Dougherty recently donated $100,000 to help build the Dougherty Hospice House on the Avera Prince of Peace Retirement Community Campus.
In 1975, South Dakota University named Dougherty an Outstanding Alumnus. In 2005, the Avera McKennan Foundation honored him for Outstanding Leadership in the Hospice Capital Campaign.
In 1953, Dougherty married Louise Katherine “Billie” Hulsebus of Watertown. Billie died in 2004. Their sons, Patrick and Timothy, live in Sioux Falls. Their daughter, Jennifer Roth, lives in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Bill’s brother, Michael, lives in Minneapolis; his sister, Susan Mickey, lives in Tulsa.
Dougherty’s hobbies are work and politics. He likes to participate in walk marathons, and he has hiked the entire 114-mile Burlington Northern Mickelson Trail through the heart of the Black Hills of South Dakota. He is a lifetime member of St. Mary’s Catholic Church Choir.
Dougherty passed away on July 3, 2010.
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