Jeremiah D. Murphy of Sioux Falls, one of the greatest lawyers, lobbyists and citizens of South Dakota, passed away this morning (Friday) at approximately 10:10 a.m. at Avera McKennan hospital in Sioux Falls.
He was working at the state Capitol this week during legislative session and fell Thursday morning while in a running work-out. One of his law partners, Matt McCaulley of Sioux Falls, was with him while waiting for the ambulance to arrive at the Pierre Ramkota hotel. Jerry told Matt he had been running, felt light-headed and then fell. He was flown by air ambulance from Pierre to Sioux Falls yesterday accompanied by his son and fellow lobbyist, Jeremiah M. Murphy of Rapid City. He was suffering from severe bleeding of the brain. A Mass had just been completed this morning at his bedside, and he was surrounded by his family. Said son Jerry in a note to friends, “Dad lived his life for this moment — I’m so sad to lose him but I’m serene in the knowledge that he is at peace at God’s side.”
At the Capitol and among many in South Dakota, people only had to say “Jeremiah.” A last name wasn’t needed to know whom they were talking about. His list of accomplishments and his many tales would require a book that alas only he could tell best. I don’t know another person who shaped South Dakota in so many ways, and for so long, than did Jerry Murphy.
He was born in Sioux Falls on June 11, 1930. He was admitted to the South Dakota Bar in 1956. One of our favorite stories he told was about the day in the 1940s when then-Attorney General George T. Mickelson pulled up to his father’s house in Sioux Falls escorted by Highway Patrol. After the two adults huddled, Jerry asked his dad, “What does he want?” And his father replied, “To be governor.”
In his own time, Jerry helped more than a few men become governor, including two of the longest-serving in South Dakota’s history, Democrat Dick Kneip and Republican Bill Janklow. Jerry’s successes as a lobbyist and as a litigator in the state Supreme Court for so many decades were based on the simplest of tools, reason and truth. The Irish blood that ran through his soul didn’t hurt either.
Jerry’s work extended far beyond his law practice’s business clients, the Legislature and politics. He held a special place for the charitable work of Avera McKennan hospital and the Catholic Church. His good friend and long-time lobbying ally, former Lt. Gov. Bill Dougherty of Sioux Falls, passed away last year. Jerry was the Republican, Bill was the Democrat, and for many years they were simply “MurphyandDougherty” in the halls of the Legislature.
Jerry is survived by his wife, Mary Jean Foye, and their three children and seven grandchildren. Mary Jean lost her brother, Rapid City lawyer Tom Foye, on Tuesday. We can only wish them well in this time of sadness.
(The above photo was taken Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2011, by Matt McCaulley.)