Jeremiah D. Murphy, 1930-2011


Jeremiah D., working on his iPad, and son Jeremiah M. in the Senate gallery last week Tuesday.

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.)

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About Bob Mercer

I am a newspaper reporter in Pierre where I cover state government, issues and politics for the Aberdeen American News, the Black Hills Pioneer, the Mitchell Daily Republic, the Pierre Capital Journal, the Rapid City Journal, the Watertown Public Opinion and the Yankton Press & Dakotan. I began covering the Legislature in 1985 and have lived in Pierre since December 1986. I grew up in Wisconsin, worked my way through college, took my first full-time newspapers jobs in Wyoming, and have lived in South Dakota since the summer of 1984 when I moved to Aberdeen to join the American News. I worked for the Rapid City Journal as its state government reporter in Pierre from late 1992 through late 1998. I spent four years as press secretary and a senior aide to Gov. Bill Janklow during his fourth and final term from late 1998 through 2002. I returned to journalism in January 2003 as a self-employed reporter, providing state government coverage to the Mitchell, Watertown, Spearfish, Pierre and, depending on the year, Aberdeen newspapers. In 2008, the Aberdeen American News offered to hire me as full-time member of the AAN staff, with my reports continuing to be available to the Mitchell, Watertown, Spearfish, Pierre, Yankton and Rapid City papers. The new arrangement has been in effect since January 2009 as the seven papers continue their remarkable dedication to their readers and the general public, as the only South Dakota news outlets with a full-time reporter covering state government in Pierre throughout the year. In addition to focusing on the Legislature during the annual winter session and its various activities during the interim periods between sessions, I spend many days throughout the year -- traveling as often necessary -- to cover state government boards and commissions which oversee the state universities, technical institutes, outdoors, water, environment, business, public schools, banking, agriculture, utilities, health care and various other areas of public interest. I purposely don't register to vote because of my profession; the last time I recall voting in a presidential election was the first time, 1976, when I had just turned 18. I think I voted for Jimmy Carter over Gerald Ford. Make of that what you want, just don't make much of it.

7 thoughts on “Jeremiah D. Murphy, 1930-2011

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Jeremiah Murphy, 1930-2011 « Pure Pierre Politics --

  2. Bob Faehn

    This is such sad and tragic news.

    So many people view the word “lobbyist” in a negative light. None of those people knew Jerry. A true gentleman.

    I’ll miss talking legislative history with him. Nobody knew it better.

    God bless Jerry and his family.

  3. Mary Pat Bierle

    Jeremiah was one of my father’s dearest friends. Don Bierle and Jerry Murphy were a formidable duo – I expect Don was waiting for him – impatiently as usual – and is most delighted to welcome him into his new life. May he rest in peace.

  4. jcl

    My thoughts and prayers are with the Murphy family during this very difficult time. I will remember Jerry with love in my heart. During my father’s (Don Bierle) lengthy stay at McKennan Hostpial after his heart surgery, Jerry would bring me ‘sticky buns’ and fresh coffee every morning from Minervas! His smile and laughter were always welcome and healing. I hope the two continue their shenigans in heaven.

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