Jim Abdnor, Former Senator from South Dakota, Dies at 89

James Abdnor, a former Republican Senator from South Dakota who is perhaps most well known for taking down Democratic incumbent, George S. McGovern, in 1980 to win a seat in the Senate, died on Wednesday in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He was 89.

Abnor may have been known outside of his home state for defeating McGovern, but Jim was known for another thing entirely in South Dakota. The former Senator gained popularity in the region as the farmer-turned-politician who remained modest and grounded even while in office.

“I’m a farmer,” Abdnor said in 1986 (via AP). “I’ve dug more dirt out of my ears than anyone in Congress. I treasure that heritage.”

Abnor’s modesty may have won over a few hearts, but it wasn’t just his personality that had South Dakota, as well as many outside of his state, behind him. Throughout his political career, Abdnor became the face of South Dakota Republican ideals, believing that governments should stay small and that the feds shouldn’t interfere.

“He was a hardworking and effective fighter for South Dakota, and one of the most decent and genuine people to ever hold elective office,” former Rep. John Thune told The Associated Press in a statement Wednesday. “He always managed to maintain what I think was a very healthy perspective about who he was and where he was from, and he never let the title of the office get to him.”

Jim Abnor’s funeral is scheduled for Saturday. Thune will be giving the eulogy.

[Image credit: Christopher Gannon/Argus Leader]