Flashback Friday: Fighting Stallions Memorial

Twenty-five years ago, the nation mourned the loss of South Dakota Governor George S. Mickelson and seven state leaders who died in a plane crash near Dubuque, Iowa, on 19 April 1993.

After his death, Mickelson’s life would be commemorated throughout the state, including the naming of the  George S. Mickelson Trail in the Black Hills, the George S. Mickelson Center for the Neurosciences in Yankton, and the book, Creating the Future for South Dakota: The Mickelson Legacy, 1987-1993 by James O. Hansen.

Another tribute came exactly one year after the tragedy. Mickelson’s favorite sculpture, Fighting Stallions by Korczak Ziolkowski, was dedicated on the grounds of the State Capitol as a memorial to those who perished in the accident. Together with that of Mickelson, the lives of Ron R. Becker, Roland Dolly, David Hansen, Ron Reed, Angus Anson, David S. Birkeland, and Roger Hainje are remembered through commemorative plaques that line the base of the sculpture. The bronze statue “symbolically represents South Dakota's struggle to overcome adversity, desire for achievement and courage to believe in the future. It is a tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.”1

Pierre photographer Keith H. Hemmelman recently captured a wintry coat cloaking the steeds as the State Capitol rises in the backdrop. Though the frost has faded, the legacy of these eight lives will go on.


1. South Dakota Bureau of Administration, “Capitol Grounds Fighting Stallions Memorial,” boa.sd.gov/divisions/capitol/CapitolTour/stallions.htm.

Image by Keith H. Hemmelman, used with permission.