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James Bernard "Jim" Dunn

1927 - 2016 Obituary Condolences
James Bernard "Jim" Dunn Obituary
James Bernard "Jim" Dunn

State Senator James Bernard "Jim" Dunn, 89, life-long resident of Lead, died Thursday, August 11, 2016 at the VA Hospice in Sturgis, South Dakota, after a year of declining health. Known as a faithful public servant on the local, state and national level, as well as for his long career with Homestake Mining Company, Jim was defined by his love for family, his hometown of Lead, and the state of South Dakota.

Born on June 27, 1927 to William and Lucy (Mullen) Dunn in a house above the Old Abe mine shaft in Lead, Jim attended St. Patrick's Grade School and Lead Junior and Senior High Schools. After graduating in June 1945, he enlisted in the United States Army. Jim served in the Signal Corps for a year before transferring to Task Force Frost in Camp McCoy, Wisconsin, where he tested military communications equipment in winter conditions for eventual use in the Korean conflict. Delivered in his always colorful language, PFC Dunn's assessment was, "Some of the items we tested weren't worth a damn!"

In 1947, honorable discharge in hand, Jim returned to his hometown of Lead to begin a satisfying 38-year career with Homestake Mining Company, starting as a heavy equipment and diesel mechanic in the Mechanical Department. In 1962, he began working concurrently in Homestake's Public Affairs Department and as a lobbyist, representing Homestake's interests in Pierre from 1963 to 1970. Jim completed a business administration/economics degree at Black Hills State College in 1962. He was promoted to assistant director of public affairs in 1962 before serving as director of public affairs from 1978 until his retirement in 1985.

During his tenure at Homestake, Jim was associate editor of the Sharp Bits publication and principle photographer and printmaker for the images used in print, magazine and TV news. Most photos of the construction of the early neutrino chamber at the mine were the handiwork of Jim Dunn. He also contributed to publications, television programs and movies including, The Homestake Story (co-authored with Donald P. Howe), Homestake's Bulldog Mountain Silver Mine, and The Violent Universe, a 1969 PBS/BBC documentary about the solar system and neutrinos.

Among "other duties as assigned," Jim filled the role of director of the Homestake Recreation Center, and managed the Homestake surface tours taken by tourists from around the globe. For 30 years, he designed, constructed, assembled, and staffed the Homestake information booth at the South Dakota State Fair in Huron, offering the citizens of South Dakota a glimpse of the underground world of mining in the "Largest Gold Mine in the Western Hemisphere." Jim also was a familiar sight along parade routes in the Black Hills as the bass drum player in the Homestake Marching and Concert Band. Most recently he tried his hand as a thespian, having bit roles in the Homestake Opera House productions of Fiddler on the Roof and The Music Man.

Jim was active in membership and leadership positions in numerous organizations: Knights of Columbus, Black Hills Badlands and Lake Association, Black Hills Girl Scout Council (first male president!), Lead Chamber of Commerce, Society of Black Hills Pioneers, Lead Toastmasters, Lead United Fund, American Institute of Mining Engineers/Black Hill Section, American Legion, Lead Civic Association, Lawrence County Historical Society, Adams Memorial Museum and House, South Dakota Centennial Commission, Lead Economic Development Board, Homestake Veteran's Association, Black Hills State University Alumni Association, Black Hills Eye Institute Foundation, South Dakota Auto Club and South Dakota Blue Shield.

In 1970, Jim was tapped to run for the South Dakota House of Representatives on the Lawrence County (Districts 26, 31) Republican ticket. After a two-year term (1971-1972) in the House, he began an unbroken, 28-year incumbency in the South Dakota Senate, making him the fourth individual in state history to hold a legislative seat for 30 years. Senator Dunn chaired the Senate Agricultural and Natural Resources Committee for two decades, as well as serving on the Tax, State Affairs (as vice chair), and Health and Welfare (chair and vice chair) committees. By all accounts, he ran committee meetings with a fair hand, didn't like political posturing, kept to time limits and let all who came to present on an issue be heard.

During his tenure in the Senate, he held progressive leadership positions on the South Dakota Legislative Research Council and served as both the assistant majority and assistant minority leader. Senator Dunn also was active on a national level through his work with the Council of State Governments (CSG), and the National Council on State Legislatures (NCSL). Due to term limits, his public service to the good citizens of South Dakota ended with the 2000 legislative session.

Jim received many accolades during his lifetime of service, including inductions into the South Dakota and Lead-Deadwood High School halls of fame and City of Deadwood Wall of Fame. He was named the National Republican Legislators Association's 1996 Legislator of the Year, a Black Hills State University Distinguished Alumni, and Grand Knight of the St. Patrick's Knights of Columbus. He received Dakota State University's Distinguished Contribution to the Preservation of South Dakota History Award, a Distinguished Service Award from the Masonic Lodge, a U.S. Secretary of Defense Exceptional Public Service Award, the South Dakota National Guard's Williamson Militia Man Award, and a Friend of Law Enforcement Award from the South Dakota Peace Officers Association. Jim received a presidential appointment to the U.S. Selective Service Board in 1967, and a U.S. Department of Defense appointment to the South Dakota Committee for Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve.

Jim was swept off his feet in 1954 when he met the love of his life, Elizabeth "Betty" Lanham from Beresford, SD. They married in September 1955 and raised four children together. He was an especially proud father of the people his children became and their place in the world. For all his travels and accomplishments, Jim liked nothing better than spending time with family and friends. The family cabin in Spearfish Canyon was a special spot, and many a T-shirt was "sweated up" working on his little spot of heaven. A man of deep Catholic faith, and strong Irish heritage, Jim believed in straight talk and common sense, and lived his life with those foundations. Genuinely interested in people and their stories, Jim Dunn "never met a stranger."

Jim is survived by his four children, Sue (Alec Tsoucatos) Dunn of Denver, Colorado; Tom (Sharon) Dunn of Denver; Mary Beth (Dennis) Mallow of Black Hawk, SD; and Kathy (Lew) Forti of Youngstown, NY. He was a loving grandfather to Jennifer (Jeremie) Young, Kaitlin Mallow, Laura Mallow, Kristina Burley, Brian Forti, Nick (Wendy) Kolchev, Larisa (Jeffrey) Gutierrez, Sara (Craig) Hendrick and Sam Forti, and great-grandfather to Melanie Hendrick, Nicholas Hendrick and Kiera Gutierrez. Other survivors include siblings, Bill "Jerry" (Jane) Dunn of Omaha, Nebraska; Mary Margaret Stelloh of Denver; and several cousins, nieces and nephews. Jim was preceded in death by Betty, his wife of nearly 60 years and "the prettiest girl he ever saw," in April 2015; grandsons, James Mallow and Thomas Burley; and his parents.

Memorials have been established with the Adams Museum, Homestake Opera House, St. Patrick's Altar Society, Black Hills Mining Museum and Society of Black Hills Pioneers.

Visitation will be from 5:00 to 7:00 P.M. Thursday, August 18 at St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Lead, followed by Rosary at 7:00 P.M. Funeral services will be held at 10:00 A.M., Friday, August 19 at St. Patrick's Catholic Church. Interment will be at Holy Cross Cemetery in Lead.

Arrangements are under the care of the Lead-Deadwood Memorial Chapel in Lead. Online condolences may be written at
Published in The Argus Leader on Aug. 14, 2016
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