Former South Dakota Governor Walter Miller dies at 89

Miller's official portrait as governor

Walter Dale Miller, the 29th Governor of South Dakota, passed away Monday night, state officials say.

Miller, 89, served as governor from 1993 to 1995.

"On the evening of September 28, 2015 South Dakota lost a great man!" says former South Dakota First Lady Patty Miller. "We, as Walt's family, are honored and privileged to have been a part of his life. Walt taught us as a family what it means to live and die with dignity, strength, and honor through God's grace. We are humbled and grateful for the love, support, and compassion shown by the people of South Dakota."

Miller was born Oct. 5, 1925, near Viewfield, South Dakota, and spent his life on his family’s ranch. He served for 20 years in the South Dakota House of Representatives, and is the only person in state history to serve as speaker of the house, speaker pro tempore, majority leader, assistant majority leader and majority whip.

Miller was elected lieutenant governor in 1986 and was South Dakota’s first full-time lieutenant governor. He succeeded to the governorship in 1993 after the tragic loss of Gov. George S. Mickelson and seven others in a plane crash.

As governor, Miller ended a riot at the state penitentiary without loss of life, responded to historic flooding on the Missouri River and its tributaries and imposed emergency budget cuts after a court ruling shut down video lottery in the state. He left office in 1995.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard requests that all flags in South Dakota fly at half-staff, effective immediately, and continuing until Gov. Miller’s interment.

Several state officials have issued condolences following Miller's passing.

"“I have lost more than my Governor and home town legislator, as have so many South Dakotans I have lost a true friend,” Attorney General Jackley said.

“Gov. Miller was a friend and I will miss him,” said Gov. Dennis Daugaard. “Walter Dale Miller assumed the governorship at a time of tragedy and sorrow. He provided a steady hand as our state mourned the loss of Gov. Mickelson. Through his long career in public office, Walt worked hard and put South Dakota first. Linda and I express our deepest sympathies to Pat and the entire Miller family.”

“Governor Miller led our state through a great tragedy to a time of healing and growth," said Rep. Kristi Noem. "His counsel and encouragement served our state and its leaders for years after his official duties concluded. I personally appreciated his friendship and insight over the years. He will be sincerely missed.”

“Kimberley’s and my thoughts and prayers are with former Gov. Miller’s family and friends," said Sen. John Thune. "Gov. Miller served during a difficult time in our state’s history, but thanks to his service, South Dakota is a better place. I consider it an honor and a privilege to have called him my friend during his long tenure of service to our state.”

“Jean and I send our deepest sympathies to Pat and the Miller family as they deal with this tragic loss,” said Rep. Mike Rounds. “Walt was a longtime friend and mentor who led our state through a difficult time. His love of South Dakota and legacy of public service is one we can all admire. Our thoughts and prayers will continue to be with the Millers.”

Miller's official portrait as governor