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|United States Senator
from South Dakota
January 3, 1981 – January 3, 1987
|Preceded by||George McGovern|
|Succeeded by||Tom Daschle|
|15th Administrator of the United States Small Business Administration|
|Preceded by||James C. Sanders|
|Succeeded by||Susan Engeleiter|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from South Dakota's 2nd district|
January 3, 1973 – January 3, 1981
|Preceded by||James Abourezk|
|Succeeded by||Clint Roberts|
|30th Lieutenant Governor of South Dakota|
|Preceded by||Lem Overpeck|
|Succeeded by||William Dougherty|
|Member of the South Dakota Senate|
|Born||Ellis James Abdnor
February 13, 1923
Kennebec, South Dakota
|Died||May 16, 2012
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
Abdnor was born in Kennebec, South Dakota, the son of Mary (née Wehby) and Samuel J. Abdnor. Abdnor served in the United States Army during World War II and then graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in 1945 where he became a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity. He was a member of the South Dakota Senate from 1957 to 1969. A common, decent, plain spoken man," he was affectionately known as "the people's Senator." He was also described as a "nice-guy public servant" with a "down-home, warm and fuzzy way. His staff considered him to be a friend as well as an honorable mentor and public servant. Like his South Dakota Congressional colleague James Abourezk, he was a second-generation Lebanese-American and second U.S. Senator of Lebanese descent after Abourezk, as well.
Abdnor was chief clerk of the State Legislature in the early 1950s. Abdnor was the 30th Lieutenant Governor of South Dakota in 1969 to 1971, and unsuccessfully sought the nomination for House of Representatives in 1970. In 1972 he was elected to the House of Representatives as a Republican.
Abdnor ran in the 1980 election against George McGovern for the United States Senate. Abdnor claimed McGovern was out of touch with the state and unseated him by a large margin. In 1986, after winning a bruising re-election primary campaign against then Governor Bill Janklow, Abdnor narrowly lost his Senate seat to then-Representative Tom Daschle. He served as the administrator of the Small Business Administration from 1987 to 1989, and served in an advisory capacity for John Thune's successful campaign against Daschle in 2004. Thune had been a member of Senator Abdnor's staff.
Other notable members of Abdnor's staff who went on to fill important public service roles include John Hamre, Undersecretary of Defense; Jeff Trandahl, Clerk of the House; Bruce Knight, Undersecretary, Marketing and Regulatory Programs, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA); Larry Parkinson, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Law Enforcement and Security, U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI); Phil Hogen, Chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC); Vern Larson, South Dakota State Treasurer and Auditor; South Dakota State Senators Mike Vehle, Lee Schoenbeck and Scott Heidepriem; South Dakota State Representative Sean O'Brien; Charlotte Fischer, South Dakota Public Utilities Commissoner; Roland Dolly, Commissioner of Economic Development for the State Of South Dakota; and Stephen Censky, CEO of the American Soybean Association.
Abdnor's accomplishments included authorization of the Grassropes irrigation project and the Walworth, Edmunds, Brown (WEB) rural water system, reauthorization of the Belle Fourche irrigation project, and the inclusion of oats (of which South Dakota is a major producer) in the farm program.
As a fiscal conservative, on April 2, 1984, he introduced S. 2516, the Deficit Reduction Act, a forerunner to the Gramm–Rudman–Hollings Balanced Budget Act. As chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Water Resources, he exerted leadership in passage of legislation requiring cost-sharing for Federal water development projects. His interest in chairing the subcommittee was spawned by the importance of water to South Dakota's primary industry, agriculture, and the fact the state had been promised irrigation development in trade for inundation of its Missouri River bottom land behind massive damns in order to provide flood control and navigation benefits to downstream states.
Abdnor died on May 16, 2012, at the age of 89.
- James Abdnor, Former South Dakota Senator, Dies at 89, Robert D. McFadden, New York Times, May 16, 2012.
- "James Abdnor". Pierre, South Dakota: South Dakota State Historical Society. Retrieved May 16, 2012.
- Eulogy for Senator Jim Abdnor, Senator John Thune, May 19, 2012
- Plain Old Jim: A Tribute to Jim Abdnor, Herb Sundall, May 19, 2012
- Jim Abdnor and his people, Kevin Woster, Rapid City Journal, May 21, 2010.
- Even at 80, former Sen. Jim Abdnor retains voting bloc, David Kranz, Sioux Falls Argus Leader, February 23, 2003.
- Farewell to a Public Servant and a Friend, Bruce Knight, Agri-Pulse.
- McFadden, Robert (16 May 2012). "James Abdnor, Former South Dakota Senator, Dies at 89". New York Times. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
- John Thune#Early life, education, and early political career
- Abdnor's role in authorizing the WEB rural water system is highlighted in Uphill Against Water: The Great Water War, by Peter Carrels
- A complete listing of the bills, resolutions, and amendments sponsored and co-sponsored by Abdnor in the Senate is available in the Government Printing Office's (GPO) online Congressional Record Index (CRI)
- Bills sponsored and co-sponsored by Abdnor in the U.S. House of Representatives from the 93rd through the 96th Congress (1973 - 1982) can be discovered using the Library of Congress' (LOC) Thomas system
- President Reagan's remarks in support of Senator Abdnor's reelection, September 29, 1986
- Water Resources Development Act of 1986
- Sharing the Burden, United States Army Corps of Engineers publication
- Oahe irrigation potential remains untapped, The Daily Republic, September 29, 2012
- Pick–Sloan Missouri Basin Program
- McFadden, Robert D. (May 16, 2012) - "James Abdnor, Former South Dakota Senator, Dies at 89". The New York Times. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
|Lieutenant Governor of South Dakota
James C. Sanders
|Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration
|United States House of Representatives|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Dakota's 2nd congressional district
|United States Senate|
|U.S. Senator (Class 3) from South Dakota
Served alongside: Larry Pressler