About the Trail of Governors Foundation

The Trail of Governors is a non-profit group working to celebrate leaders who have shaped South Dakota into the state it is today.  The Trail of Governors will be creating and erecting life-sized statues of all past South Dakota governors and forming a “trail” of the statues from the State Capitol grounds to downtown Pierre near the Missouri River.

The Trail of Governors – How it Began

The trail began as a vision to create a lasting legacy of South Dakota’s governors. It was the brainchild of two Pierre businessmen Leroy Foster and Rick Jensen with a love of history, an appreciation of the arts, and a shared sense of pride in their favorite city and state. These dreamers believed their rough concept could be brought to life, or life-size anyway. It would be a trail of bronze statues honoring each of the state’s governors for the enjoyment and enlightenment of those living in and visiting South Dakota and its Capital city. A bit of research convinced them there was not another trail honoring an entire state’s governors in this way anywhere in the country, making their idea unique.

The project quickly stirred dust and forged allies. The Trail of Governors Foundation was created and planning moved steadily forward, building enthusiasm with each new contact. Former governors’ families who had been identified were notified. The foundation is still missing a few families and help is requested from anyone with clues on the “Most Wanted Governors.” Meanwhile, governors’ families from across the United States are sharing their personal stories of these South Dakota leaders. Foundation members and artists continue piecing together each governor’s historical puzzle with details such as physical features, greatest accomplishments, and favorite pastimes.

These well-known, respected South Dakota artists have been selected to create the sculptures: Lee Leuning, John Lopez, James Michael Maher, Sherri Treeby, and James Van Nuys. The foundation’s goal is to unveil three bronze statues each year beginning in 2012 and to complete 30 statues within 10 years. Plans are to continue commissioning statues as each future governor leaves office so the trail will wind its way through South Dakota’s future. The governors will guide visitors through Pierre’s business district and around the state Capitol Complex.

Private donations will fund each statue with a donor or donor group contributing $72,000 for one governor, limited to four donors per statue. These donors will be acknowledged via a bronze plaque with that statue. Additional donations of any amount are welcome and are being invested in unfunded statues, and ongoing trail-related expenses, such as maintenance and visitor information.

The South Dakota Community Foundation will provide funding guidance and oversight. Click here to learn more about donor opportunities.

Trail of Governors Trail Route

Trail Route

Become a Trail of Governors Statue Donor

Statue Donors

About the statue Artists

Artist Biographies