Friends of late Governor George Mickelson speak to his legacy 25 years later

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - It has been a quarter of a century since the passing of South Dakota Governor George Mickelson who lost his life alongside seven others in a plane crash and many say they remember it like it was yesterday.

Rex Hagg, served on the House of Representatives from 1988 to 1998, and speaker of the House the last two years. " I was standing in my kitchen and a fellow representative from Rapid City, John Sears, called me and said that the governor's plane went down and he's gone, very sad, it us like a ton of bricks," he said.

Having served since 1986, George Mickelson was in his second term as governor when he died in 1993, a position that many say took politics in South Dakota to another level.

"The thing that really attracted people to him was his vision for South Dakota and his drive to accomplish things to make the state better for the future," said Rep. Mike Diedrich.

"Democrats controlling the Senate at the time, Republicans controlling the house, and for any governor or executive that's a challenge to make that work to pass legislation and he was very good at that. He was very good at reaching out to both parties," Hagg continued.

"One of the questions I asked him was what is your toughest job as governor of SD and he said I'm going to tell you the same thing my father told me forty years ago when he was governor and I asked him the same question, race relations between Indians and whites was his answer, said Tim Giago, owner of Native Sun News Today.

A leadership so strong that he proclaimed 1990 the Year of Reconciliation and also changed Columbus Day to what is now known as Native American Day.

"I thought here's the man who really wants to change things. He seems to have an open mind. he doesn't want to see forty years from now. the same thing that's happened back when his father was governor," Giago continued.

Leaving behind a message for those serving with him, Mickelson ensured a legacy that will live on.

Diedrich says, "and he said politics are simple, you need to think about how it affects the people that we serve, and that really made a lasting impression on me."

Later this year, the 25th anniversary of Mickelson's death will be commemorated with a bronze bust to be placed in the House of Representatives lobby.