Local Museum Director shares his own brushes with history

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Some people love history.
Some people live it.
And, some people do both.

This is the story of a man we met "A Long the Way", in Custer.

1881 Courthouse Museum Director Gary Enright says,"It is one of the oldest courtrooms in the state of South Dakota."

Like the pages of a Dakota Territory law book, so are the days of Gary Enright's life.

Gary Enright says, "And we're standing right now in the law library of the judge"

"I saw the ad for the Director of the 1881 Courthouse Museum in Custer and came and was interviewed for the job and hired," he says.

These days he tells the tales of local history.
Back in his home state now for about 2 years.

Enright says, "Custer is the oldest city in the Black Hills. It was formed in 1875."

Truth be told, he has quite a tale of his own.

Gary Enright says, "I was born and raised in Timberlake South Dakota on a ranch. My dad was a rancher. He was also a cattle buyer."

He's the boy in the striped shirt, destined for a life packed with one layer of history after another.

Gary Enright says, "1957 when I graduated from High School, that fall I went to the University of South Dakota."

And while studying Radio Broadcasting he met a student from Yankton.

Gary Enright says,"His name was Tom Brokaw and we became friends, and we worked together a lot, we covered a lot of the events locally at the KUSD Radio and TV in Vermillion.

Yup, that Tom Brokaw. And while Enright did not become a superstar, his own broadcasting career took as many twists and turns as a ranchers rope.
After college he took a job at KCCR in South Dakota's capital city of Pierre, before turning the page to television.

Gary Enright says, "In 1962 I saw an ad in the paper that said they needed a News Director at KRSD in Rapid City, so I drove out to Rapid City, interviewed "

And got the job, at what was then Rapid City's NBC TV station, a forefather, so to speak, of what eventually became Black Hills Fox, KEVN TV.
Next stop: KTIV TV in Sioux City, more than 50 years ago.

Gary Enright says, "I started there in '63 was there off and on for 11 years"

The golden age of TV news, and golden days for Enright, including interviews with some of the biggest political names of the era.

Gary Enright says, "Well I've known George McGovern up until he died. Actually knew the man for years."

McGovern was a powerful politician, but not the biggest name Enright would meet.

Gary Enright says, "But this was a half hour long interview with Teddy Kennedy and I've always had kind of a special place in my heart for Teddy Kennedy because he was the first biggie that I ever really interviewed."

A lot was different then, like the standard for news sponsors. In a picture there's a little statue next to Enright's elbow.

Gary Enright says, "Nobody said a word about it. There was the Hamm's Bear, and we pedaled beer in our newscast."

And election coverage was different too: hand written results, pictures on the wall, and papers on the floor.

Gary Enright says, "I always liked political elections. They're more fun to do than anything else in television."

"After I left the News Department I went to work for the Sioux City Stockyards as the Director of Information and that meant I did a daily market report at noon hour," Enright says.

The stockyards were booming, and Enright was used to hanging around cows and corrals from his days on the ranch. And like a magnet, history, once again called his name.

Gary Enright says, "President Johnson after he got out of office took ranching seriously."

And, LBJ wanted to sell a bunch of cattle to the Sioux City Stockyards.
So he arranged to fly a group of people down to his ranch in Texas for a publicity trip.

Enright says, "And they served a wonderful steak, and the President was the most gracious host I have ever met in my life. He was a delightful man. I have more enjoyment from that night visiting with a politician than I ever had."

A couple years later, Enright changed careers, eventually becoming the CEO of the National Beef Check Off Program.

Now sort of retired, he's running the museum in Custer.

Gary Enright says, "We had the best year we've had in the 40 years that this museum has been in operation."

Another step in the stairwell of life that began in tiny Timberlake, and led him back home to South Dakota.

Gary Enright says, "I love this old building, and I love this job. I love history!"

And from the folks that fate brought into his path, it's clear history loves him back.

He also writes about history, including a book about the true story of a wild wolf that used to roam Northern South Dakota, causing ranchers a whole lot of headaches.