MA 74




17.39 linear feet (11 records center boxes, 3 oversize boxes) 4 framed items, photographs


Frank E. Denholm was born on his parents’ homestead in Scotland Township in Day County, South Dakota on November 29, 1923. During his life, he held several positions such as farmer, auctioneer, F.B.I. agent, lawyer, and United States Congressman from South Dakota’s First Congressional District from 1971 to 1975. The papers consist mostly of materials created during the time he served in Congress. These items document his campaigns for Congress, and his work for rural America, particularly his effort to reinstate the Rural Electrification Act and numerous legislation regarding agriculture, rural water, and rural development. Information regarding Denholm’s wife, Mildred Niehaus Denholm, is included in the collection. The Frank E. Denholm Papers contain press releases, newspaper clippings, correspondence, photographs, audio and video recordings, and campaign artifacts.

Historical Note

Franklin Edvard Denholm was born on November 29, 1923 to John J. and Laura Anna (Mathias) Denholm on his parents’ homestead in Scotland Township in Day County, South Dakota. He farmed, operated an interstate truck transport business, and became well-known as an auctioneer after he finished his education in public schools. He married Mildred T. Niehaus on June 12, 1950 in Webster, South Dakota. Denholm was elected and served as Day County Sheriff from 1950-1952 and was a delegate to the South Dakota State Democratic conventions from 1950-1952.

Frank Denholm received a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science in 1956 from South Dakota State College in Brookings, South Dakota. He also had sufficient academic credit hours for majors in economics, history, and speech. While a student at SDSU he won first place in Men’s Oratory in South Dakota Intercollegiate Forensics and in Men’s Original Oratory in national competition at Redlands University in California. Denholm was also a member of numerous student organizations including Delta Sigma Alpha, Toastmasters, Ag Econ Club, International Relations, and served as President of the Blue Key National Honors Society. He was nominated to “Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities” during his last year at SDSU.

Frank Denholm then pursued a Master’s degree at the University of Minnesota, which was interrupted by his appointment as a Special Agent of the FBI by J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington, D.C. He accepted the appointment as an FBI Agent, serving from 1956 to 1961.

Denholm received his Jurist Doctorate degree of law from the University of South Dakota and was admitted to the South Dakota bar in 1962. He practiced law in Brookings, South Dakota as corporate counsel for the cities of Brookings, Volga, and White from 1962 to 1971. He was also admitted and authorized to practice law in Federal District Court (Southern Division); U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, St. Louis, MO; the Circuit Court of the District of Columbia and the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, Washington, D.C.; the Supreme Court of the United States; and the Tax Courts of the United States. Denholm was also a lecturer in economics, law, and political science at South Dakota State University from 1962 to 1966 and a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1968.

Frank E. Denholm was elected to the Ninety-second and Ninety-third Congresses and served from January 3, 1971 to January 3, 1975. Some of the legislation he sponsored and supported that was enacted into law are: The Rural Telephone Act of 1971, The Rural Development Act of 1972, and the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974. The Senate version of the “Denholm Bill” reinstated the Rural Electrification Act in 1973 after President Nixon ceased to uphold the provisions of the Rural Electrification Act of 1936.

Denholm resumed his Brookings legal practice after an unsuccessful campaign for Congress in 1974. He was a member of the International Fraternity of Phi Kappa Delta, the American Bar Association, the American Trial Lawyers Association, South Dakota Peace Officers Association, the Isaac Walton League, and the St. Thomas More Catholic Parish. Denholm also served as Kiwanis President and Trustee of the Benevolent Protective Order of the Elks. He received numerous honors including being named in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in Government, Personalities in the West and in the Mid-West, and Men of Achievement. He died on April 7, 2016 in Brookings, South Dakota.

Content Notes

The Frank E. Denholm Papers consist mostly of materials generated during the time he served as the representative to South Dakota’s First Congressional District, from 1971 to 1975. These materials document his work for rural America, particularly his effort to reinstate the Rural Electrification Act and numerous legislation regarding agriculture, rural water, and rural development. Press releases and newspaper clippings about his activities in Congress can be found in the papers. The collection also includes scrapbooks and memorabilia about his campaigns for Congress. In addition, there are several files of correspondence, some of which was with members of Congress and other notable people such as George McGovern and Richard Kneip. The collection includes nearly 1,500 photographs and slides, most of which relate to his campaigns for Congress. There are reel-to-reel audio recordings and video recordings on 2-inch quad video tape that consist of campaign advertisements and his work in Congress. The collection also documents Denholm’s career as a sheriff, auctioneer, F.B.I. agent, and lawyer.

The papers also contain documents relating to Frank Denholm’s wife, Mildred Niehaus Denholm. Mrs. Denholm was born May 9, 1927 to Frank F. and Elizabeth C. (Schuring) Niehaus from Andover, South Dakota. She married Frank Denholm on June 12, 1950 in Webster, South Dakota. She attended Northern State Teachers College in Aberdeen, SD and taught in rural schools. Mrs. Denholm also went to the Aberdeen School of Business, the Strayer Business College in Washington, D.C., and the University of Utah where she studied music. She worked as a medical and legal secretary. Mrs. Denholm actively campaigned for her husband. She was involved in the Congressional Women’s Club while Denholm was in office. Mrs. Denholm passed away August 14, 2014. The collection includes correspondence between Frank and Mildred Denholm and her activities with the Congressional Women’s Club.

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South Dakota State University Archives and Special Collections, Hilton M. Briggs Library, Brookings, South Dakota.


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