Jim Kuehn led R.C. Journal newsroom for 37 years
(This obituary was prepared by Jim Kuehn’s family. It originally appeared in the Rapid City Journal on June 12.)
James Marshall “Jim” Kuehn died Monday, June 10, 2013, at a local nursing home.
A native of Mobridge and educated in South Dakota, James Marshall Kuehn spent his 37-year daily newspaper career with the Rapid City Journal. After receiving a B.S. degree from the University of South Dakota in 1949, he joined South Dakota’s second largest daily newspaper and retired Sept. 26, 1986, as a company executive.
Jim entered publishing as a printer in several South Dakota weekly newspapers and at the U.S. Army Field Printing Plant, Fort Belvoir, Va., during World War II. His first editorship was with the Volante student newspaper at USD, followed by one summer as news editor of the weekly Vermillion Plain Talk.
As the Journal’s state editor, his “beat” was most of western South Dakota. He managed as many as 20 news correspondents. Jim was also a reporter and columnist covering the South Dakota Legislature. Each promotion took him closer to his final title of vice president and editor. In 1960, South Dakota’s daily editors elected him president of the Associated Press Managing Editors’ Association.
After the Minneapolis Star and Tribune Company purchased the Journal in 1964, Jim was given responsibility for both the news and editorial content of the newspaper. His staff grew to more than 30 people.
On June 9, 1972, torrential rains produced flooding that killed 238 people in and around Rapid City. The flood and its aftermath became the largest news event in South Dakota’s history. Jim directed flood coverage strategies, wrote editorials and assisted the Journal management team during the crisis. For its performance, the Journal won the Inland Press Association Cup for Excellence from the University of Missouri School of Journalism.
Other honors awarded Jim include Newsman of the Year from the South Dakota Associated Press (AP) Association, 1979; Appreciation Citation for the AP Managing Editors Association, 1985; Outstanding Service Citation from Cowles Media, 1985; and the Distinguished Service Award from the South Dakota Newspaper Association, 1992. In September 2010, Jim was inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame.
Jim has long been involved in civic affairs, exemplified by the Rapid City Citizen of the Month award in July 1991. He was a trustee when the Rapid City Library Board constructed a $1 million facility dedicated in 1972. He was president of the Rapid City Kiwanis Club and a founder and secretary of the Kiwanis Mary Hall Park organization. He is an original member of the Al Neuharth Media Center Advisory Board at the University of South Dakota and continued as a director up to his death.
In retirement he spent countless hours with plans and issues at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Foremost was participation in a fundraising campaign by the Mount Rushmore National Memorial Society that produced $56 million spent on a near-total renovation of facilities at the memorial. Jim chaired a committee that produced commemorative postage stamps and the first-day covers that are still sold to collectors visiting book stores operated by the Mount Rushmore History Association. He also served as secretary of the Society and was an early member of the Mount Rushmore History Association devoted to selling books and products dealing with the nation’s iconic monument. Most recently he became a founder and director of the Mount Rushmore Institute, which is dedicated to freedom and discussion of vital topics at Mount Rushmore.
Jim smiles as he recalled the words of a famous Kansas paperman, William Allen White, who said, “There are three things that no man can do to the entire satisfaction of anyone else: making love, poke the fire, and run a newspaper.” To cope with the daily flow of news, Jim’s dominant ethic was to utilize all the talents in the news department to produce accurate, fair and balanced reports. He viewed the staff as highly creative and professional, adding that the newspaper would, indeed, be dull if everything depended upon the editor.
Jim was born May 23, 1926, in Mobridge, “a great place to grow up.” On June 1, 1926, the day his mother was to go home with her infant son, she fell and suffered a fatal aneurysm. Jim’s father was unable to care for the baby and four daughters, but two aunts took responsibility for the infant and helped provide for the teenage girls. Jim’s father suffered a fatal heart attack in July 1932. Subsequently, Jim was adopted by his aunt and uncle, Selma and Christ Kuehn, who also had an older son. On April 3, 1950, Jim and Yvonne Larson were married in Rapid City. This marriage was blessed with children Douglas, Deborah and Diana.
Active in extracurricular activities, Jim was ranked third in Mobridge High’s Class of 1944. While a student, he was employed as a “printer’s devil” at the Mobridge Tribune and his interest in journalism grew. He entered the University of South Dakota with the help of a scholarship, had a part-time job as a printer at the Vermillion Plain Talk, played trumpet in the University Band and was initiated in Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.
He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1946, where he was assigned to the Army Field Printing Plant. After his 11 months in the military he returned to USD, where he became involved with the Volante, the student newspaper. He worked with Al Neuharth during his time on the paper.
In addition to following current events and reading, Jim has enjoyed singing in the church choirs, volunteering to edit a senior citizen newspaper and answering requests to assist with obituaries and other writing endeavors.
Jim was preceded in death by his birth parents, Joseph and Edith Brandon; adoptive parents, Christ and Selma (Brandon) Kuehn; four sisters, one brothe, and one son, Douglas James Kuehn.
He is survived by his wife, Yvonne Kuehn; daughters, Deborah Kay Kuehn of Rapid City, and Diana (Kevin) Loucks, Fort Collins, Colo.; and grandchildren Shae, Kiara, and Aaron of Fort Collins and Tim (Tracy) of Everett, Wash.
Funeral services were held Friday, June 14, 2013, at Calvary Lutheran Church.
Burial was in Black Hills National Cemetery near Sturgis, with military honors by Rushmore VFW post 1273 and the South Dakota National Guard.
His online guestbook is available to sign at www.osheimschmidt.com.