A life well lived

Joe Foss was a genuine American hero, and a role model for the youth of our nation. As a small town farm boy whose father died in a tragic accident when Joe was still a teenager, he willingly accepted the responsibility of providing for his family’s financial needs. Despite great obstacles, Joe went on to live the American dream.

He enjoyed several highly successful careers and served with distinction in each.


April 17, 1915 — January 1, 2003


B.S., University of South Dakota, 1940


LL.D., Yankton College, Yankton, South Dakota

So.D., Sioux Falls College, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, 4/22/66

LL.D., Black Hills State College, Spearfish, South Dakota, 5/3/73

LL.D., Aberdeen State College, Aberdeen, South Dakota

LL.D., Augustana College, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, 5/19/85


Married to Donna Wild Hall; five children (four living)


Motivational Speaker

Co-Author, “Top Guns” and “A Proud American” — Joe Foss with Donna Wild Foss


Founded The JOE FOSS Institute with his wife Donna “didi” Foss


Campus Crusade for Christ International Chairman “Here’s Life World”


President, National Rifle Association


Director of Public Affairs, Royal Dutch Airlines


Star of weekly syndicated television show, “The Outdoorsman — Joe Foss”


Host, ABC weekly television show, “American Sportsman”


Commissioner, American Football League


Governor, South Dakota


Representative, South Dakota House of Representatives


Brigadier General and Chief of Staff, South Dakota Air National Guard

Colonel, United States Air Force, Korean War

Major, United States Marine Corps, World War II (One of the most decorated of WWII heroes, shooting down 26 enemy planes; the first pilot to do so since Eddie Rickenbacker in WWI.)

Private — 147th Field Artillery, Sioux Falls, SD National Guard 1937-1940


Arizona Club Member

Air Force Academy, Director

Air Force Association, Director, National President and Chairman of the Board

American Fighter Aces, Director, National President and Chairman of the Board

American Fighter Aces Museum Foundation, Board Member

American Legion, Life Member

Arizona Arms Association, Honorary Life Member

Arizona Partnership for Air Transportation, Executive Board Member

Association of Naval Aviation, Honorary Lifetime Member

Augustana College Board of Regents, Member

Camp Fire Club of America, Honorary Member, Speaker Member

Circus Saints and Sinners, Life Member

Combat Pilots Association

Congressional Medal of Honor Society

Crippled Children’s School and Hospital, Founding Committee

Crippled Children Society, First National Chairman

Early and Pioneer Naval Aviators Association, “Golden Eagles”

Endowment for Community Leadership, Founding Chairman

Executive Leadership Foundation, Advisory Council

Facility Group, Board of Directors

Institute for Absolute Ethics, Associate

Isaac Walton League of America, Life Member and Past President

Law Enforcement Ministries, Board Member

Legion of Valor

Charles A. Lindbergh Fund, Chairman Emeritus

Mount Rushmore Preservation Fund, Director

National Cowboy Hall of Fame, Honorary Trustee

National Institute of Former Governors

National Museum of Marine Corps Aviation, Board of Advisors

National Rifle Association, Past President and Board of Directors

National Aviation Museum Foundation, Life Member

Naval Order of the United States

Outdoor Writers Association

President’s Council of Physical Fitness and Sports Scottsdale Rotary

Security Technology Ventures, Advisory Board

Security Western Savings Bank, Director Shikar-Safari Club International

The JOE FOSS Institute, Founded April 2001, Chairman Emeritus

United States National Guard Association, Executive Board Member

Wildlife Legislative Fund of America, Director Emeritus

World Fast Draw Association, Honorary Member


American Combat Airman Hall of Fame, 1997

American Hero Award, St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy, 11/4/02

American Hero Award, National Rifle Association, 1995

Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame, May 4, 2002

Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame, Phoenix, AZ, May 15, 2001

Audie Murphy Award, presented by the WWII Veterans Committee — A Project of the American Studies Center, Washington, DC — November 11, 2000

BRONZE: A larger than life-sized bronze was placed in the rotunda of the International Airport at Joe Foss Field, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and an American Hero Joe Foss Scholarship Fund was also established, August 11, 1995

Campfire Club of America, Honorary Member, 2/8/1999

Congressional Medal of Honor, May 1943

David Livingston Award, Christian Sportsman Fellowship, International, Reno, NV, January, 1999

Distinguished Flying Cross

Elder Statesman of Aviation Award, 1993

FLYER’S WALL at Mission Inn, a National Historic Landmark, Riverside, CA, enshrined, March 1997

Joe Foss School, Sioux Falls, SD

Liberty Mutual Sales Hall of Fame

Lloyd P. Nolen Award (Excellence in Aviation), Houston, TX, awarded by Confederate Air Force, October 21, 2000 Los Angeles Philanthropic Foundation, Outstanding American Award, 1980

National Aviation Hall of Fame

National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, Charter Member, 1996

National Junior Chamber of Commerce (one of the ten most outstanding young men in the United States), 1943 National Veteran Award for 1983

Oklahoma Aviation and Space Hall of Fame

Sales and Marketing Executive of the Year 2001, Sioux Falls, SD

Scandanavian-American Hall of Fame (In grateful recognition for courage, patriotism and freedom.)

South Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame, 8/20/94

South Dakota Cowboy and Western Heritage Hall of Fame

South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame

University of South Dakota Coyote Sports Hall of Fame

Warbird of the Year 1994, by Warbirds, Inc., February 18, 1994