VERMILLION, S.D. – Steven Bucklin, Ph.D., professor of history at the University of South Dakota, is the winner of the 2020 Herbert S. Schell Award for best article in the previous year’s South Dakota History, the state historical society’s quarterly journal. His article, “Working on the Railroad: A History of the South Dakota Core Rail System,” appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of the journal.
In the award-winning article, Bucklin focuses on Gov. William J. Janklow’s decision to have the state purchase rail lines. By 1979, many of the railroad companies in South Dakota had gone bankrupt, leaving farmers unable to transport crops efficiently. Janklow supported the state’s purchasing and running of several rail lines, which restored or maintained service on vital routes.
Bucklin will retire this year after 25 years teaching at the University of South Dakota’s Department of History. He is the author of several books and articles on South Dakota and diplomatic history. Named for the historian and longtime USD professor who wrote extensively on the history of the state, the Herbert S. Schell award carries a $250 honorarium and recognizes the best article in each year’s volume.
"The Schell Award means a great deal to me," Bucklin said. "Professor Schell retired a few years before I started at USD as a student in 1973, but I did meet him. His book 'History of South Dakota' has benefited me greatly over the years, but even more influential was his 1954 Harrington Lecture ‘The Professor Under Fire.’ It was a very brave thing to attack McCarthyism in 1954. I have my students in my Cold War class and my U.S. in World Affairs classes read it.”
A grant from the S.D. Department of Transportation (SDDOT) made the research project possible, Bucklin said.
"One of the great things about conducting the research was to interview Bill Janklow, Jim Myers, former Secretary of Transportation, and many others, but one thing that stands out is the help I received from so many capable librarians,” he said. “At USD, Carol Leibiger, Sam Herley, Alan Aldrich, Michael Seminara and Dan Daily have helped me so much over the years. Virginia Ripley, the SDDOT Research Office Administrative Assistant, Dave Huft, the director of that office, Vern Bump, and Wally Larson, who were engineers for the SDDOT, all went beyond the call of duty to help me in my research. And the South Dakota Historical Society has always helped make my articles better with their research on photographs, suggestions on additional lines of research and their careful editing of my drafts."