E. Steeves Smith, 82, of Mitchell, SD, died Friday, October 30, 2020 at Avera Queen of Peace Hospital. The family of E. Steeves Smith would appreciate any written remembrances sent to the care of Bittner Funeral Chapel at 805 W. Havens Ave., Mitchell, SD 57301. Funeral arrangements are pending under the direction of Bittner Funeral Chapel.
Edwin Steeves (“Steeves” or “Steve”) Smith was born June 24, 1938 in Rochester, Minnesota to John and Florence Smith. The family moved to Watertown, SD in 1945 where John managed the local J C Penney store and they built their lives as South Dakotans. Steeves was active in debate and drama in Watertown High School. His participation in Boys’ State introduced him to politics-- a lifelong passion. From then on, Republican politics became a defining factor of his life. Steeves attended Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, and in 1960 earned his Bachelor’s degree in political science. While at Carleton, Steeves became State Chairman of the Minnesota College Republicans. Steeves then attended the University of Minnesota Law School and continued his involvement in state and local politics, even serving as State Chair of the Minnesota College Republicans and Chair of the Midwest Federation of College Republicans.
Despite having gone to school in Minnesota, Steeves never contemplated living anywhere other than South Dakota. After graduation and marriage to Louise Blair in 1963, Steeves returned to South Dakota to be the Aberdeen National Bank trust officer. Steeves and Louise welcomed the birth of their first child, Andrea, in 1964. However, Steeves always planned to practice in a SD law firm and in 1965 joined the firm that eventually became Tinan Smith in Mitchell. The next years in Mitchell saw two more children born, John Blair (JB) and Rosemary.
A member of First Lutheran Church, Steeves also became a highly active member of the community and volunteered his time by serving numerous non-profit organizations. Throughout the years, Steeves served as the Deputy State's Attorney, President of Kiwanis, SD Children’s Aid, and Methodist Hospital Board of Trustees. During a several month transition period for the hospital Steeves served as administrator simultaneously while also practicing law. Professional activities included Chairman of the South Dakota Bar Association Young Lawyers’ Section and various state bar committees. One notable professional highlight was successfully arguing a holders in due course case in front of the Federal Court of Appeals in St. Louis, MO.
Steeves had the unenviable position to serve as the Chairman of the South Dakota Republican Party during the Watergate hearings from 1973-75. Because the sitting governor was a Democrat, Steeves was also the head of the Republican Party, a challenging position which demanded finding monetary support for the Party to pay even the smallest of bills. In subsequent years, he served in various positions for the Republican Party, including a Member of the National Board of Directors of the American Council of Young Political Leaders and as a delegate to the National Republican Convention in 1976 and 1992. In 1977, Steeves was one of twenty-four national bipartisan delegates to the Atlantic Association of Young Political Leaders General Assembly and Western European Study Tour in Berlin, London, Bonn and Brussels.
Steeves was adamant about the importance of education and told his children that, “an education was something that could never be taken from you.” It was education that provided the path to an enriched life and the ability to see the world from a larger perspective. During the 1980’s, his commitment to education led him to become heavily involved in South Dakota education, serving as Vice President of the State Board of Education and being appointed by the Governor to the Board of Regents. During his tenure as president of the Board of Regents, Steeves oversaw the hiring of Betty Turner Asher, the first female president of the University of South Dakota.
Through the years Steeves enjoyed golfing, hunting pheasants and indulged a lifelong passion for duplicate bridge (Silver Life Master). One memorable bridge tournament included playing against Bill Gates. A rabid Vikings supporter since 1961, Steeves often traveled to Minneapolis to see the games with his son JB. Despite constant disappointment and heartbreak as a Vikings fan, Steeves even endured the last and coldest outdoor game the Vikings played (minus 6 degrees F at kickoff) wearing heated socks, hand warmers and mounds of clothing.
Steeves’s family will always remember him as a man who lived life in his own way on his own terms, a man who loved to travel and experience other cultures with friends and family trips. He cherished his friendships and loved his fifty-seven years as a lawyer. Steeves continued to work every day until the week of his death. Steeves passed away October 30, 2020, and is survived by his wife, Louise, his three children, Andrea of Sherman Oaks, CA; Rosemary McCaffrey of Pheonix, AZ; John (JB) and wife Lenee, of Fuquay-Varina, NC; a granddaughter Blair and grandson Edwin; his sister Marcia Drumm (Gene) of Manitowoc, WI; niece, Carrie Barner (Jeff), Abby and Luke Barner; nephew Steven of Chicago and also his beloved Labrador Buddy 14 ½.
Because of the pandemic, the family will wait until spring to gather with friends and share memories of Steeves in Mitchell.
In honor of his commitment to South Dakota education and the rule of law, the family is establishing an endowed scholarship in Steeves’ name at the University of South Dakota and asks that memorials be directed the USD Foundation in memory of E. Steeves Smith 1110 N Dakota Street Vermillion, SD 57069 or by phone at 605-677-6703.