Senator Tim Johnson

Tim Johnson learned early the value of a good education and the necessity of hard work. The son of a college professor and a homemaker, Tim’s roots run deep in the state.

Senator Tim Johnson
McGovern Day 2011

A fourth-generation South Dakotan, he was born in Canton to Van and Ruth Johnson. He has a brother, Tom, and a sister, Julie. His great-grandfather was a homesteader in what was then the Dakota Territory and instilled in Tim the importance of a hard day’s work and an understanding of the state’s farming and ranching community.

Tim attended school in Canton, Flandreau, and Vermillion, where he graduated from high school in 1965. He then attended the University of South Dakota (USD), graduating with Phi Beta Kappa academic honors. Tim went on to earn both a master’s degree in Public Administration and a law degree from the University of South Dakota.

While earning his undergraduate degree at USD, Tim met Barbara Brooks of Sioux Falls, whom he married shortly after graduating. During their early years together, Barbara and Tim quickly learned how to balance family needs with academic and professional pressure. After completing his graduate studies, Tim worked as a budget analyst for the Michigan State Senate Appropriations Committee while Barbara completed her master’s degree in social work. During that time, the couple welcomed their first child, Brooks.

In 1975, Tim began a private law practice in Vermillion and the couple welcomed their second child, Brendan. Three years later in 1978, Tim was elected to the South Dakota House of Representatives, and was later re-elected in 1980. It was during his second term in the state House that their daughter, Kelsey, was born. During that time, Barbara put her master’s degree to work and became very active in children’s issues and services. Despite their schedules, both parents remained committed and active in their children’s lives.

Following four years of service in the state House, Tim ran for the state Senate and was elected in 1982 and again in 1984. During his years in the South Dakota Legislature, Tim earned a reputation as a hardworking, effective author of sound fiscal and social policy. His achievements did not go unnoticed. In 1979, the Vermillion Jaycees presented him with the “Outstanding Citizen Award.” In 1983, he was the first recipient of the “Billie Sutton Award for Legislative Achievement” presented by the South Dakota Democratic Party.

After eight years in the state legislature, Tim decided to take his commitment to hard work and South Dakota values with him to Washington. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1986 with nearly 60 percent of the vote. During his first term in Congress, he was responsible for passing more legislation than any of the other 50 first-term members. Tim received national awards by the National Farmers Union, Disabled American Veterans, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Within the House Democratic leadership organization, Tim served as Regional Deputy Whip from 1991-94. Tim served as South Dakota’s congressman for five terms before being elected to the Senate on November 5, 1996. Since that time, Tim has been re-elected twice, in 2002 and again in 2008.

Tim is Chairman of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee and serves on several other important committees, including the powerful Appropriations Committee; the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Indian Affairs Committee.

As South Dakota’s senior Senator, he has worked to improve the lives of South Dakotans while establishing a strong record in the Senate. As an appropriator, Tim worked to secure $10 million to fund a deep underground science lab at the Homestake mine in Lead, and created incentives to benefit our state’s ethanol industry and farming community. Tim has proven to be a strong voice for South Dakota in Washington, defending our interests time and again, including fighting to save Ellsworth Air Force Base and keeping important projects like the Lewis and Clark water system on track.

Both Tim and Barbara have faced challenges together and have always fought to overcome them. In 2004, Tim battled prostate cancer. After surgery, all tests now show him clear of the disease. Barb, a two time breast cancer survivor, was crucial to his recovery. The two remain committed to raising awareness about cancer prevention and early testing.

On December 13, 2006, Tim suffered an intracerebral bleed caused by a congenital arteriovenous malformation. Following surgery and as his rehabilitation progressed, Tim remained committed to South Dakotans, working from home until he returned to his Senate office on September 5, 2007.

While thanking South Dakotans for their prayers and support at the Sioux Falls Convention Center in August 2007, Johnson said, “The greatest honor in my life has been to stand by your side and fight for you in Washington. Never in my life have I been so grateful that you have been standing by my side as well.”

Today, Tim remains an active member of numerous policy-based organizations and remains committed to advancing the lives of all South Dakotans and continues to be routinely honored for his work.  In 2008, Tim joined the Operation Homefront Congressional Advisory Board, a nonprofit organization that provides emergency support and morale to our troops. When invited to join, the group noted Tim’s commitment to the members of our armed services, their families and our veterans. Also that year, he was honored by the South Dakota Association for the Education of Young Children, the National Farmers Union, and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, just to name a few.

Their oldest son, Brooks, is in the National Guard following Army service in Bosnia, Kosovo, South Korea, Afghanistan, and Iraq. In May 2004, Brooks married Naida Snipas Johnson of Massachusetts. They have a son, Arijus Timothy Johnson, and a daughter, Aureja.

Their second eldest son Brendan is the U.S. Attorney for the District of South Dakota. He previously worked as an assistant prosecutor for Minnehaha County, clerked for U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier in Rapid City and practiced law in Sioux Falls. Married to Jana Beddow, together they have four children: Trualem, Peneal, Sutton and Cooper.  The family was blessed when “Tru” and “Pen,” who were adopted from Ethiopia, joined the Johnson family in 2007.

Their daughter, Kelsey, is a 2004 graduate of the University of South Dakota, and received her graduate degree from George Washington University in 2009. She currently works in policy development for the American Association for Cancer Research.

Throughout his career in public service, Tim Johnson has been a strong voice for South Dakota. A champion of fiscal responsibility and the state’s agricultural community, Tim’s commitment to family and hard work can be seen throughout his legislative accomplishments. As he begins his third term in the U.S. Senate, Tim remains one of the most popular public officials in South Dakota.