Barrett Lowe

Barrett_Lowe_small.jpgBarrett Lowe's wife was quoted saying, "Barrett really had three careers." Over the span of his life, he was governor of two territories, college president, public school administrator, naval officer, and author. Throughout his intriguing life, he always had a fondness for Madison and the university.

The Lowe family affiliation with Dakota State goes back to 1889, when Edna Beck Lowe, mother of Barrett, graduated from Madison State Normal School. Ms. Lowe taught music at DSU in the 1920's. Edna's husband was the first medical doctor in Lake County. Although he attended only one year at the college in Madison,he made a lasting impression on the campus. Richard Barrett Lowe was born in Madison, South Dakota in 1902 and graduated in 1929 from the Normal School.

During his senior year, he wrote the scenario and directed the motion picture, "Dacotah". "Dacotah" is believed to be the first full-length motion picture ever produced on a college campus.

The motion picture was produced by students and faculty from Eastern State Normal School in the spring of 1929 and chronicles the history of South Dakota from prehistoric times to the present. It was completed in six reels with no sound.

The movie was completed with the aid of a cameraman and director from the Sly Fox Film Corp in Minneapolis. The filming was to have been completed in three weeks, but took six instead. Lowe, in his book "20 million acres" writes:

"Of fascinating scenes that stand out in memory the breaking of the oxen was the most humorous, the work of the Flandreau Indians was the most interesting, the prairie fire scene was the most thrilling, the property girl strapping a sword to Beadle for use as a surveyor on the open prairie was the most ridiculous, the bucking horse with delicate and valuable surveying instruments dangling between fore and hind legs was the most profane, and the theft of the jerked beef by hungry students was by far the most tragic."

After graduation, Lowe went on to be an educator and was superintendent of several schools in several South Dakota districts. He also served as President of Sioux Falls College for a short time.

In 1943, Lowe became a commander in the Navy Reserve. There he originated the "Stay in School" program and published the Occupational Handbook.

While in the Navy, he became interested in island government. In 1953, President Eisenhower appointed him as governor of American Samoa. There he was successful in bringing stability to the government in a short time. Upon leaving the island, a civilian was selected as his successor.

In 1956, he was able to repeat his success in American Samoa in Guam. He left Guam in 1956 with civilian governors in place.

He settled in Washington D.C. and began to restore old homes. Several of which were quite famous, including one which was rebuilt on the spot of George Washington's Town House that served as his surveying office.


Sources :

1981 Alumni News

DSU Scholarship book, 2001

Madison Daily Leader, DSC Centennial Special Section, Wed. May 6, 1981