Mount Rushmore remains the most famous tribute to American presidents in the world.
The images of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt stare out from the granite face of the Black Hills mountain. It's an iconic place for South Dakotans and people around the world, who mainly know of the state because of it.
Only one of those four presidents set foot in the state, and he was very popular, both as a man and a politician. Roosevelt — he greatly disliked being called "Teddy" — was first honored in the Black Hills when Mount Theodore Roosevelt was named in his honor.
But before the mountain was named for him and long before Gutzon Borglum carved his friend's visage into stone, he was a political success in the state. Roosevelt was a progressive Republican — yes this was a long time ago, when such creatures existed — and South Dakota was in the midst of a populist era.
Roosevelt appeared on national tickets three times, and South Dakota supported him every time. In 1900, he was the running mate of President William McKinley.
In 1904, with Roosevelt now the president following McKinley's assassination, TR won in his own right.
Roosevelt announced he would not seek another term in 1908, although he was still a very young man.
In 1912, TR decided the two-term tradition no longer applied to him, and South Dakota voters did their best to return him to the White House.
Roosevelt defeated his former close friend and protege, President William Howard Taft, in nine of 12 primaries, including one in South Dakota. Taft won just one, while a third candidate, Wisconsin Sen. Robert "Fighting Bob" La Follette, who was even more liberal than Roosevelt, claimed the other two.
But the Republican Convention was controlled by Taft, and he obtained the nomination despite his rejection by GOP voters. Roosevelt, enraged, formed the Progressive Party, which was dubbed the "Bull Moose Party.”
With Taft and Roosevelt splitting more than 50 percent of the vote, Democrat Woodrow Wilson won the 1912 presidential election. TR finished second, and it has been claimed that he cost Wilson as many liberal votes as he did Taft votes from Republicans.
But this is clear: 1912 was the last time the Democrats and Republicans didn't finish in the top two in an election.
It also marked the only time South Dakota has supported a third-party candidate, although there is an asterisk on that. Roosevelt was recognized as the Republican candidate in the state. South Dakota was the sole state to keep Taft off the ballot.
Roosevelt died in 1919 as he prepared for yet another run for the White House. His death stunned the nation — he was only 60 — and his great friend Seth Bullock had the Friendship Tower built atop Mount Theodore Roosevelt in his honor. It remains there today.
Bullock, a legendary lawman who was portrayed in the HBO series "Deadwood," died later that same year.
Roosevelt is best known for his time in North Dakota. But he had an abiding affection for South Dakota, and the state had one for him, too.
Fourth-generation South Dakota native Tom Lawrence has been writing about the state since 1978. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and read his blog at sdprairie.blogspot.com. His column publishes Tuesdays.