Marlboro Man: 1) A mythical cowboy who was the face of Marlboro cigarettes in the U.S. and around the world. 2) Clint Roberts
He was known as the Marlboro Man around South Dakota and in Washington,
D.C., but at Hutch’s, the famous watering hole in Presho for the Lyman County Mafia,
he was known as just plain Clint.
A tall, salt-of- the-earth man with broad shoulders and a mustache rivaling Tom
Selleck’s, Clint Roberts was an honest to goodness cowboy who embodied what a
West River South Dakotan was was all about.
His passing on Monday at age 82 after a long illness stopped many who knew him
in their tracks, and prompted memories of his colorful but important service to his
Despite his fame in South Dakota and beyond, Clint never took it too seriously. If
you sat down for a cup of coffee with him, or something stronger, you never heard
him boast about his political accomplishments, or his flirtation with Hollywood.
Clint served in the state senate for four years in the 1970s, then succeeded Jim
Abdnor as a member of the U.S. Congress in 1980, the same year that Abdnor
defeated George McGovern for the U.S. Senate seat.
When 1982 rolled around, South Dakota was forced to give up one of its two
House seats because of the 1980 Census and Clint found himself pitted against Tom
Daschle, the House representative from the state’s East River, or 1st District.
Though he lost the at-large seat in a close race, he remained popular and served
as the state’s secretary of agriculture in 1979-80 for Gov. Bill Janklow.
Clint was well known for his political successes, but it was his fling as the
Marlboro Man that many remember. Though he tried out for the national role, his
auditions did not make the final cut. He did appear in some other commercials, but
the mere fact that he was considered to be the face for one of America’s favorite
cigarettes was enough to solidify his acting fame.
Roberts also was a charter member of the Lyman County Mafia, the long line of
Lyman Countians to enjoy success in the political field – a fact recalled by Herb
Sundall, a Lyman County lawyer whose law office descends from Lyman County’s
only governor of the state, M.Q. Sharpe.
But Sharpe was just the start of a list that includes Roberts, Jim Abdnor, plus two
lieutenant govenors, A.C. Miller and John Frank Lindley. There were many others.
As Sundall once said: “Lyman County’s main crops are winter wheat, milo, cattle and
politicians, not necessarily in that order.”
Feb. 15, 2017