James Abdnor was born in Kennebec (S.D.) February 13, 1923 to immigrant Lebanese homesteaders, Samuel J. and Mary (Wehby) Abdnor. He attended both grade school and high school in Kennebec. He served in the United States Army during World War II from 1942-1943.
He graduated from the University of Nebraska with a B.A. in Business Administration in 1945 and was a member and president of the Sigma Chi fraternity and member of the University of Nebraska Student Council.
He returned to Kennebec and began his career as a schoolteacher and farmer-rancher. He coached for more than 20 years for the Lyman County Junior League and Teener baseball teams.
He was chair of the South Dakota Young Republicans and farm chairman of the National Young Republicans. He served as first assistant chief clerk of the South Dakota House of Representatives in 1951, 1953, and 1955.
Abdnor was State Senator from 1956-1968, serving ten years as chairman of the Joint House/Senate Appropriations Committee and President Pro-tempore of the South Dakota Senate from 1967-1968.
In 1968 he ran a successful campaign to become the thirtieth Lieutenant Governor of South Dakota from 1969-1970.
He was defeated in the 1970 South Dakota U.S. House Republican primary election but was later elected on November 7, 1972 to the 93rd Congress, U.S. House of Representatives and later re-elected to the 94th, 95th, and 96th Congress.
In 1980 he challenged incumbent senator, George McGovern and won a decisive victory, going on to serve on various committees including chairman of the Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Water Resources, chairman of the Joint Economic Subcommittee on Agriculture and Transportation, and the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Treasury, Postal Service, and General Government. He was defeated in the 1986 U.S. Senate general election by Tom Daschle.
In December of 1986, President Ronald Reagan nominated Abdnor to head the U.S. Small Business Administration. He retired in 1989.
His civic activities included membership in the Methodist Church; former president of the Kennebec Jaycees; member of Elks, Masons, Order of the Easter Star, Consistory, American Legion, South Dakota Wheat Producers, South Dakota Stockgrowers, Farmers Union, Farm Bureau and Izaak Walton League; Nature Conservancy; South Dakota Cancer Crusade Chairman; South Dakota Easter Seal Chairman.
In 1993, Abdnor donated his Congressional papers to the South Dakota State Historical Society.
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