Portrait from the 1957 South Dakota Manual.
August is upon us and after several profiles centered on political figures from North Dakota, we journey to that state's southern neighbor to highlight the life of Leath Carroll Fullerton, a Beadle County-based furniture dealer who served two full terms in the South Dakota state senate. Reelected to a third term in 1960, Fullerton would die in office in 1961, succumbing to injuries he'd sustained in a car accident in October of that year. The son of William and Verna Fullerton, Leath Carroll Fullerton was born in Delta, Iowa on February 14, 1901.
A graduate of the Milton, Iowa high school, Fullerton went on to attend the Iowa State College at Ames and the University of Minnesota. In May 1925 he married to Lucille Emmelius and later had two children, Hugh Robert (1925-2015) and Rilla Bea (born ca. 1931). Following their marriage, the Fullerton family resided in Spring Valley, Minnesota, and Helena, Montana before permanently settling in Huron, South Dakota in 1929.
Following his settlement in Huron Fullerton took work with the Axelrad Furniture Company, remaining in their employ until deciding to go into business for himself, and in 1932 founded the Fullerton Furniture Company, which is still in existence today. Fullerton would later be joined by his son Hugh Robert, who became a partner in the business.
As a widely known figure in the Huron business community, Fullerton was active in a number of civic and fraternal groups, including service as president of the Chamber of Commerce, the International Order of Odd Fellows, the Izaak Walton League, the Elks, the Masons and the Huron Country Club. He entered the political life of his state in 1956 when he won election to the South Dakota Senate from Beadle County and would subsequently serve on the committees on Apportionment; Game, Fish, and Parks; the Judiciary, Municipalities; State Affairs; and Transportation and Communications. He would also chair the committee on Appropriations.
Fullerton's three terms in the Senate saw him earn the reputation as an "amiable and effective legislator", being remarked in his Daily Republic obituary as having been "always jovial and excelled at breaking tension when the going got rough in the legislature", as well as a strong supporter for water conservancy measures and mental health legislation. In his last Senate term, Fullerton served as a member of the Legislative Research Council (LRC) and was named to an investigating committee studying the state welfare department.
Portrait from the Huron Daily Plainsman, October 20, 1961.
L. Carroll Fullerton's time in state government was brought to a tragic end in October 1961, as the result of car accident. On October 18 of that year, he and two longtime hunting companions, Ralph Bischoff (a former state board of equalization member) and Frank Sanderson (a state fair board member) had begun a duck hunting trip when their station wagon was hit broadside by a gravel truck near Yale, South Dakota. Bischoff, who had been driving the vehicle, died at the scene, and Frank Sanderson, who had survived the initial impact, was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. The driver of the truck, Albert Hohm, survived with a broken leg and other minor injuries.
Following transport to St. John's Hospital in Huron, L. Carroll Fullerton was in critical condition and underwent surgery soon after arrival. He would succumb to his injuries on October 20, 1961, aged 60, and was survived by his wife, children, and mother, Verna. He was later interred at the Riverside Cemetery in Huron.
From the Huron Daily Republic, October 20, 1961.