A healthy wheat crop in North Dakota nearly five decades ago probably saved Gene Lebrun from a career as a federal bureaucrat.
Gene had just earned his undergraduate degree in political science from St. John’s University at Collegeville, Minnesota, in 1961 when he landed a job with the Social Security Administration. He quickly became disenchanted with the federal bureaucracy and after just two months, Gene knew he had put his fledgling career on the wrong course.
“My dad was a farmer in North Dakota about 16 miles from the Canadian border,” Gene says with a remembering smile. “At harvest time, he called me and said if I’d come home and help with the harvest, he’d help me through law school. That was a good offer and I took him up on it.”
After putting up the crop, Gene immediately enrolled at the University of North Dakota Law School, earning his juris doctorate in 1964 and joining Lynn Jackson later that year.
“I never met a lawyer until I was in law school and I had never been in a courtroom until I entered law school,” he laughs. “But, what I really was attracted to in law was the breadth – the wide variety of issues you become involved with.”
“Usually, the issues with which we are dealing are not so provincial,” Gene says. “They have a significant impact on the development of law throughout the nation. These decisions can have a long-lasting impact on the way we all do business.”
Gene served in the South Dakota Legislature from 1971 to 1974, and was Speaker of the House during the last two years of his tenure. He has been a Uniform Law Commissioner for South Dakota since 1976. He is a Life Member of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws and served as President from 1997 to 1999. Gene also was a Commissioner on the National Advisory Commission on Electronic Commerce (1998-2000). He is a member of the American Law Institute, an Associate Member of the American Board of Trial Lawyers, and a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation. He was a member of the South Dakota Health and Education Facilities Authority for 15 years, and is currently the South Dakota Budget and Policy Advisory Council, and the Mount Rushmore National Memorial Society. In September 2012 Gene was inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame.
Gene and his wife of 55 years, Patricia, have two children: Michael, 51, a civilian deputy director with the United States Department of Defense, and Kenneth, 49, an attorney with the international law firm of Davis and Polk in Tokyo, Japan. In his spare time, Gene loves to travel and to continue his pursuit of reading, especially U.S. presidential biographies.