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February 7th, 1897 – Today marks an especially interesting passage in the history of Sioux Falls, especially to a person looking back from 2022! Today a man by the name of Richard Lamb died in Sioux Falls.
To hear his story, he led a good life, but at face value not an all together remarkable life!

He moved to Sioux Falls as a young man with his wife, they eventually had a couple of children. He owned his own business on the main street of Sioux Falls, what would become Phillips Ave. just across the street from the grand Cataract Hotel.

He made his living as a barber, and as was somewhat customary for the day and due to some previous training before coming to Sioux Falls, he also dabbled in the practice of medicine.
Richard Lamb, owned a small piece of land that he also worked. He was well regarded by the people of his community, He shows up time and time again in the newspapers of the time for one reason or another.

He served on local boards, joined local organizations, weighed in on local matters, and even ran for local office on one occasion.

Upon his death is eulogized in the local newspaper with no shortage of flowery words and compliments. Even a written history of the time period takes a space of page to chronical Richard Lamb as having lived and thrived in Sioux Falls as a great neighbor and dear friend. All of which makes him a fantastic example of civic duty and entrepreneurial spirit, but again not too uncommon, especially in this part of the world.
What makes Richard Lamb remarkable, especially to someone looking back from 2022 is that he was a black man. And it is not so much that he is black, but that as a black man he was “allowed” by his community to do all of these things!

It doesn’t square with everything we have been taught! Black men in the 1800’s weren’t “allowed” to do all of these things! They “couldn’t” live this kind of life!

But Richard Lamb new back then… what many of us have learned… Sioux Falls was/is a different kind of place!

The pioneer life was so deadly and brutal there was no room for racism and bigotry. When storms are known for dropping over 20 inches of snow in a single day, or producing winds nearing 100 mph sweeping across the treeless land, I need the best builder available! Whether he is white, black, or green… I need the job done right! To these pioneers, to these early residents of Sioux Falls, Richard Lamb wasn’t a black man, he was a man they could trust to do his job right… and they loved him for that!

Richard Lamb was indeed remarkable! He is remarkable for his accomplishments, but more so, for causing us in the year 2022,, exactly 125 years after his death, to re-examine our history and understand the seeds of tolerance, acceptance, unity, and inclusiveness that were necessary for men and women to survive in the brutal life on the prairie, were sown long before we ever thought, and we owe it to those men and women to cultivate and continue to help them grow!