Memorial Hall honorees

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John "Jack" Dahl


Former NDSA and National Cattlemen’s Association President Jack Dahl, 88, died Jan. 28 at the Wishek Living Center in Wishek. The Gackle cattleman was a 67-year NDSA member and a recipient of the organization’s most prestigious honor, the Top Hand Award, in 1987. His photo hangs in the NDSA’s Memorial Hall.

Dahl was born in Fargo on Jan. 15, 1930, to C.M. “Max” and Eleanor (Reed) Dahl. He received his education at Chaffee Public School and, later, the North Dakota Agricultural College (now North Dakota State University), where he earned a bachelor of science degree in animal science. He served in the U.S. Army from 1952 to 1954. Stationed in Texas, Dahl worked as a meat inspector for the Armed Forces. He married Dorothy “Dottie” Davis on Feb. 23, 1952, in Fargo. The couple made their home southwest of Gackle, where they raised four children – Dan, Jeff, John (JD) and Margo.

Together with their sons, the couple owned and operated the Dahl Land & Cattle Company, a registered and commercial cow-calf and backgrounding operation known for its distinctive mitten brand. Dahl have raised Hereford, Red Angus, Salers, South Devon and composite cattle over the years and have hosted 49 production sales. Dahl was committed to the betterment of the agricultural industry and his community and served in numerous leadership roles in each over his lifetime. The list filled two pages in his memorial program. He was tapped as the NDSA president after serving as a District 3 director and then vice president. During his time at the organization’s helm, the NDSA was successful in raising funds to buy land and begin construction on its existing office building and supporting enabling legislation for the formation of the North Dakota Beef Commission, of which he was later the chair. In 2003, Dahl said that the extremely low level of funding for beef cattle research at the state and national level was the single-most important issue he faced during his NDSA presidency. Others he cited were the suspension of the beef import law, price ceilings on food and consumer boycotts of beef.


Dahl was the first president of the North Dakota Beef Cattle Improvement Association and was an early adopter of both performance and carcass testing. He was also the president of the Northwest Farm Managers Association, the North Dakota Hereford Association and the Logan County Livestock Improvement Association. He served on various agricultural advisory committees on the state level. The North Dakota Vocational Ag Education, North Dakota Extension Service and Central Grasslands Research Extension Center Advisory Committees were among many others. He was proud to have been a founder of the popular Gackle Livestock Show and served as its chairman for a decade.

Dahl rose to leadership at the national level too. He worked up the ranks in the National Cattlemen’s Association as a director, regional vice president and, later, its highest officer. He also chaired the organization’s Animal Health Committee. He was a member of the Secretary of Agriculture’s advisory committee on foreign animal diseases and other national-scope brucellosis subcommittees.

Dahl was the chairman of the National Cattlemen’s Foundation and the Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corporation (Farmer Mac) Board and was a director of the National Live Stock and Meat Board and the Beef Industry Council.

Dahl had an eye for cattle and was a popular livestock judge as well. He evaluated many local, state, regional and national shows, including the National Western Stock Show Hereford Carload Show, the Northern International Livestock Exposition and the North Dakota and Red River Valley Winter Shows, and coached the local 4-H and FFA livestock judging teams. Additionally, he was a member of the Emmanuel Lutheran Church and American Legion Club in Gackle. Dahl was honored many times for his contributions and achievements in agriculture. He was inducted into the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame in the Modern-Era Ranching Division in 2004. He was named the North Dakota State University Saddle & Sirloin Club’s Agriculturalist of the Year, the North Dakota Hereford Promoter of the Year, the North Dakota Cattleman of the Year and the North Dakota Man of the Year in Agriculture and earned numerous other awards.

In words of remembrance at Dahl's funeral service, his son, Dan, reminded the congregation that his dad often signed his Christmas letter “the curmudgeon,” defined as an ill-tempered, difficult, contentious person. He explained how that was fitting for his dad, who was known for his strong convictions. “Dad was not the kind of guy to follow people over a cliff,” Dan said. “He was always willing to give his opinion – even if he stepped on some toes. Dad seldom backed away from something he believed in or what he thought was right. He taught me many years ago that, if you’re going to complain about something, you better have a plan to fix it or an idea to make it better, and he lived that philosophy.”

Dahl is survived by his wife Dottie, their children – Dan of Streeter; Jeff and JD of Gackle; and Margo (Mickey) Spring of Fargo; five grandchildren – Samuel, Jordan (Kendra), Nathan, Brooke and Jasmyne; and four great-grandchildren – Hadley, Adrienne, Maximus and Azalea. He was preceded in death by his parents; his two sisters – Martha and Kay; and his daughter-in-law Dorothy.