May Adam is likely the oldest South Dakota law firm. It was first established in Pierre in 1881 as Wakefield & Horner. Since that time, it has been known successively as: Horner & Stewart; Horner, Martens & Goldsmith; Martens & Goldsmith; Martens, Goldsmith & May; Martens, Goldsmith, May & Porter; Martens, Goldsmith, May, Porter & Adam; May, Porter, Adam, Gerdes & Thompson; May, Adam, Gerdes & Thompson LLP.
Glenn Martens (1881-1963) and Karl Goldsmith (1885-1966) were practicing lawyers in Pierre, SD from just after the turn of the century to the middle 1960’s. Martens was a professional boxer, and apprenticed and read the law to become a lawyer, while Goldsmith was a graduate of Yale University.
Martens made a practice and was known as a litigator. He served in the State Senate from 1923-24 and as Chairman of the South Dakota Republican Party from 1938 to 1944. Goldsmith had a substantial office practice. He served without compensation for many years as Executive Secretary of the State Bar of South Dakota. Martens and Goldsmith were fast friends and highly regarded practitioners whose individual professional skills complemented one another.
In 1950, Martens and Goldsmith took a local boy into the practice. Warren W. May was born in Philip, he grew up in Pierre, and in 1939 left to University of Minnesota. In 1940 Warren joined the armed forces which lead him to the South Pacific, the Midway Islands, New Guinea and Australia serving in World War II. In 1945 Warren reentered the University of Minnesota. Warren graduated in 1948 from the University of Minnesota College of Law and returned home serving a term as State’s Attorney before joining the law firm. Warren built a statewide reputation as a brilliant South Dakota lawyer and lobbyist. Stories about Warren’s courtroom and Statehouse appearances are legendary, and we often revel in reciting the stories we have heard about his practice. Warren actively practiced law in Pierre for over 50 years. Warren passed away on July 30th, 2018 at the age of 97.
Don Porter was born in Madison, SD. He was practicing in Chamberlain when Warren May needed a partner, and so Don and his family moved to Pierre. Don had a sly grin and a way about him which endeared him to those he met. On January 1, 1977, Don was appointed to the South Dakota Supreme Court and on March 15, 1979, President Carter nominated him to U.S. District Court. He served on the federal bench here in Pierre until his death, serving as chief judge from 1985 to 1991.
Tom Adam came to Pierre from the USD law school in the early 60’s. Tom was very politically attuned. He was very proud to represent the South Dakota Bankers Association for almost 40 years. As one of our great lawyers in Pierre, SD, he developed an office practice which cast far and wide, helping farmers and ranchers meet their needs. Tom passed away on October 5th, 2019 at the age of 84.
Dave Gerdes grew up in Lemmon, SD and in 1968, after law school at USD chose May, Porter and Adam over the Burroughs Typewriter Company. Dave was a skilled litigator with over 70 jury trials to his credit. Dave also represented our state’s utility companies before the legislature and the Public Utilities Commission. He was President of the State Bar and served in the Jackrabbit Bar Association and in the Lawyer Pilot Association. Dave passed away on September 29th, 2021 at the age of 79.
Charlie Thompson grew up on a ranch northwest of Fort Pierre, on Mission Ridge. In 1968, after stints at Colorado State and USD law school, he started practicing with us. As a South Dakota lawyer, he was a tenacious litigator and practiced throughout the state. His friendly jovial persona lent itself well to the rural facets of practice. He performed well in the cities also, and his deep involvement with the leadership of the American Bar Association is a source of pride for him. Charlie lives in Pierre, still actively maintains the family ranch and keeps up with his kids and grandkids. We get to hear his booming laughter in the office a couple of times a week.