|Joe Kirby was a prominent pioneer lawyer in Sioux Falls. He was the patriarch of a large family, which has been active in the city for four generations. He also founded Kirby Law Office and Western Surety Company, one of the principal employers in the city of Sioux Falls, SD.
Kirby attended grade school in the Lawler area. Since there was no high school available in the area, he and some acquaintances used the grade school facilities to further their education in the evenings. After that, Joe borrowed books from lawyers in neighboring towns and eventually passed the bar examination. At the time, it was not necessary to attend law school or even a college to practice law; the only requirement was the test.
In 1886, Joe headed west. He moved to Sioux Falls in June, working on farms along the way for a meal and a bed. He wasn’t able to get into the law office he wanted, so he spent the summer working for a farmer in the Montrose area instead. In the fall, he joined the Bailey and Davis Law Firm. In 1888, Kirby established his own practice in the city.
On a train en route to the nation’s capitol, Kirby met some businessmen who were affiliated with some eastern-based bonding companies, which resulted in Kirby establishing the Western Surety Company in 1900. Over the next ten years the company grew, not only throughout South Dakota, but also into neighboring states. Today, Western Surety Company is operating in all 50 states and services over 40,000 independent insurance agencies. It is the largest agency force of any insurance or bond company in the country and has nearly 500 employees.
Wikipedia entry on Joe Kirby
Kirby, Joe P. "The Case of the German Socialist Farmers: Joe Kirby Challenges the Espionage Act of 1917" Link to South Dakota History Vol. 42, No. 3 Fall 2012