The Early Years
Tim, a 5th generation South Dakotan, grew up in the family of a Milwaukee Road agent whose work took him across eastern and western South Dakota to various towns across the state. By the time Tim started school the family lived in Kimball. During his school years, Tim played every sport, captained his teams, and was his school’s Boy’s State representative.
He took his first job at 12, sacking potatoes at Folan’s IGA in Kimball. He graduated from Kimball High School in 1974.
With help from his parents and by working his way through college, often with two jobs, Tim attended South Dakota State University. After a legislative internship semester in Pierre, he completed his degree studies in History and English at the University of South Dakota.
After college, while waiting to begin law school, Tim worked in a factory for nine months, where he developed a deep respect for hard work and those who perform it, and the dignity of all work.
Tim began law school in the Fall of 1979. He served on the South Dakota Law Review Board, was a Claude W. Schutter Scholarship Award recipient, and three of his law review articles were published during his law school career. Tim worked during law school painting houses, as an intern, as a teaching assistant to law professors his last two years, and graduated from law school in 1982.
The Law Practice Years
In 1980, Tim met freshman law student, Carol Kay Ontjes, a student in a class Tim assisted teaching. The two married in 1982, the year they both graduated.
From the start, the couple’s faith has been an important part of their marriage and family. As a part of that expression of faith, the young couple made a commitment that, before they started a family and began the practice of law, they would serve in Christian missions for a year. So, in early January 1983 they loaded up their 1967 Chevrolet station wagon for the trip to St. Catharine’s, Ontario, where they led a ministry to the isolated elderly living in the city.
Upon their return to South Dakota in December, 1983, Tim and Kay hung out their shingle in the general practice of law in Bridgewater, where Tim would serve as a small town lawyer for the next 23 years, while Kay assisted and worked out of the home as the family began to expand.
During Tim’s law practice years, he wrote wills, settled estates, handled real estate transactions, represented cooperatives, cities and towns and a variety of boards, and tried cases to juries across Southeastern South Dakota, ranging from DUI to Murder as well as variety of civil cases, and arguing successfully before state and federal appellate courts.
Tim’s deepest satisfaction in the law came from helping ordinary people navigate the hardships of life and business. He made frequent house calls, and sometimes sat alongside dying clients as they expressed their last desires.
As a lawyer, Tim served on the South Dakota Trial Lawyers Board of Governors, and for several years as chair of the State Bar of South Dakota’s Pattern Jury Instruction Committee, a committee made up of trial lawyers and judges who prepare the model instructions judges read to juries at a trial. In 2002, South Dakota’s Chief Justice appointed Tim to serve on the South Dakota Board of Pardons and Paroles, a role he fulfilled until 2006.
Tim and Kay raised four sons.
James, a 2006 West Point graduate, who served as a platoon leader in Iraq, and later as an Army Captain, and who now lives in Katy, Texas, where he works in the petroleum industry.
John served for 12 years with the South Dakota National Guard, including two deployments in the War of Iraqi Freedom with Charlie Battery. John is currently a senior at Augustana University, and also works in farming.
Sam, a 2012 West Point graduate, and an Army Captain, is married to fellow Captain Naomi (Fuhrman) Bjorkman. They are stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, and live in El Paso, with their two children, Tessa Joy, who begins the 7th generation of South Dakota Bjorkmans, and Isaac John Bjorkman
Seth is a 2017 graduate of Southeast Technical Institute and lives in Sioux Falls, together with his wife, Caitria (Sweeney) Bjorkman. Seth is employed in the hotel business and Caitria is employed in food services and attends college.
The Value of Serving Others
Tim learned the value of selfless service in the home growing up. His father, John Bjorkman, who served in WWII as an infantryman, was a life-long member of the American Legion and instilled in his children the importance of giving back to the community. He was active in the American Legion and coached all his sons in baseball. Tim also coached baseball and helped coach other sports.
Tim served as President of the Better Bridgewater Club, on the board of the Bridgewater Nursing Home, as President of the Canistota Lions Club, and led in the formation of the Canistota Community Foundation, the Canistota Athletic Association, and in various church and other community groups.
In 2006, Tim was elected a judge of the First Judicial Circuit for South Dakota with 73% of the vote. He was re-elected without opposition in 2014, and served until leaving the bench in June 2017.
While on the bench, Tim served as President of the South Dakota Judges’ Association.
Tim is a student of history and an author of historical and legal topics. In 2006, the University of Oklahoma Press published his book of American and South Dakota history titled, “Verne Sankey: America’s First Public Enemy.”
In addition to history, Tim has also written extensively on the law. Several of his articles have appeared in legal and other publications, including one soon to be published in the South Dakota Law Review in October 2017, titled, “A State in Shackles: The Effect of a Dysfunctional Childhood on Crime and Imprisonment.”
For fun and fitness, Tim has for many years trained and competed in USA Masters and Senior Track and Field, where he is a two-time USA Masters Track and Field All-American in the Pentathlon and 60 Meter Dash.
Tim finds deep joy in singing four-part harmony, especially in quartets and has also performed duets with Kay, and solos in a variety of small-town and church venues, sometimes with Kay’s accompaniment and sometimes playing his guitar, but mostly at home for relaxation and enjoyment.