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Wednesday, January 1, 2003
Updated: January 6, 5:01 PM ET
Foss was an Air Force colonel in Korean War

Associated Press

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- Joe Foss, the first commissioner of the American Football League, died Jan. 1. He was 87.

Foss also was a World War II fighter ace, who won the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Flying Cross after shooting down 26 enemy planes. After leaving the Marine Corps, Foss entered politics and became governor of South Dakota in 1955.

Foss never regained consciousness after suffering an apparent aneurysm in October. He died at a hospital in Arizona, South Dakota Gov. Bill Janklow said.

He became commissioner of the AFL in 1960, and remained in the job until 1966.

Foss also served as a colonel in the Air Force in the Korean War.

He also hosted the television show "The American Sportsman" on ABC, and was president of the National Rifle Association from 1988-90.

"I always had the attitude that every day will be a great day," Foss said in a 1987 interview. "I look forward to it like a kid in a candy store, wherever I am."

Foss was born in 1915 on a farm near Sioux Falls. He once said his love of flying dated to his childhood, when he watched pilots fly over his family's home and wave from the cockpit.

"I thought, 'Someday I'm going to trade these horses for an airplane,'" he said.