Iowa County Circuit Judge William Dyke, 85, the county’s judge for 20 years, died in Bloomfield Hills Health and Rehabilitation in Dodgeville Thursday.
Dyke’s two decades as a judge came at the end of a career that began with radio and TV, and included four years as Madison mayor and runs for governor and vice president. It also included production of a cult ’70s movie, “The Giant Spider Invasion,” and interest in art, including in area courthouses.
“Iowa County has been very fortunate to have a judge with such extensive knowledge and experience as Judge Dyke,” said Sen. Howard Marklein (R–Spring Green) in a news release. “He has been a public servant for many years and we thank him for his service to Iowa County and the people of Wisconsin. …
“During his long judicial career, many of his accomplishments had a profound impact on the legal system for the rest of the state. His improvements to the foreclosure process in Iowa County and the founding of Iowa County’s Teen Court program eventually ended up serving as models for programs in other counties around the state. I am so glad that Rep. Todd Novak and I had the opportunity to visit with Judge Dyke last week and present him with a legislative citation honoring his many years of judicial service to Iowa County and the State of Wisconsin before his passing. He will be missed.”
Dyke worked at WISC radio (now WOZN, 1670 AM, 106.7 FM) and TV in Madison while a student at UW–Madison, hosting channel 3’s “Circus 3” and “Face the State.” He lost a close race for mayor in 1967, but was elected in 1969 and reelected in 1971. He lost in 1973 to Paul Soglin, now the city’s longest serving mayor.
Dyke ran for governor as a Republican and lost to Democratic Gov. Patrick Lucey in 1974. Two years later, he ran for vice president on the American Independent Party ticket with former Georgia Gov. Lester Maddox, though Dyke repudiated Maddox’s segregationist views.
In between runs for office, Dyke was a producer of “The Giant Spider Invasion,” about giant spiders that invaded the Merrill area. The movie was one of 1975’s top 50 grossing movies, with $23 million in sales for a movie with $325,000 in reported production costs. The movie featured one giant spider built on top of a Volkswagen Beetle, with crew members operating the giant legs from inside the car. The movie’s actors included Alan Hale Jr., the Skipper on “Gilligan’s Island,” and Barbara Hale, the secretary on “Perry Mason.”
After Dyke’s last run for office he moved to Mineral Point and became an attorney. Dyke also appeared on WISC-TV’s “Live at 5” Point–Counterpoint segment with Soglin in between Soglin’s terms in office.
Gov. Tommy Thompson appointed Dyke Iowa County circuit judge in 1996. Dyke announced he was not running for re-election late last year.
Dyke painted a watercolor painting in the Supreme Court reception room in the state Capitol in Madison of the Supreme Court and Council House buildings in the First Capitol in Belmont. Dyke also presented a painting of the Grant County Courthouse during its renovation project.
Dyke also illustrated the children’s book The General’s Hat, or Why the Bell Tower Stopped Working.
Dyke is survived by his wife Christine, children Wade, Sarah, Kate and Victoria, and seven grandchildren.
Arrangements are pending with Gorgen Funeral Services. A celebration of Dyke’s life is planned for April.
The Wisconsin State Journal contributed to this story.