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November 30: Sheriff Myron Thistlethwaite

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In 1955, the city of Bismarck was in the middle of a scandalous trial. On this date the district attorney accepted a $300 bond, filed through the governor’s office for the removal of Sheriff Myron Thistlethwaite, a necessary step in the process for removing a public office holder.

The story of Thistlethwaite’s fall from grace has many twists and turns. It all started with an accusation by Sheriff Thistlethwaite and a Special Deputy Investigator that claimed police chief Don Schoeneman was condoning law violations. They cited several cases. In the first case, they alleged that the department released a clergyman who had assaulted an 8-year-old boy at a movie theatre. On another occasion, they said the department intended to allow an “emotionally disturbed nurse” to leave the state with no police escort. Finally, they claimed the police chief turned a blind eye when he learned of a bar serving alcohol to minors. Chief Schoeneman said he was shocked and appalled by the accusations. He denied any wrongdoing, challenging Thistlethwaite to “prove it.”

Enter, police commissioner Mills, who launched a full-scale investigation. However, much to the sheriff’s chagrin, the claims against Schoeneman were not substantiated. Instead, in a turn of events fit for Hollywood, Thistlethwaite faced legal action from the city for false accusations. But Thistlethwaite refused to retract his allegations. Consequently, Bismarck city commissioners voted unanimously to remove him from office on grounds of incompetence, misconduct, and misuse of power.

Perhaps justice had been served, but the question naturally arises: was this a victory for the rule of law? Or was Myron Thistlethwaite another victim of police corruption?

Dakota Datebook by Colby Aderhold

Sources:

  • Minot Daily News, November 30th, 1955
  • Minot Daily News, November 26th, 1955
  • Minot Daily News, November 28th, 1955
  • Minot Daily News, November 16th, 1955
  • Minot Daily News, November 8th, 1955
  • Minot Daily News, November 2nd, 1955
  • The Ward County Independent, October 13th, 1955
  • Minot Daily News, October 12th, 1955
  • Minot Daily News, October 11th, 1955
  • Minot Daily News, October 7th, 1955
  • Minot Daily News, October 6th, 1955
  • SHSND, 40888, Bismarck City Commission Minute Book Volume 000X, 1955

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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