Alvin Strutz began his appointment on the North Dakota Supreme Court on this date in 1959. Strutz had already made a name for himself as the state’s Attorney General, a one-time candidate for Governor, and a successful Bismarck lawyer. However, it was not an election that won Strutz the prestigious seat on North Dakota’s highest court, but an appointment by Governor John Davis.
Strutz was born in 1903 in Milbank, South Dakota, but moved to Jamestown and attended the public schools; he went on to enroll at Jamestown College, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in 1925. He graduated from the University of North Dakota Law School in 1930.
He returned to Jamestown and opened a law office, but after a few years relocated to Bismarck with his family. In 1937, he was appointed by William Langer to become the state’s Attorney General. In that role, Strutz became best known for investigating the state’s last lynching, near Schafer in McKenzie County in 1931. Although an initial investigation had found no evidence to charge those who participated, Strutz wrote in 1939, that the state’s justice system had failed to protect the lynching victim, Charles Bannon, and that attempting to punish those who participated “would have been the right thing.”
In 1944, he resigned from office to run for Governor himself, but lost in the general election to Fred Aandahl. He returned to private practice, opening the firm of Strutz, Jansonius, and Fleck; it would be a decade and a half before he again served in public office. In December of 1958, State Supreme Court Justice Nels Johnson passed away while in office. Governor John Davis chose Strutz for the post, an appointment that became effective on April 11th, 1959. A year later, voters illustrated their approval of the appointment by electing Strutz for the remaining eight years of Johnson’s original appointment. In 1968, voters spoke again by re-electing Strutz to a further ten-year term. He passed away while in office on June 16th, 1973, at the age of seventy.
Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job