Legacy and the Law

Last Monday, my editor (also known as my mother) had the brilliant idea that I should write about Arnold Borson. It is National Police Week, she had pointed out, so the thought of him as my weekly blog subject very much went hand in hand. It seemed like an easy idea, writing about this town marshal, but it turned out that the execution of this post was difficult so I apologize for it being a week too late.

Arnold Borson was the eldest brother of my great-grandfather, Burton. In the early morning hours of Tuesday, August 18, 1936, this 33 year-old man was patrolling Ghent, a town of about 300 that is located in southwestern Minnesota. He came upon and confronted two robbers rifling through a garage. According to The Minneapolis Star, there was an exchange of gunfire and Arnold was shot with the bullet becoming lodged in his neck. The following day, in critical condition and his legs paralyzed, he was transported nearly 200 miles to Rochester, MN. On Saturday, August 22nd, four days after the robbery, Arnold passed away. His death certificate reads “fractures of the spine and skull” as the primary cause of death with “hemorrhages and contusions of the spinal cord and brain” as the secondary cause.

Arnold’s mother and wife beside his gravestone.

I had found it challenging to write about Arnold for many reasons, the first being the extent of his injuries and the amount of time he had suffered. The second was about the people he left behind. At the time of his death, he was still in a newlywed phase, having been married to his wife, Florence, for less than two years. Then there were also his parents, Oluf and Olive, as well as his eight brothers and sisters. But perhaps the most difficult part was that they had never found his killer. In 1938, a man was arrested in Nebraska for Arnold’s death but nothing ever came from the charges. Finally, another reason why this story is so hard, yet remarkable at the same time, is that Arnold’s death was not officially recognized for more than 70 years.

A distant relative of mine remembered the stories he heard as a child about Arnold, researched, and strove to preserve Arnold’s memory. In 2008, Arnold Borson’s name was added to the list of fallen officers on the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington D. C. This was shortly after he was also added to the Minnesota memorial.

So in the end, when it comes to officer memorials and to blog posts, it seems like Arnold rarely gets his dues in a timely matter.  However, as far as this post goes, I’m very honored to play a part in giving Arnold some greatly deserved recognition.

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