Thursday, December 5, 2013

Gullick Nelson Risjord (1866-1951)

From the Madison Capital Times, August 30, 1951.

    The state of Wisconsin received passing mention in the December 2nd profile of oddly named Iowa jurist Zala A. Church, a Badger State native who lived the first two decades of his life there. In keeping with the recent theme of unusually named jurists, "America's Dairyland" has also produced its fair share of interestingly named judicial figures, and that includes the gentleman pictured above, Gullick Nelson Risjord. A native of Norway, Risjord migrated to the United States in the mid-1880s to seek a new life and after equal periods of hard work and law study became a circuit court judge for Wisconsin, subsequently serving nearly four decades on the bench.
   The son of Nels and Sonnef Pollag Risjord, Gullick N. Risjord was the second born son in a family of five children, his place of birth being in Tinn, Telemarken, Norway on December 4, 1866. Telemarken is also notable for having been the birthplace of one Drengman O. Aker, an Iowa State representative who was profiled here a few weeks ago. Risjord received his primary schooling in Norway and after attaining his eighteenth birthday left his home country to face an uncertain future in the United States. 
   Arriving in America in 1884, Risjord is recorded by Wisconsin, Its Story and Biography as settling in Dane County and is later noted as having "worked in the fields in the Red River valley." He recommenced with his education in the Blackearth High School and the Northwestern Business College in Madison. He continued to build on his education by enrolling at the University of Wisconsin and graduated in the class of 1897. Shortly thereafter he embarked upon the study of law at the University of Minnesota and was a graduate of that university's law school in the class of 1900.
   After receiving his law degree Risjord removed to Ashland, Wisconsin and joined the law firm of Tomkins and Merrill for a short period and later operated another practice with attorney M.E. Merrill. Gullick Risjord married in Ashland to Josephine Quammen (1877-1925) in June of 1904 and later had three children, Norman Edmond (1906-1980), Marion Gertrude (died in infancy in 1909) and Isabelle Josephine (1910-1983). Gullick and Josephine Quammen Risjord were married for eighteen years until Josephine's death at age 48 in 1922. Nine years following her death Risjord remarried in Gogebic, Michigan in November 1931 to Emma Torbol (ca. 1893-1952) who survived Risjord upon his death in 1951.
   In 1911 Gullick Risjord was elected as a circuit court judge for Wisconsin's 15th district, which comprised the counties of Bayfield, Ashland,  Iron, Price, and Taylor. Assuming his judicial duties on January 1, 1912, Risjord logged an impressive 39 years of service on the bench, and during this lengthy tenure served as chairman of the Wisconsin state board of circuit judges in 1933. Risjord also presided over many trails of vary note during his time on the bench, including the 1938 trial of one Thomas Duncan, an executive secretary to Wisconsin Governor Robert LaFollette Jr. who had been arrested in March 1938 in connection with the death of Henry F. Schuette, a West Allis, Wisconsin businessman who had been killed when Duncan's car struck him on the night of March 9th. Facts pertaining to the case denote that Duncan was (according to police and physicians) drunk at the time of the accident, and after a seven day trial was found guilty of fourth-degree manslaughter by Judge Risjord and subsequently sentenced to serve "not less than one year nor more than two years in the house of correction."

From the Madison Wisconsin State Journal, August 31, 1951.

    Although advancing in years Gullick Risjord continued to sit on the bench well into his eighties and is noted as having been "opposed for reelection only twice" during his near four-decade tenure as judge. He was one of the oldest active judges in Wisconsin at the time of his death, which occurred on August 30, 1951 at age 84 at his home in Ashland. His Madison Capital Times obituary remarked that he had been at his office a day prior to his death, and after a funeral service at the Ashland First Presbyterian Church was laid to rest at the Mount Hope Cemetery in Ashland County.

From the Madison Capital Times, August 31, 1951.

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