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Ronald H. McLean, Published December 21 2013

Letter: Tenneson exemplified quality, civility

The purpose of this column is to comment on Bob Lind’s Neighbors column of Dec. 9. The column was about the United States Supreme Court case regarding the death of William Dick and a lawsuit brought to recover life insurance policy benefits.

Lind correctly described the background facts and the attorneys who represented the plaintiff. My purpose is to give amplification to the unnamed attorney representing New York Life. That attorney was Norman G. Tenneson.

Tenneson was a Fargo native born in 1898. He secured his law degree from Yale University in 1925. Thereafter, he went into private practice with his father, among others. He practiced law in Fargo for nearly 60 years. Among his most noted clients were St. Luke’s Hospital and the Fargo School Board. He was the lawyer involved in the creation of State Bank of Fargo, now known as Bell State Bank and served on its board of directors for many years.

Early in my career, I had occasion to visit with Tenneson numerous times about the Dick v. New York Life case. He always wondered how firing a shotgun into yourself two times could be labeled an accident. The Dec. 9 column also mentions Judge Ronald Davies and notes that he was the presiding judge of the Little Rock, Ark., integration case. A famous photograph exists taken of Davies getting off the train in Fargo after making his monumental decisions and being met by his good friend, Norman G. Tenneson.

Tenneson was good friends with both Phil Vogel and Don Holand, the attorneys mentioned in Lind’s column.

Eighth Circuit Judge Myron Bright is quoted in the column praising the lawyers’ efforts saying, “… their conduct in this case represents the quality of representation that the lawyers in North Dakota should aspire to for their own clients.” Tenneson always exemplified quality and civility.


McLean is an attorney with the Serkland Law Firm of Fargo.