November 18, 1918: Duluth Police Chief resigns to take state job, quits new job almost immediately

On this day in Duluth in 1918, Police Chief Robert McKercher resigned his position as the Zenith City’s top cop to become the executive agent of Minnesota’s State Society for the Prevention of Cruelty, which protected not only animals but also vulnerable children and adults. When McKercher, a native of Ontario, first came to Duluth, he found work in the post office and later with the Northern Pacific Railway dock before becoming an agent with the Society. During his his first tenure with the Society, according to the Duluth News Tribune, McKercher “never lost a case in court and he won the unanimous approbation of the society, making it a point to work correction by kindness.” When beloved police chief Chuancy Troyer resigned in 1915, McKercher was selected to replace him. It was said he applied the same kindness as chief, earning “Chief Bob” the title of the “Glengarry Scotchman with a heart.” Not everyone agreed with the newspapers’s assessment of McKercher, and he was often scrutinized and attacked by John Morrison’s Rip-Saw newspaper, which viewed the police chief as a hypocrite. And McKercher didn’t show much heart in one of his final actions as chief: without warning he fired Mary Connelly, a ten-year veteran of Duluth’s police department, without giving anyone an explanation. McKercher stayed in his new job for about a month, resigning on January 1, 1919. As with Connelly’s dismissal, McKercher offered no explanation for his sudden departure. Read more about the battle between McKercher and Morrison here.

Duluth Police Chief J. R. McKercher. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

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