Some of my friends may recall a slightly eccentric individual, the late Arch Monroe, who worked for me briefly at the University of North Dakota. A few years earlier, Arch had published a book with replies to his request for humorous stories from judges, lawyers and politicians. Many responded, among them Supreme Court Justice Tom Clark, Sen. Sam Ervin and Congressman Gerald Ford (Richard Nixon declined).
My favorite was from North Dakota Gov. William L. Guy:
“Several years ago, Gen. Mock, then-commander of the Fifth Army, visited me in my office. He was accompanied by the usual retinue of colonels and majors who are assigned to open doors and hold his coat. Gen. Melhouse, the North Dakota Adjutant General, and an aide or two were also present.
“Gen. Mock was an intense man and he sat on the edge of his chair as he said, “Governor, these are turbulent times in which violence and civil disturbance are sweeping our country. I want you to know that the Fifth Army is trained and poised to move at a moment’s notice to suppress violence and civil disturbance. All you have to do is give us a call and we will be at your service.”
As the general eased back from the edge of his chair, I said, “Thank you Gen. Mock, for your kind offer, but I doubt that North Dakota will ever be calling on you for assistance. As a matter of fact, the last time we called on the Army for assistance to handle a civil disturbance, it was bungled badly and I haven’t even gotten a report on it yet.”
“Oh?” said the General, stiffening. “Who was in command of that operation?”
“Gen. Custer,” I said quietly.
The general’s jaw dropped and his face reddened slightly as he managed a weak grin. There was no more talk of violence and civil disturbance after that.