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Chief Condit

 
 

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Chief Condit

Chief William Crane Condit

Chief from 1933 - 1935

Born on May 12, 1874
Died in April of 1958

William C. Condit was born in Anamosa, Iowa to William Condit and Emily Crane. He married in February of 1899 to Sylvia Jane Walker in Iowa. Together they had one son, Volcott Condit, who also joined the Lincoln police force.


An article by historian Jim McKee in the Lincoln Journal Star on January 9, 2011 summarizes Condit's work with the Lincoln Police Department as well as the Nebraska State Patrol.

Headline: William C. Condit and the early-day Nebraska State Patrol

William Crane Condit was born in Iowa in 1874. After completing high school, he farmed, first with his father and later on his own, moving to Fremont in 1898.

He worked for a marble company, owned a freighting business, became a foreman for the CB&Q Railroad and finally was appointed a Dodge County deputy sheriff in 1909.

Just over two weeks after his appointment, he was assigned to take a patient to the Insane Asylum in Lincoln. While waiting at the depot, the patient attempted suicide by jumping in front of an approaching train. Condit managed to throw the patient out of harm's way, but he lost his leg when the train ran over him.

Three years later, Condit was elected sheriff of Dodge County and later was chairman of the county draft board.

In 1917, the Prohibition Enforcement Act granted the governor power to enforce prohibition legislation in addition to working with automobile theft cases. Two years later, Gov. Sam McKelvie's inaugural address recommended forming a separate State Police Department for such cases, but it was not until 1927 that the office of state sheriff was created by the Legislature to assist the governor in enforcing criminal laws.

At the same time, branch banking was forbidden in Nebraska and the highway speed limit was raised from 20 to 35 mph, Gov. Adam McMullen appointed Condit to the post of state sheriff at an annual salary of $4,000, a position he would hold until 1931.

During his tenure, Condit was involved in investigating Lincoln's 1930 Great Bank Robbery at the Lincoln State National Bank on the northwest corner of 12th and O streets and, for the first time, drivers licenses were issued at 75 cents each.

In 1931, Condit became a member of the Lincoln Police Department, and when Mayor Fenton Fleming fired Police Chief Walt Anderson, Condit took over as chief. One of his major accomplishments was the installation of radio receivers in patrol cars, albeit they were only receivers, not equipped for two-way communication. When Anderson was rehired in 1935, Condit retired; Anderson was fired yet again in 1941.

Meanwhile, traffic control duties had been added to the state sheriff's duties in 1933. Then in 1937 the Legislature created the Highway Safety and Patrol Division, usually referred to simply as the Nebraska Safety Patrol, as part of the Department of Roads and Irrigation. The chief officer of the patrol was the state sheriff.

Thirty-five hundred applicants vied for what finally resulted in 54 men being selected for the five-week training course. Applicants were required to be 25 to 45 years old, at least 5-foot-10, have a high school diploma, be "physically normal (and have) sound family and moral backgrounds." Condit was one of the training officials for this first class.

In 1941, the title state sheriff was changed to "superintendent of law enforcement and public safety" with the rank of colonel. Meanwhile, highway speed limits were raised to 60 mph and the 125 uniformed officers' duties expanded while the patrol's internal Bureau of Criminal Apprehension began keeping files of fingerprints, criminal histories and photos.

In 1967, the official name became the Nebraska State Patrol, which became a separate state agency in 1981.

Condit died in 1958, about the time the words state sheriff finally disappeared from the Nebraska Legislative Blue Book listing.

Condit, the sheriff's sheriff, was the first person in Nebraska to use fingerprints to bring a killer to justice, one of the first to use the lie detector and in many ways was the father of the Nebraska State Patrol.