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Chapter 137: Don’t ask Emmett about Belize. Ever.

July 8, 2021
Chevy Chase, Maryland

Six years ago, in April, 2015, I came across a microfilm article from the Richmond, Virginia Times-Dispatch, dated June 1, 1913. It’s a round-up feature on some of the men recently elected to Congress who, it claims, never can become president of the United States. Emmett, much to his chagrin, was one of the featured statesmen.

I’ve annotated the page so you can see where the information on Emmett is located. Source: Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch, Sunday June 1, 1913. Legible images of the article are below.
First section of the article about Emmett. Interesting warning near the end of the first paragraph; i.e., “…woe betide the man….” Guess he was sensitive about the subject, you know, feeling like he doesn’t or can’t ‘belong.’ I’m not making fun; the observation basically confirms a pattern about Emmett.
Here’s the second section of the article, where Emmett talks about what his childhood was like, and as interesting as his early years must have been, he doesn’t appreciate that aspect, as he states that he, his twin brother Julian, and his older sister Katie were “…the only ones so unfortunate as to have been born there.” Yikes, Emmett.
This is the third and final part of Emmett’s interview. He basically explains how his father ‘happened’ to be there; nothing about what was obviously a planned move in the late 1870s, along with several members of his mother’s family (his uncle Simeon Maxwell was one who moved along with the Wilsons) to recreate the world they had lost in the American Civil War.

I can’t say that I blame Emmett for wanting to protect his professional progress; it wasn’t so much that his candidacy for U.S. Congress was necessarily hard-won (he was, after all, hand-picked by the state political kingmaker and de facto Democratic party leader, Pensacola Journal publisher Frank Mayes); but, Emmett was ambitious, and (before 1907, anyway), a nobody in either Pensacola or West Florida politics. It wasn’t that Emmett didn’t work hard for what he had — he did — but after he was elected to Congress, it’s apparent that even he knew he was in over his head, and it scared the crap out of him.

To be clear, I didn’t glean that entire point of view just from this one article; as we’ll see in the upcoming chapters that span Emmett’s career between 1907 and 1910, you’re going to see just how hard it was for Emmett to move from being an unknown to a man of consequence.

And at barely 30 years old. Really.

Emmett was the youngest elected U.S. Congressman when he was sworn in, in March 1913. I can’t blame him, then, for wanting to protect what must have been a fragile image he was trying to maintain. I would likely respond in a similar impatient way, too, if I was regularly asked if I were not truly a U.S. citizen, and I had to repeat the same information.

Categories: Book Congressman Family Florida History

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jsmith532

Professor
The University of Maryland Global Campus

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