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Chapter 145: Emmett Meets Theodore Roosevelt

September 16, 2015
The Library of Congress
Washington, D.C.

I admit it was a surprise finding this tidbit when I was scrolling through the archives on a recent visit to the Library of Congress research rooms:

From the Washington, D.C. Evening Star, Saturday, January 11, 1908 via database at the Library of Congress. Image capture by the author.

And here I was thinking — up until now — Emmett was basically an unknown, unconnected young man who moved to Pensacola to start all over.

Why is this little article important?

Emmett never had to ‘apply’ for a job at any time in his entire 35-year existence. Seriously.

Emmett never had to scan want ads in a newspaper, or sign up with a placement agency. He never had the experience of sitting in a stuffy reception room, sweating it out with other applicants, perhaps fiddling with his uncomfortable three-inch collar while waiting for his name to be called for an interview. He didn’t have to worry about the interview questions. He really didn’t have to ever worry about unemployment. Must have nice, huh?

Every single job he had was provided to him, by a family member or a well-connected friend.  

No effort (and, so it seems, no significant experience) required.

Once Emmett started whatever job he had, he worked hard. We know this; his work ethic is mentioned several times across his career. We really don’t know what the actual quality of his overall work product was — but it had to have been at least adequate for him to represent clients. He didn’t win every single case, but he didn’t lose every single case, either.

During his first year as an attorney, while working for big brother Cephas Love Wilson, his cases weren’t all that exciting: Mostly, his clients were either plaintiffs or defendants charged with lewd cohabitation, bigamy, assumption, partition, or embezzlements. My friend, the excellent Sue Tindel (the clerk and archivist of the Jackson County [FL] Court), once commented to me that Emmett was either a fiery, aggressive attorney or there was some influence that got him appointed federal prosecutor in 1907, because his court experience appeared quite limited.

But young Emmett was moving into powerful circles with the help of friends (i.e. J. Walter Kehoe) and family members (Judge Evelyn Maxwell), and, it turns out, Gen. W.A. Maxwell, a family connection I didn’t know about until this point.

Who were these people in Emmett’s circle? And how did he come about to Washington D.C. to hang with such a well-known group? Let’s pick the article apart.

First, Senator Taliaferro — This was James Piper Taliaferro, the Florida Democrat senator who served from 1899 to 1911. He lived in Jacksonville, and was also involved in the building of railroads in the state. It is very likely he knew Emmett’s grandfather, Augustus Emmett Maxwell, who was a U.S. Congressman before the Civil War, but also was the president of the Alabama and Florida Railroad. But as a U.S. Senator, it would make sense for Emmett to be introduced to his state legislators while in D.C. He probably met all of the Florida delegation while he was there — but — Taliaferro introduced Emmett to Theodore Roosevelt, alongside William James Bryan, the other Senator from Florida.

J. Clifford R. Foster, from the Colusa (CA) Herald, June 3, 1923. Foster died in 1928.

Second, Senator William James Bryan — Senator Bryan was elected to fill the legislative vacancy caused by the death of Stephen Mallory II (whose father, Stephen Russell Mallory, was the law partner of Augustus Emmett Maxwell). Bryan took office on the day after Christmas in 1907, only to die almost four months later, on March 22, 1908, at the age of 31 of typhoid fever.

Third, J.C.R. Foster — Also known as J. Clifford R. Foster — Foster was adjutant general of the Florida National Guard, and later, president of the National Guard Association of the United States. Foster also served in the Spanish American War, and likely knew Roosevelt from that experience.

Fourth, General W.A. Maxwell — This is Walker Anderson Maxwell, Emmett’s uncle, brother to Evelyn Croom Maxwell (with whom Emmett was a law partner in 1908) of Pensacola, son of Augustus Emmett Maxwell. Obviously, I’ll give more room to Walker Maxwell’s entry, because it’s family, and Emmett’s family paved the way for him, professionally (and, probably, personally).

Emmett’s uncle apparently wasn’t really a ‘general,’ but in the early 1900s, sometimes honorific titles (Colonel, or General) were given to members of a governor’s staff or advisory team. For example: Emmett was referred to as “Col. Emmett Wilson” of Sterling, Illinois, in a Tallahassee newspaper, and Emmett never served in any branch of the military.)

At one point, Maxwell took a state qualifying examination to become a carpenter (registered with the U.S. Engineer’s office), according to an article in the Tampa Tribune. Maxwell eventually was named inspector of timber and lumber for Escambia County by Governor Perry in 1885.

Most of the information I have on Emmett’s Uncle William was that he lived and worked in Chipley (until 1899), then Marianna, Florida, where he started working for M.L. Deckle (shopkeeper, representing his interests as he traveled around the West Florida panhandle, collected debts, and the like). He seems to have had an interesting and varied life. For example:

The Pensacola Commercial, April 7, 1887, via Newspapers.com.

Here, Uncle William was the Ballast Master and Superintendent at the quarantine station, located at the Pensacola Navy Yard. I wonder what his qualifications and/or training were for this post? Perhaps he did serve in one of the branches of the U.S. military, but nothing other than this information about his work at the Navy Yard comes close to military service.

The Pensacola News, April 20, 1894, via Newspapers.com

According to the contemporary media, Uncle William visited Emmett’s family often during his lifetime, calling on them in Chipley whenever he was in town, and apparently, he visited them quite often. It would make sense that he and Emmett would become close, especially with Emmett working for his brother, and Emmett’s close relationship with William’s father, Emmett’s grandfather

It also sounds like Uncle William was a bit of a charmer and man-about-town, which Emmett likely took note of:

“May his shadow never grow shorter and his avoirdupois be equalled only by his good looks.” Also, St. Andrews is where Emmett spent his summer vacations every year, without fail. Source: The Pensacola Commercial, February 10, 1886, via Newspapers.com

Alas, that’s pretty much the scope of what I have on Emmett’s Uncle William — who was only 49 when he died in 1909.

From the May 21, 1909 edition of The Pensacola Journal. Source: Chronicling America.gove
From the May 21, 1909 edition of The Pensacola Journal.
Source: Chronicling America.gov

Finally, Col. W.A. MacWilliams — This was William Arthur MacWilliams, “Mac,” a longtime member of the Florida state legislature (mostly in the Florida State Senate), who was instrumental in creating Flagler County. He was a lawyer, and served in the Florida National Guard. There was definitely a connection between MacWilliams and Foster; especially as MacWilliams was also a brigadier general with the Florida National Guard.

===

It’s difficult to say why these four gentlemen (counting Emmett) were all together at once in Washington, D.C., to be presented to Theodore Roosevelt.

It’s possible that there wasn’t a direct connection, other than there were these four visitors in town, from Florida, most of whom were important in terms of public service, and the two Florida Senators thought it would be a nice idea to introduce them to Roosevelt. I can see the connection between Foster and MacWilliams, and why the Senators would introduce Foster to Roosevelt — especially with his prior service in the Spanish-American War.

But I think Maxwell was simply in town with his nephew, on some business issue, and Maxwell knew Senators Taliaferro and Bryan through his family connections. I can see how Walker Maxwell would think his nephew would like to meet a U.S. President, and perhaps finagle the introduction through his state Senators. It was a nice, memorable gesture for Emmett.

I wonder what Emmett thought when he entered the White House to meet the President on that cold day in January, 1908.

He likely had no idea that he, himself would be there again, in about five years, introducing his friends to the President of the United States.

Categories: Book Congressman Family Florida History

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jsmith532

Professor
The University of Maryland Global Campus

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