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Chapter 150: The L&N Test

Emmett named special examiner of the commission to review the L&N Railroad passenger fare rate. Source: The Pensacola Journal, August 11, 1909, via ChroniclingAmerica.gov

October 29, 1909
Pensacola, Florida

Railroad commissioners named me special examiner to review the passenger rate increase of the L&N Railroad in August, in addition to my work as the Assistant District Attorney, and the cases at my uncle’s law firm (yes, I am a partner — but I am constantly reminded that I’m the junior partner by the clerks and others in the legal community). “This appointment has potential,” Uncle Evelyn said.

I didn’t understand at first.

“There are other local attorneys with more experience to handle this; I’m sure they will resent it.” I’ve been acutely aware of the scuttlebutt among fellow members of the bar in Pensacola about me ever since I was named Assistant District Attorney only a few months after I arrived in town. That, plus every time my name has been mentioned in the local newspapers, it’s mostly about the society dances I’ve attended, and other superficial news — nothing much about the cases I’ve won — though they are routine and not complicated.

But overseeing the railroad commission’s hearing on the L&N case? I knew it was going to be complicated, and I’d need to prepare extensively for it. I don’t know much about the laws governing the railroads, thought my uncle assures me a I’m a quick study; at least, that’s what he advised the party members.

“You will accept, Emmett,” Uncle Evelyn said, firmly. “The Democratic Party leadership has plans for you.” Typical of my uncle, he would not elaborate; he did not invite questions.

I had no choice, then, but to accept the appointment.

====

The hearings are held in multiple locations; Pensacola, Tallahassee, Louisville. The travel is time-consuming; the hearings are time-consuming, and not without drama.

A report on one of the railroad commission hearings, which was held in Tallahassee; the one to follow will be held in Louisville. Source: The Pensacola Journal; September 26, 1909, page 6 via ChroniclingAmerica.gov.

For example, at a recent hearing, one of the witnesses in the case actually fainted while on the stand. Because the witness still had to give testimony, I left Pensacola for Louisville on the 20th, but had to stop off in Chicago, where witness Farnum lived, to take his testimony, as well as testimony from Farnum’s physician myself.

Uncle Evelyn has told me that it is important that while I am working as the special examiner to send regular updates, by telegram, to the local newspapers — even if I don’t have anything of critical importance to report. There’s a few goals here: To discredit those who imply that I am not doing important work on my own; to demonstrate an ability to grow into a position of importance and handle the responsibilities; to demonstrate accountability, and, to keep my name in the paper in conjunction with serious issues.

October 29, 1901, The Pensacola Journal, via ChroniclingAmerica.gov.

This entire process has been time consuming, and challenging. But I’ve done well so far; Uncle told me recently that others are now taking notice of my work; it has kept me busy, accountable.

But it is still so new; the fact that I’m being observed for something I know not what frightens me. I take solace in an occasional drink — secretly — to calm my nerves. I take care never to go overboard, because this is a test I do not wish to fail.

Categories: Book Congressman Family Florida History In Emmett's Words

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jsmith532

Professor
The University of Maryland Global Campus

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