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Chapter 153: The Second Pensacola Trip

September 10, 2015
Chevy Chase, Maryland

As of today, I booked my second research trip to Pensacola. It’s time: I’m at the point in his story that I have to know what kind of lawyer he was, and how his political background was developing. What papers I can see online are OK, but I know there’s more out there that I can’t see. Archivists from several different county courthouses have told me there’s definitely court records I’m welcome to review, but I have to do it in person.

I can’t wait!

I’m looking forward to seeing my friends again, and catching up with them on their different research projects. We may not be working on the same kinds of research, but I love hearing how others doggedly track down seemingly microscopic leads on their topics, which turn into incredible new nuggets of information! We get to share new-to-us sources and research strategies; but best of all, I’ve made incredible new friends along the way. Emmett’s given me many gifts beyond what I originally expected to obtain from the research itself.

Here’s my tentative plan for Pensacola:

  • Escambia County Courthouse Archives. For a long time, I’ve considered this a wild card for information gathering. It’s not that I don’t think they have information on Emmett’s cases, but the archives was closed for over a year after the last hurricane, and there was significant damage to the offices. (I was told that the records were fine, but still, I have been on tenterhooks in anticipation of seeing what’s actually there.) For now, I have a list of three specific speeches he gave at three different trials, and I have the case file names. They do have information on microfiche; so, there’s hope.
  • University of West Florida Archives. My goal is to view the Frank Penton papers. This guy gave Emmett holy hell during most of his tenure as District Attorney, then State’s Attorney. Penton and several family members were charged with murder more than once; also, during this period there was an attempt on Emmett’s life while he was prosecuting Frank Penton in Santa Rosa County. Ironically (or, maybe not) Penton later became Escambia County Sheriff. I’d love to see the dialog and exchange between Emmett and Penton’s defense attorney.
  • Christ Church. This one is important because Emmett’s funeral service was held here.
  • J. Walter Kehoe residence on Baylen Street. The day before his funeral, Emmett’s friends viewed his remains at the Kehoe’s home on Baylen Street; the Kehoes rented the home during that time. Today, it is a private residence, but according to my friend Jacki Wilson (of the Pensacola Historical Society) it still looks pretty much the same as it did in 1918. I’d love to see the inside of that place; cross your fingers. I’m working on that.
  • Pensacola Hospital. This is the place where Emmett died. Much of the hospital is still intact and original. I’m interested in seeing the first floor where he was treated (i.e., the hospital had two rooms specifically designated to treat alcoholics on that first floor, along with other therapies, things which were cutting edge at the time).

There are two other places to visit: Chipley, where his boyhood home was recently refurbished (and looks great, by the way), and Marianna, where Emmett lived with his older brother Cephas for about four years. I cannot wait to meet the kind folks there who I’ve been corresponding with on this project! But I also want to be flexible when necessary — I may come across new information that I want to explore, which means changing plans or travel. And of course, I want to visit with Emmett at least once or twice.

It’s exciting to think about finding new information about Emmett, and how it will shape his story. I’ll keep you posted as the big day draws near!

Categories: Family Florida History Research Status The Writing Life

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Communication, Arts, and the Humanities
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