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Chapter 169: The Difference A Day Makes

April 17, 2022
Chevy Chase, Maryland

Now, this was interesting.

From The Pensacola Journal, Saturday, January 6, 1912, via ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Just one day after Judge Charles B. Parkhill announced in the same newspaper that he was running for U.S. Congress, he changed his mind?

According to the information in The Pensacola Journal, Parkhill issued a written statement to the same paper, dated the same day the article ran announcing his candidacy. Was it a case of misinformation issued from someone in Parkhill’s office? Perhaps; the letter Parkhill wrote to the governor (and printed in its entirety on the front page of The Pensacola Journal the day before) gives no indication that he was resigning to run for national office.

Although Parkhill was clearly running for office as early as February, 1911, according to contemporary newspapers, something else was more important to him than politics: His family.

The wife has the last say, according to Judge Parkhill. Source: The Pensacola Journal, January 6, 1912, page 1, via ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Mrs. Judge Parkhill was also known as Helen Wall Parkhill, daughter of Judge J.B. Wall, of Tampa, Florida. The Parkhills were married in 1891, and at the time of this article, were the parents of five children. This was the second marriage for Judge Parkhill; his first wife, Genevieve Perry (daughter of Governor E.A. Perry), died in 1884, one year after their marriage.

The last sentence before the jump to page two is compelling. “Candor requires me to say that I….”

Here’s the rest of the article. Source: The Pensacola Journal, January 6, 1912, page 2, via ChroniclingAmerica.gov

So. Parkhill was not pushed out or urged out by the incumbent, Dannite H. Mays. He’s also grateful to the press in Escambia County for encouraging his candidacy — hmm.

So, is it also just a little bit possible that Parkhill was ‘urged’ out by another Mayes — Frank Mayes? Maybe a little bit?

I think this because while the front page blurb about Parkhill withdrawing from the race is interesting, it’s the follow-up news analysis piece, which ran directly below the conclusion of Parkhill’s article, that is telling.

Check out the list of potential office-seekers now in line to run against the incumbent Dannite H. Mays — and Emmett’s name newly woven into the fabric of the election. Source: The Pensacola Journal, January 6, 1912, page 2, via ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Of everyone listed in the follow-up article, Emmett is not only the youngest man on the list; he has the least amount of political experience.

The fact that he’s the youngest one on the list doesn’t bother me; after all, J. Walter Kehoe was allowed to commence law practice in 1889 in Milton, Florida, at 18 years of age after a special act of the Florida state legislature (the minimum age to practice law in Florida was 21 in 1889). Brains and ability are what matter, and Kehoe had both at 18.

But whereas Kehoe was considered gifted; Emmett wasn’t (no offense, Emmett). Also, Emmett had never run for office before, and his employment history was one of patronage. Emmett never had to ‘apply’ or contend for any job he held; he got his positions through his connections, and this was well known throughout the legal and political circles in West Florida.

So, I can imagine the reaction among the legal and political circles in West Florida when Emmett’s name appeared on the front page of the paper as a potential replacement for the eloquent and experienced Judge Parkhill.

Probably along the lines of: “What is Frank Mayes thinking?”

Or more likely: “What is Frank Mayes up to?”

Note that on the front page, Emmett’s name has a typo, but that may not have been the fault of the reporter.

After filing stories, reporters (often) did not also write headlines or lay out the content. That was done separately. Source: The Pensacola Journal, January 6, 1912, page 1, via ChroniclingAmerica.gov

From the perspective of newsworthiness, it seems odd that the least-well-known, least experienced individual under consideration to run against Dannitte H. Mayes was featured on the front page of The Pensacola Journal. One could argue that the fact Emmett Wilson would be considered, statistically, the least likely to win (it would be his very first political campaign, plus he was not as well known as the others listed in contention for Dannitte Mays’ seat), was newsworthy.

But to make such a big deal about Emmett, of all of the men listed WAS odd, given the qualifications of the other men listed in the article. And Emmett hadn’t even decided to run at this point.

Part of me thinks this was a bit of nudging of Emmett, quietly and subtly, from the desk of Frank Mayes, who was the ultimate manipulator of people, places, and things: Mayes knew that Emmett probably would like seeing his name dead center on the front page, directly under the banner, in the largest-circulation paper in West Florida.

Even though Emmett’s name was misspelled.

Frank Mayes knew what he was doing. He knew what he was working with.

And Emmett wouldn’t be able to resist.

Categories: Book Congressman Florida History Interesting & Odd

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jsmith532

Professor
The University of Maryland Global Campus

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