March 25, 2023
Chevy Chase, Maryland
Emmett’s summer of 1912, on the surface, seemed low-key, and predictable. According to contemporary media coverage, he went about his business as usual: Prosecuting cases for the State of Florida, visiting or entertaining relatives who stopped over from Marianna, Chipley, or Sneads, contributing to political causes he supported, and taking his annual two-week vacation at St. Andrews.
One thing I’ve noticed about Emmett: He tended to stick to routine. The annual trip to St. Andrews for two weeks is almost always with the Kehoe family (not his own relatives, who also rented a cottage every year).
Early on in Emmett’s research, I wondered how and when it was that the Kehoes and Emmett eventually came to the point where he, essentially, became a member of their family; and it seems that it happened when Emmett returned to Florida after the disastrous six-months in Sterling, Illinois. He might not have completely burned his bridges with Cephas, once he decided he’d learned enough under Ceph’s tutelage, and he was going on his own, but the way the separation from Cephas happened did enough damage between the brothers that it was awkward for at least a year after Emmett’s return to Florida.
Kudos to both Cephas and Emmett for setting aside whatever animosity there was, and rebuilding their relationship — it must have been uncomfortable as hell for Emmett to admit he was wrong and an asshole to Cephas (who, truthfully, was an arrogant asshole, despite the rather excellent mentorship he’d given Emmett as he rose through the Florida legal ranks).
The brothers patched their relationship up enough that Cephas campaigned for Emmett, and even wrote an article for The Pensacola Journal, pleading with voters to elect Emmett, but taking advantage of the opportunity to plug his own political background and prowess in the same piece.
Yeah, Cephas was an asshole, but he wasn’t a stupid asshole.
Or was he?
On August 5th, several Florida newspapers reported that Emmett was scheduled to speak at
On August 5th, several Florida newspapers reported that Emmett was scheduled to speak at the West Florida Press Association annual convention on the relationship between the press and the government. The schedule of events was published, and his name was listed on the agenda for the Saturday program.
What’s interesting about that is Emmett, although he was on vacation, could have taken the time to go and speak at the conference. But it was reported that he didn’t show up. It doesn’t say why he didn’t show; during the dates of the Convention, the St. Andrews papers report seeing him at Panama City, enjoying himself, and staying at the Hotel Panama (for at least a part of the visit).
Since the Kehoes had a lot of friends and family rotating through the house most of the summer, this makes sense — and then — Emmett probably wanted his privacy on occasion. But Emmett didn’t stay at the Hotel Panama the entire vacation in 1912. According to the St. Andrews papers, he seems to have split his time between the hotel and the Kehoe compound.
But one other person not listed on the agenda attended convention, probably in place of his brother, and it was Cephas. He showed up, and he delivered a speech; probably not the same one Emmett would have given, but still: Cephas covered for his brother. Again.
I don’t think Cephas totally was irritated to stand in for Emmett, because this was a politically important group to work with; and, Cephas knew it didn’t bode well for any Wilson with political aspirations to blow off a speaking opportunity.
But then, he doesn’t make it home right away. Check this out:
Recall from the previous chapter on the Fats vs. Leans baseball game story, and the quote from Cephas Wilson about how Lula was ‘in control’ of his household was accurate. She (or any woman, really) had to be strong to be married to Cephas, and to put up with his shenanigans.
But Lula wasn’t anyone’s doormat. And I doubt the article was news to Lula. She wasn’t stupid. Also, this was probably not the first time Ceph did some extracurricular screwing about in his district; other married men probably did the same thing. But outing Cephas’ activities in the papers for all the world to see, and the resulting public humiliation Lula must have endured, was probably the last straw. She took matters into her own hands, and (according to family records) filed for divorce.
This event was covered up in my earlier post on Lula’s relationship with Cephas. I think it sums up exactly what happened, and so I am reposting it below:
“This would be a problem for gubernatorial wannabe Cephas, and an even bigger problem for Emmett, especially if it was filed at the same time state Democratic Party execs decided to back their obscure dark horse candidate, Emmett Wilson, as U.S. Congressman. If word got out about the divorce in the Wilson family, the sins of one brother could easily be visited on the other, especially since Emmett was young, unknown, and had problems staying sober.
“Interestingly, Lula didn’t go through with the divorce. I’m not sure if someone talked her out of it; I know it must have been a tough, yet necessary decision.
“Although everyone in West Florida who knew the Wilsons would have agreed that Lula had reason to file for divorce, common sense told her that she would have the most to lose if she went through with it. A divorce would negatively impact her daughter Kathleen’s standing in society and future marriage prospects. Also, financially, Lula would be on her own, and likely, without custody of her children. I don’t think the idea of being self-sufficient bothered Lula, but she was sensitive to what others may say to her elderly parents about the situation, or how her teenage children would be affected, and she was protective of them.
“The fact Lula withdrew her divorce petition was not a sign of weakness. Deciding to stick it out with someone who didn’t respect her in order to protect her loved ones required an incredibly strong character. She didn’t like it, but she didn’t dwell on it, either. Instead, Lula got busy.
“Lula channeled her energies into several major community and public services. One example: Lula established and organized the Marianna chapter of the American Red Cross in 1917 (although The Pensacola Journal erroneously credited that to Cephas). The successful Marianna chapter was the model for the Pensacola chapter, as Lula was invited to lead the setup in Escambia County later that year.
“And Cephas? He doggedly pursued his dream: Cephas told reporters for years that the one thing he truly wanted in his life was to be Governor of Florida. He ran for the office twice, but withdrew before the first primary for either race. The public reason he gave both times was that his business and family were his first priorities, and the race was distracting. I kinda doubt that, because Ceph was a master politician. He could have handled being governor. Hell, he could have handled being congressman. What I think happened was that his extracurricular personal life was an addiction of sorts that got in the way of his professional life. Similar to what happened with Emmett and alcohol.
“Lula remained married to Cephas until he died in June, 1923. She remarried about two years later. She found happiness. I hope she found love. I think she did; she was now channeling her energy into music and poetry, which resulted in her getting her song published. Nowhere is there a mention of her first married name.
“Well done, Lula.”
Categories: Book Congressman Family Florida History
Communication, Arts, and the Humanities
The University of Maryland Global Campus
Leave a Reply