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Chapter 193: Best Man for a Good Man

April 25, 2023
Chevy Chase, Maryland

Emmett and Paul Carter had a long, close friendship. They were best friends for most of their lives.

Their friendship began in childhood, when Emmett and his family moved to Chipley, after his mother’s death in June, 1891, and his father remarried a wealthy widow from Columbus, Georgia, in 1893. The new wife, Kate Langley Jordan Wilson, built a new house on 6th Street, now Main Street, a few blocks from downtown. She probably didn’t fancy living in the country, separated from the conveniences of town life. Also, the country house and property were gifts to Emmett’s mother, Elizabeth Maxwell Wilson, and the property was in Elizabeth’s name, so Kate Wilson wanted her own place.

Emmett was 10 years old when his stepmother moved the family to town.

Dr. F.C. Wilson’s house, about 1895. Photographer unknown. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Meade Howard.

The new Wilson home was next door to the Carter home! Emmett and Paul were almost the same age in 1894; their yards connected.

From the 1900 U.S. Census. Emmett’s family is listed first; he’s listed (likely by his stepmother) as ‘A. Emmett’, Archibald Emmett — Emmett detested his first name. The Carters are listed next. Emmett and his brother were born in 1882, though, not 1883 as listed.

It’s easy to imagine them becoming fast friends. They played on the same local baseball team; they enjoyed going fishing together; they likely ran back and forth between each others’ homes regularly. Their families were politically connected and included lawyers, who faced each other in a courtroom, on opposite sides, and were also colleagues and friends. Whenever Emmett’s grandfather, Judge Maxwell, visited the Wilsons, you can bet the old judge held court on the Wilson family front porch, where he regaled locals with the latest political intrigues from Pensacola, and debated whatever cases were coming up on county dockets.

And sitting on the porch steps, or seated in the yard nearby so as to hear the men talk, Emmett and Paul, absorbed the precious insights from the discussions among the older men, maybe sneaking a drink from one of men’s glasses, as they lounged in the late afternoon or evenings together. It is easy to imagine the conversations Emmett and Paul had on their own, as they considered their own vocations, and how they planned to follow in Judge Maxwell’s footsteps, or Cephas‘ footsteps — run for offices, surely, except, they would make more money, they would have a larger practice, they would not make some of the mistakes the elders did along the way.

Emmett and Paul were on the debate team together, too. Here’s the program from one of their debates for West Florida Seminary in 1900; Emmett participated in a debate, and Paul gave an introductory oration. Source: Florida State University Archives.
From the Chipley Banner, January 14, 1899, via

Emmett and Paul would eventually go to college together and be roommates, at the West Florida Seminary in Tallahassee, and again, at Stetson University where both were law students. It’s easy to imagine their time together at both schools; cramming for exams, goofing off on the weekends together, helping each other improve their debate skills.

In fact, Emmett had trouble with his debate style at West Florida Seminary, and it was likely Paul who coached him before and after club meetings, giving him constructive feedback. Emmett was actually mocked about his poor debate skills — something he must master if he wanted a successful law career — and it might have been hard for him to ask for help. But there was a lot of trust between Emmett and Paul; it seems natural that they would have each other’s backs when one was struggling.

Speaking of having each other’s back: That relationship would soon be put to the test.

While Emmett and Paul were away at school, Paul’s father, Judge Paul H. Carter, Sr., was shot and killed in downtown Chipley. Paul was called back to Chipley immediately. The man who shot Judge Carter, R.U. Harrell, was charged with manslaughter and eventually sent to prison to serve approximately five years.

The whole episode devastated Paul, who had been very close to his father. You can bet that Emmett was there for Paul the entire time. I have no idea what they said to each other, or how Emmett helped Paul to get through this devastating event, but I’m certain Emmett offered what he could, whenever he could. Sometimes that amounted to just being with Paul, sitting together on the Carter front porch, smoking cigars (they had a penchant for stogies before they were 20), saying nothing.

And that was enough.


Their professional aspirations were somewhat parallel; Paul in DC as a Senator’s secretary when he left halfway through his senior year in law school at Stetson. Paul had been selected Valedictorian, but when he left (to finish the degree later), Emmett would be selected Valedictorian in his place.

In 1904, Paul was the private secretary of Congressman William Bailey Lamar in Washington D.C. Paul spent about five years in Washington with Lamar. Not only did Paul continue to take law school classes at Georgetown University in D.C., but he would eventually graduate with a law degree both from Georgetown and Stetson. It appears Stetson honored the credits Paul earned at Georgetown, since he only lacked one semester of classes at Stetson when he left to work in Washington.

Mayor Paul Carter of Marianna, Florida. He was in his third term when he married Mary Horne on September 4, 1912. Source: The Pensacola Journal, November 12, 1912.

The thing about Paul’s tenure in Washington was that it was a means to an end: He didn’t have aspirations to national office, but the experience would set him up for a steady, consistent career in law or politics. He had a calm, easygoing way about him that was attractive — plus — he appeared to have finally settled down personally. He had plenty of opportunities to find someone during his time in D.C., but his heart was in the Florida panhandle.

There was someone in Chipley, though, who Paul was interested in: Mary Horne. She was a local girl he’d known throughout childhood, and he was friends with her older brother, Carey Horne. Paul also had a reputation with his friends (as well as his classmates at WFS and Stetson University) as a ladies’ man. He broke a lot of hearts accordingly, so I wonder if Mary ever took Paul seriously. She was a practical, clear-sighted and clear-thinking young woman; I can imagine she was not impressed with Paul’s prowess among the young ladies and went about her own business, had her own suitors. I get the impression her standoffishness to Paul actually got his attention.

While Paul was winding up his service to Congressman Lamar, he was a regular visitor to Chipley, “doing business for the Congressman,” according to several issues of The Chipley Banner, but he was also seeing his friends again — and Mary Horne.

Paul eventually moved back to Marianna in March, 1909, where he set up his own law practice, ran for mayor, settled down, and courted Mary. Eventually, she said yes.

Mary Horne and Paul Carter’s wedding announcement in The Chipley Banner. She was married on Wednesday, September 4, 1912. Source: The Chipley Banner, September 5, 1912.
Mary Horne and Paul Carter’s marriage license, from the Washington County (FL) archives. Notice that Emmett, the best man, is the first witness signature. The second witness, Annis Horne, was Mary’s sister. The marriage took place at the Horne home in Chipley, but was officiated by the Rector from St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Marianna; (Mary was an Episcopalian and Paul was a Baptist). Source: Washington County (FL) Archives.
Source: The Pensacola Journal, September 5, 1912, via

The next writeup of Paul and Mary Carter’s wedding is my favorite. The writer captured a lot of interesting detail. It wasn’t a large, society event, though many of the attendees were highly regarded citizens in Washington and Jackson County political circles. By the way, Emmett was not yet the official Congressman for the district; he still had to win the general election, still two months away.

Also interesting: The wedding took place on Wednesday, at 4:45 p.m., in the Horne home. Mary Horne wore a traveling suit, not a fancy wedding dress. There was no fancy post-wedding dinner for the couple, either, as they boarded the train 45 minutes after the vows were said and witnessed. No fuss, no muss, no extravagance.

Source: Marianna Times-Courier, September 5, 1912; image of archive newspaper by the author.

At this point in their lives, Emmett and Paul believed their futures were bright, and why not? Although Emmett still had to win the General Election in November, he had no serious competitor, and his dream to emulate his beloved grandfather’s career as lawmaker and jurist was falling into place smoothly. Maybe he felt a touch of invincibility: A young man on a definite roll, with power and money behind him, moving him rapidly towards his long-dreamed-of goals. Never mind that the power and the money were borrowed and not truly his; never mind that he lacked the experience and political instincts/skills that came so naturally to his grandfather, his older brother, and Paul.

At 5:30 p.m. on September 4, 1912, Emmett stood alongside family and friends, watching Paul and Mary’s train pull out of the Chipley depot, waving goodbye with his hat in his hand. There was much laughter, smiles all around, as the guests headed home; perhaps some invited back to the Horne home for refreshments.


Emmett returned to Pensacola the following day, back to his law office, to his work as District Attorney, and to the campaign. The General Election was almost two months away.

Categories: Book Congressman Family Florida History

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