Not Quite the MOC

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I found this brief article about Emmett while doing a periodic database check last week:

Source: The Richmond Times-Dispatch, Friday, June 21, 1912.

It is another piece related to the dedication of the Florida window, in the Old Blandford Church in Petersburg, Virginia. (More details about Emmett and the Florida window can be found here.)

What’s interesting is that the reporter calls Emmett a “…member of Congress from that State (Florida) …”, which really isn’t true. Emmett won the Democratic party nomination for the Third Congressional District of Florida only three weeks earlier.

He still had to win the general election in November. But in 1912, Florida was primarily a one-party state, and Emmett, the neophyte politician, would win the seat with more than 90 percent of the vote.

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100 Years Ago Today

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The front page of The Pensacola Journal, 100 years ago today. If you click on the link here, you’ll see the entire front page as it was on May 29, 1918.

Here’s a better look at Emmett’s death notice:

The Pensacola Journal, May 29, 1918, page one.

Emmett’s death notice was obviously unexpected and thrown together with few complete details as The Pensacola Journal‘s first (and only edition) of morning newspaper was going to press.

  • “Following a very short illness….” Those who were closest to him knew that what actually killed Emmett had been killing him for years, and Emmett’s “poor health” had been reported in  West Florida papers for several years. In fact, this was one of the reasons reported in earlier versions of The Pensacola Journal and other Florida papers why “he decided” not to run for a third term.
  • “…died at 12:25 o’clock this morning…” Emmett’s death took place right as the paper was going to press. The position of the death notice in the paper is interesting and important: Right above the fold, but not a top headline. The story was important, as Emmett was a recent U.S. Congressman, and his sudden (and mostly unexpected) death definitely newsworthy. There had definitely been last minute reworking of the front page by the composition editors.
  • …aged 36 years.” Emmett was actually 35. The late night copy editor didn’t know Emmett personally.
  • “Of course no funeral arrangements had been perfected….” Because this was unexpected. Although Emmett’s health had been deteriorating for years, it seems likely that he’d experienced several similar scenarios (for lack of a better description) and family or friends had not thought this was anything new. Or life threatening. I believe that only Emmett, and perhaps one or two others, really knew that Emmett was dying of alcoholism in 1918.
  • “It is probable remains will be held pending….” The late night copy editor was scrambling a bit to fill available text box space. What else would Pensacola Hospital do with a former congressman?
  • “Deceased from (sic) born….” The typo is another clue the copy editor was scrambling. But the bigger clues that this caught everyone off guard is that the second paragraph was taken from Emmett’s official U.S. Congressional Directory biography in 1913, and not more recent sources, because the death notice doesn’t include any information about his second term.
  • Emmett’s photo is from his 1912 congressional primary campaign. There had been several high-quality photos of Emmett taken while in Congress and certainly provided to the media free of charge. It’s curious why a more recent photograph was not used — unless it was just overlooked in the haste to put the May 29, 1918 edition to bed.

 

Frank L. Mayes of The Pensacola Journal. Champion grudge holder.

Once upon a time, back in 1912, Emmett was a good friend of Frank Mayes, political kingmaker, and editor and publisher of The Pensacola Journal. Emmett had been Mayes’ prodigy; he was intended to serve as Mayes’ entree into the Woodrow Wilson’s inner circle.

But there had been a major falling out around October, 1914, and Mayes basically washed his hand of his prodigy. After that, Mayes stopped running regular articles in his paper about Emmett — and when news necessitated mentioning Emmett, Mayes never mentioned his name, referring to Emmett instead as the Third District’s Congressman. Mayes knew that indifference was more damaging politically and professionally to Emmett than anything.

I also believe Mayes knew his indifference hurt Emmett personally, too. Frank Mayes was a smart fellow, he was an excellent ‘read’ of people because he got to know them well. Mayes was also the guy who never forgot a slight, and he knew the best way to get folks to do his bidding. Manipulative? Probably. That’s not meant to be a put-down; that character description often comes with the political kingmaker job title.

I mention the angst between Frank Mayes and Emmett Wilson because in 1918, Mayes’ widow Lois was running The Pensacola Journal, and she had no illusions about the relationship between her late husband and Emmett: Emmett wasn’t useful to Frank, and so The Pensacola Journal had no use for Emmett, either.

Source: The Pensacola Journal, May 29, 1918, page 1, via ChroniclingAmerica.gov

When Frank died in February 1915, he had been on a mission to separate himself from the mistake of supporting a candidate unprepared to hold national office. That meant breaking away from Emmett’s supporters, like Walter Kehoe, as well. If you look at the front page layout for May 29, 1918, notice the article about a debate between Walter and John Smithwick right under Emmett’s death notice. Kehoe is running for reelection for Emmett’s old congressional seat against Smithwick — and Smithwick declared the winner of the debate — no surprise, since The Pensacola Journal endorsed Smithwick over Kehoe for the primary election.

 

The Pensacola (Fla.) Memorial Association

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In the continuing saga of rechecking all sources that have some connection to Emmett Wilson, I found this interesting article about the dedication of the Florida window in Blandford Church, Petersburg, Virginia. (I blogged about this road trip, here.)

Source: The Confederate Veteran, Volume 20, page 406, via Google Books.com

The article contains interesting history about the association, as well as details about the dedication. Julia Anderson Maxwell and Emmett Wilson were cousins, as both Julia and Emmett’s grandfather was Augustus Emmett Maxwell.

The window is beautiful, as is the Old Blandford Church.

Emmett’s window; also known as the Florida window. Old Blandford Church, Petersburg, Virginia

Jerry Williams Carter, Serving Punch

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Jerry Williams Carter, also known as the “Old Campaigner,” was Emmett Wilson’s campaign manager in 1912.

Source: St. Petersburg Times, March 12, 1966, via Google Newspapers

Emmett and Carter had something in common: The 1912 Third District Congressional race was the first political campaign for both men. I’m curious how Emmett and Carter met, but I’m not surprised. Emmett was considered a rising star in early 20th century West Florida politics. Carter, a Singer sewing machine salesman who connected well with the general public, wanted to switch careers. Both young men were well known, motivated, ambitious. I can see why the Florida Democratic party leadership probably put Emmett and Carter together.

No one expected Emmett to do as well as he did against the incumbent Dannite Mays in the first primary (there were supposed to be two primary elections in 1912, with the two Democratic party winners facing off in June), but Mays withdrew from second primary only 48 hours after Emmett’s strong showing. Both Emmett and Carter’s hard work and ambition paid off.

Mays Withdraws. Source: The Pensacola Journal via Chronicling America.gov

Ambition and hard work did wonders for Carter, as he eventually ran for U.S. Senate and Governor, but successfully became a Public Service Commissioner, serving several terms.

Carter for Senator, 1926. Source: Florida Memory.com

Carter for Governor, 1932. Source: Florida Memory.com

Although Carter had a long and successful career as a public service commissioner, Carter’s family was his true pride and joy.

Jerry and Mary Frances Hope Holifield, on their wedding day, 1907. Source: Florida Memory.com

Jerry and Mary Frances Carter, 1925. Source: Florida Memory.com

The Carter family at home; Jerry and Mary Frances had seven boys! Source: Florida Memory.com

The Carter’s 50th wedding anniversary. Source: Florida Memory.com

Jerry enjoyed an active role in Florida politics throughout his busy, successful life.

Jerry, far right, in 1964. Source: Florida Memory.com

The best find about Jerry: He was a feisty, outspoken guy — someone you’d definitely want on your side, or running your campaign.

Jerry, age 74, serving punch. I wish I could have met him in person. Source: Find-a-grave.com

Carter’s descendants donated his papers to the Florida State University archive in Tallahassee. I’m dying to take a look at Carter’s letters and memorabilia. Perhaps there’s postcards from Emmett; maybe photos of the two men together after the Emmett was elected in November, 1912; perhaps there’s punchy dialog in the correspondence between Emmett and Jerry!

I can’t wait to look through the papers on my next visit to Florida!

 

 

Hathitrust Digital Library

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Another ‘new to me’ excellent source worth sharing:

Just testing it out, here’s what was returned when I typed “Emmett Wilson” into the search bar:

Congressional Directory for the 63rd Congress, 1st Session. Source: HathiTrust Digital Library

I’ve seen this resource before in Archive.org, but this document search/reading tool is outstanding. On the left hand menu screen (not shown in this image) you also are given options to find the book in a library, or to purchase it (from third-party sources), or download the whole book from the site.

Something else interesting from the search results:

Emmett’s committee met on January 10, 1917. But Emmett wasn’t present. Source: HathiTrust Digital Library

At the end of Emmett’s congressional tenure, he’d been appointed to the dreaded Committee on the District of Columbia, which was considered one of the least prestigious committees upon which to serve. [Although Emmett was still on the Banking and Currency Committee, he was mostly a no-show at this committee (and on the Hill) because of his health emergency in December 1914.]

Wedding Anniversary

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Happy Anniversary!

Frank Maxwell Wilson and Louise Mildred Brown, April 17, 1918. Source: Ancestry.com

I just happened to be checking back into different databases for updated information, and the date on this document jumped out at me!

Frank Maxwell Wilson was the son of Emmett’s older brother, Everard Meade Wilson, who died rather suddenly of pulmonary tuberculosis in 1914. This wedding took place in Fulton County, Georgia; it is unlikely Emmett attended this wedding because he was in poor health.

The Sporting Emmett

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In celebration of Opening Day, we’ll take a look at Emmett Wilson through the lens of his pastimes: Sports.

Emmett appears to have been both athletic and a sports fan. He owned and rode a bicycle to and from classes while attending Stetson University Law School in 1903.

“He failed utterly.” So, Emmett was an average rider. Source: Stetson Weekly Collegiate, Dec. 5, 1903.

He attended a wide variety of sporting events with his friends, including the very first NASCAR race (before NASCAR existed) at Ormond Beach, Florida.

The foursome took the train to Ormond Beach, likely skipping out on their classes Friday. Source: Deland Weekly News

He loved to go fishing (enjoying not only the thrill of the catch, but also the solitude and quiet away from his hectic political life), and went on annual trips without fail, always during the first two weeks in August to St. Andrews Florida.

Emmett on the steamer Manteo, August 1908. Source: The Pensacola Journal

He played both football and baseball while at West Florida Seminary (photo below).

Kicker? Tight End? Wide Receiver? It’s impossible to know his position, but Emmett’s on the far left, first row. West Florida Seminary, now Florida State University. 1899-1900. Source: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/152050

But he seemed to prefer baseball, as he played not only for West Florida Seminary, but also for the local Chipley baseball team, and on occasion in pick-up games at Stetson University (juniors versus seniors, for instance).

Emmett, back row, far left. Source: The Argo, 1900-1901, Florida State University Archives.

It is interesting to compare Emmett with his peers in the group photos. Notice that Emmett sits on the end in both photos. In the football photo, he’s a bit separated from the group. This is a relaxed group; Emmett seems at ease here, sitting cross legged on the bottom step, his hands resting on his knees, but he isn’t sprawled like most of the boys on the bottom step.

Notice also how Emmett poses in the baseball photograph. He stares intently at the camera whereas several of his teammates are bored looking away, at ease. The two fellows in suits were the managers.

Maybe the photo was take right after a game and the boys are tired, as they seem a big disheveled, worn out, but Emmett doesn’t look tired or disheveled. Emmett, and the boy sitting next to him were the team substitutes, not regular players.

Emmett seems to be scowling, maybe smirking, at the camera. Notice Emmett’s body language compared to the other boys: He’s tense, as he sits perched on the edge of the bench, shoulders hunched, hands gripping his knees. I wish there were more details about this picture, and when it was taken. (Unfortunately that information doesn’t exist.)

Although Emmett may not have been the most valuable player on the West Florida Seminary team, he was certainly not a bench warmer on the Chipley town team.

Emmett played on the Chipley team on and off before attending West Florida Seminary, as his work schedule would allow. (In 1899, when Emmett was 15, he was already an expert telegrapher, and managing small railroad depots on the P&A line of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad.)

Emmett was likely one of the boys who couldn’t make the game. Source: The Chipley Banner, June 10, 1899.

After graduating from Stetson in 1904, there aren’t any more articles about Emmett playing for either the Chipley team or the Marianna team (he moved to Marianna after graduation to form a law partnership with his brother, Cephas). We know Emmett attended games and exhibitions; he probably also played a few games here and there, as did Cephas, who played the occasional exhibition baseball game in Marianna.

Cephas L. Wilson as baseball player for the Fats vs. Leans game, complaining about Lula. Go figure. Cephas was on the “Fats” team. Source: Marianna Times-Courier, July 18, 1912,

It is likely Emmett attended this game in Marianna. There were several important Florida politicians on both the the Fats team and the Leans team. Emmett had just returned home from the Democratic National Convention in Baltimore, Maryland, and was taking a break in preparation for the general election in November; it is reasonable to believe these heavy hitters in Florida politics, all in one place on a hot, summer day, would want to talk to Emmett after the game.