Chapter 60: Emmett Wilson, Law Student

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April 22, 2016
McKeldin Library
The University of Maryland
College Park, MD

Did you know Stetson was Florida’s first law school? It was founded in 1900, and Emmett was one of the very first graduates (he was Valedictorian for the class of 1904).

When Emmett attended from 1902-1904, Stetson’s law school was in DeLand, Florida, and most of the classes met in a building called Science Hall. The law school (when Emmett started) wasn’t big; in fact, Emmett’s graduating class had only 10 students.

The 1904 graduating class with 10 students. Emmett's best friend, Paul Carter, is in here as well. Source: Stetson University Archives

The 1904 graduating class with 10 students. Emmett’s best friend, Paul Carter, is in here as well. Source: Stetson University Archives

 

Here’s a description of Stetson’s law school — actually ‘law department’ back in the day:

A description of the law school facilities in 1903-04. They were 'second to none' at the time. Source: Stetson University Archives

A description of the law school facilities in 1903-04. They were ‘second to none’ at the time. Source: Stetson University Archives

 

Here’s an image from a Stetson brochure featuring the facility:

Students in the law library in the upper left corner. Notice the guy in the pale vest? Does he look familiar? He should! Source: Stetson University Archives

Students in the law library in the upper left corner. Notice the guy in the pale vest? Does he look familiar? He should!  He’s also somewhere in the practice courtroom photo, but even with the original, I can’t zoom in enough to pick him out. Source: Stetson University Archives

 

Back then, Emmett lived in a dorm called East Hall his first year of law school, costing about $206 year. It included “tuition, board, furnished room, lights, and washing.” Books cost about $35 a year, and were references he’d use during his early years as a lawyer. When Emmett was ready to graduate, his diploma fee was $5.

Today, the law department is a school unto itself, and is in Tampa Bay. It has definitely come a long way since Emmett’s day.

Updated from April 22, 2016, at this link.

Chapter 58: An Interview with Cephas

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Outside the Law Office of Cephas L. Wilson
Courthouse Square
Marianna, Florida
August 3, 1902

Cephas Love Wilson, Jr.; about 1899. Source: State Archives of Florida.

You want to know about my kid brother? Well…let me think…

Before Emmett moved in with us this summer, I didn’t see him that often except for the occasional visit; Chipley is about 20 miles down the road, and I travel about the state on the legal circuit.  And I’m 14 years older than Emmett, so we weren’t that close growing up. But Emmett has good friends here. Lula is fond of him; she sees him as a younger, more trustworthy and moral version of me. She wishes I had more of Emmett’s qualities.

But then, if I were more like Emmett, I tell her, I’d probably still be single.

===

The Wilsons lived in Toledo Settlement, Punta Gorda, British Honduras (now Belize). They emigrated from the Port of New Orleans to Belize City; then traveled by ox cart down to Punta Gorda. There were few roads; this was not an easy move for this family. Source: http://www.scf.usc.edu

My earliest memory of Emmett? It was when he and Julian were born, in Belize. It was hot and uncomfortable then; a miserable, intemperate environment. The insects were huge. Father was always off busy, treating someone, either a Caribe or a member of our community. Mother had a particularly hard time; she’d been through a lot, before the move to Central America, and while she had family members and friends with her, it was no grand plantation or grand house, as she had been used to as a girl. Mother was a strong woman; had strong character and definite opinions. But cheerful, positive.

Emmett and Julian were born one day before Mother’s birthday. She called the twins her birthday present. She and Emmett were particularly close; he looked like her, but more to the point, he is also a lot like Grandfather Maxwell. People have said Emmett is definitely cut from the same cloth as Grandfather. They are very much alike in terms of mannerisms, behavior, looks, even. Grandfather is more social, though; more comfortable around people, especially women. Emmett, well, he’s still young. He’s more of a loner; keeps to the same small set of friends. Emmett just needs to be introduced to more prominent, more popular people. The right people.

While Emmett and I have not been close growing up, I have gotten to know him better in recent years, especially since he has been clerking for me the past summer.

Source: The Chipley Banner, May 1902.

I know Emmett enjoys listening to political discussions and he is interested in becoming a judge one day; he’s thoughtful, analytical. I see a lot of potential in him.

He’s told me that he is interested in studying law, that he wants to be a judge like Grandfather. Emmett would probably be a good judge one day: He respects, even likes and appreciates the law, and finds it comfortable where others would find it frustrating and confusing now and again. Not so, Emmett. The more challenging the precedent or the legal problem, the more energized he becomes.

I also know that Emmett wants to be something else, something bigger than he is at this moment, and somewhere else other than Chipley. I can understand that. I was like that too, when I was 17 and clerking for Judge W.O. Butler in Chipley.

For years, I’ve watched Emmett sit on the periphery of discussion circles on Father’s front porch, or in the parlor, or even here, in Marianna, when Lula and I would host family gatherings. Emmett likes to sit off to the side, almost by himself, just listening. He never says much, but then, he was never asked to jump into the conversation — not that I think his point of view wouldn’t have been seriously considered. Emmett never just randomly jumps into anything, even into conversation.

With Emmett, you have to understand, it isn’t about the text with him, it’s the subtext. When he does speak, it is well thought-out, not a ventilation of emotion or charged speech, or unprepared.

I think one day he might become a very good lawyer; especially, if he could master public speaking. But, he’s awkward and uncomfortable speaking before a group; even a very small one made up of those who know him well. He’d rather not draw attention to himself. I’ve told him that if he, indeed, wishes to become a judge like Grandfather, he’d have to overcome the fear of public speaking, and find a way to be effective, even if he feels terrified on the inside. A poor public speaker will never make it to the bench, even if he is excellent with the law. He’d have to master that fear at the get-go; an audience cannot see that you are afraid.

But, with Emmett, it is a little more than fear; Emmett just isn’t interested in things superficial, or social just to be social. If he wants to have a successful political career — which he will need if he wishes to become a judge — he has to get out among society, circulate, do the small talk, perhaps flirt with women single and married (as married women can influence their menfolk), promote himself. Emmett finds all of that false and insincere, which it is, truth be told. But, that is the way it is done, I tell him.

Perhaps with time, and practice, Emmett will become more comfortable speaking in public, in social settings. We can certainly help him that way.

I see a lot of myself in my younger brother: Ambition. Intelligence. Good looks. Good connections.

But Emmett has something I didn’t have at his age: An opportunity to go to college. I’ve always wanted to go to University; it sends a message of prestige and position, and it is the best way to make lifelong professional connections, if you do it correctly. In my view, if Emmett could make friends with the son of Florida’s secretary of state, that would be more than ample return on the family’s investment in his education. But Emmett doesn’t consider that suitable.

Emmett has something else I don’t have: Integrity. He’s the most honest person I know, and while that’s laudable, it can be a liability in a political career, especially if you take it to heart, as Emmett does. He’ll have to learn how to manage that sometime, else I think it could destroy him from the inside out.

Augustus Maxwell Wilson, oldest son of Dr. F.C. and Elizabeth Wilson. Source: Florida Memory.com

I make it no secret that I wish to be the Governor of Florida. My friends know it. My family, too. I know I can’t get there by myself; a family dynasty, like that of my Grandfather’s family, the Maxwells, is the key. I once thought Max would be an asset in building up the Wilson dynasty, linked as we are to the Maxwells…but Max is unstable. He’s become a bit of a laughingstock, and while he is a state representative this term, I’ve had to be careful, almost to distance myself from him. But I can’t do that; he’s my brother, and to do so sends the message of divisiveness in our own house.

But with Emmett…if he is given the proper opportunity, the proper guidance and grooming…yes. I see great potential with Emmett. That’s why I’m willing to invest in him — time and funds. I see in Emmett a chance to build a partner, a team. A dynasty.

Emmett’s ambitious. I see it in him. That, I believe, will be the key to helping him get over his fear of public speaking.

He once told me that he wants to be like Grandfather — a former U.S. Congressman, State Supreme Court Justice. I think Emmett has the capacity for both, in time.

There are other things to work on, but if I encourage his ambition, show him what heights he could rise to if he let me help him — we’d help each other. He’ll achieve his goal; I’ll achieve mine. The Wilsons will be a political dynasty, a continuation of the Maxwell political dynasty. It is all possible.

And we can make it happen.

Chapter 55: Enter Nancy

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September 19, 2013
University of Maryland
College Park

It is about four months into the research, and I am doggedly chipping at the cracked slab that lies over Emmett Wilson’s buried-away life history, starting with the people who knew him best.

In the December 2, 1918 edition of The Pensacola Journal, I found the following:

Emmett is eulogized seven months after his death in an Elk’s ceremony. Source: The Pensacola Journal, December 2, 1918 via ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Page 2, The Pensacola Journal, December 2, 1918, via ChroniclingAmerica.gov

I reach out to the state office of the Elk’s Club in Florida, to see if there was an archive where Anderson’s entire speech might have been preserved. It would make sense, I ask, because one of the members eulogized was a former Member of Congress. Later, an email from my source reveals he wasn’t able to find a record of Emmett’s membership — and alas,  the Pensacola chapter didn’t exist anymore — it disbanded after reaching its 100th anniversary.

Elk’s (left) and Osceola Clubs, Pensacola. Neither building survives today, although the Elk statue is elsewhere in the city, according to Jacki Wilson, archivist for the Pensacola Historical Society. Source: State Archive of Florida.

 

Next, I track down Robert H. Anderson. There’s an interesting biographical sketch in a Florida genealogy database — the sketch is a basic rtf file, in Courier typeface.

A snippet of the file uploaded by Nancy Rayburn. Source: USGWArchives

The document belongs to Ms. Nancy Rayburn — luckily, there’s an email address attached to the file.

===

I didn’t expect an answer quickly, but only a few hours later, Nancy responds:

She always like to correspond using Comic Sans. One of the many things I liked about her right away!

I sense a good source in the making.

I’ll write back right the next day — let’s see where this goes.

Chapter 53: Emmett’s fortune turns

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January 9, 1901
Tallahassee, Florida
The Leon Hotel

I woke alone in the hotel room — panicked, I sat up and looked at Cephas’ pocket watch on the table — almost 8:30 in the morning.

I felt like hell. I didn’t sleep well last night; Cephas came in around 3 am, smelling of cigars and something else, I think it was perfume. He tumbled into bed and commenced to snoring loudly the entire rest of the night.

But I had also been restless because I decided to see Paul Carter over in the dormitory anyway, a last minute decision. I closed my eyes as I sat up in bed, remembering our conversation….

Paul H. Carter, from the 1899-1900 WFS yearbook, The Argo. Source: FSU Archives.

I had to tell my best friend I wasn’t coming back to school — and Paul told me he guessed it because some of our friends had reported back to him seeing me prowling around in front of College Hall. So much for my success in remaining invisible.

He told me he understood; family comes first, and besides, he knew I wasn’t really happy at WFS. But Paul still seemed uneasy talking with me.

“Something else is going on,” I said. “Tell me.”

Paul said his mother is moving his family away from Chipley to Appling, Georgia, and will probably stay there for good.

I was floored by the news. Irritated. 

“How long have you known?” Paul says since New Years.

“When were going to tell me?” Paul shrugged helplessly. “Emmett. I felt bad for all you were going through with Francis. I just didn’t think I ought to make it worse for you. I’m sorry…there hasn’t been any good time to tell you this.”

I turned away from him; damn him. I knew it wasn’t his fault, but it seemed like everything in my life was coming apart, or leaving me behind. 

“Look. I plan on coming to Chipley and Marianna often. And you can visit me here, too, if you like.”

I shook my head. “No. I don’t think I’ll be back at the Seminary again.”

===

When I went downstairs to the hotel lobby, l saw Walter and Cephas in the dining room, having breakfast. I went over to their table; they wished me good morning, and Walter pulled out a chair next to him.

As I sat down, a waiter came over to the table and poured a cup of coffee for me. “Hungry?” Walter asked.

“No,” I said, as I poured milk into the steaming cup.

“You sure you’re OK, little brother?” Cephas asked as he peered at me over the top of The Weekly Tallahaseean.

“Fine.”

We head back in a few hours ourselves. Going back to Marianna, I didn’t know what the future would hold. I didn’t know what I was going to be doing. God, I would be so bored…

Walter was watching me out of the corner of his eye.

Ceph stood up, drank the last of his coffee, and put the cup down. I’m going to settle up the bill, then head back up to the room and pack. Come up when you get done, OK?

I nodded.

Walter watched Cephas leave. He turned to me. Are you all right, Emmett?  You’re awfully quiet; you seem a little down today.

I sighed.

Want to talk about it?

I shook my head. No, I said, quietly.

All right son, he said kindly, pushing a small dish of toast towards me. I think Walter probably knew something about what was going on, but he didn’t pry.

Well, he said, you should know that I was talking with some friends from legal circles up here, and you’ve made quite an impression on Judge D.J. Jones. Do you know him? 

I looked at Walter questioningly. “Yes, for years. He’s been friends with the family as long as I can remember.” 

“Judge Jones thinks a lot of you, and your father, of course. Busy man, you know. He’s a successful lawyer, a lot of cases going on.”

“Yes,” I said. I ate a few bites of toast.

“Judge Jones needs a law clerk. Someone who is precise, smart, detail oriented to help him out, and in turn, someone he could teach the ropes of running a law office. Interested?”

I paused, the toast midway to my mouth. I looked at Walter, astonished.

“Me?”

Walter smiled. “Who else? It’s a great opportunity, son.  Your brother started out with in Chipley with Judge W.O. Butler, you know, much the same way you will, and look at where it took him.”

“Yeah,” I said, still surprised. “But wait, Walter — me? I don’t have any experience.”

“That’s OK. Jones wants to work with someone new, someone he can train to take care of his office for him. You’d be back home with your Father, of course, but at the firm all the time, and probably traveling with Jones to different courts. He needs someone smart, trustworthy, and with integrity. You’ll hear a lot of information that can go nowhere else, you understand?”

“I do.”

“So, I take it this is something you’d want to do?”

“Yes. Yes!”  My future was looking up at that moment….

“All right, then. Congratulations, Emmett. You start on Monday, January 14. That should give you plenty of time to get settled back in Chipley.”

From the February 23, 1901 issue of The Chipley Banner. Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

Chapter 52: Walter Steps In

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October 23, 2018
The University of Maryland, McKeldin Library
College Park, MD

[Reposted from here.]

We all have that one friend who we know we can turn to, no matter what, no matter the time of day. The friend who knows us better than our spouses (sometimes). The friend who loves us for who we are, who accepts us, unconditionally.

There aren’t many people in our lives who fit that bill. If we are lucky, we’ve had this kind of friendship at least once.

This was Emmett’s closest friend. J. Walter Kehoe.  Although Emmett’s childhood friend, Paul Carter, remained close to Emmett, they drifted apart after Emmett moved to Pensacola in 1906, and his law/political career took off.

J. Walter Kehoe in 1917. Kehoe, Emmett’s law partner, also succeeded him in Congress. Source: Wikipedia.com

Paul and Emmett were always friends, whereas Walter started out as a mentor to Emmett, and remained close to Emmett until Emmett’s death (although the relationship with Walter became estranged at the end).

But this was more than a mentoring relationship. Emmett lived with the Kehoe family between 1906-1918, except for a two-year period, when Emmett was ‘baching it’ in a boarding house with friends (1909-1910). It was more like Emmett was a member of the Kehoe family. Indeed, Kehoe’s great-grandson Mike once told me in a telephone interview that his grandparents, Walter and Jennie Jenkins Kehoe, “thought the world of Emmett. That’s why they named their youngest son and my favorite uncle, for him.”

Walter and Emmett’s older brother, Cephas, were law partners in Marianna for several years before Walter was named States’ Attorney around 1902, and moved to Pensacola. (As luck would have it with Emmett, Cephas’ law practice now had an opening — and in two years, when Emmett graduated from Stetson University, he became Cephas’ junior law partner.) Walter, therefore, knew Emmett since boyhood; knew his character, his intelligence, his potential — Walter knew and saw the REAL Emmett Wilson — the Emmett Wilson pre-alcoholic disaster.

Emmett’s ‘home address’ is actually the Kehoe’s address. Also, that’s the Kehoe’s phone number. Emmett didn’t have his own, separate line. Source: Ancestry.com

As with any ‘family’ relationship, it was loving, frustrating,  agonizing, painful — but it was honest — and the relationship between Emmett and Walter was one of the few consistencies in Emmett’s life.

Even though I know Walter and Jennie Kehoe were good to Emmett — Emmett was always treated as if he was a member of the Kehoe family — Walter had political aspirations too, and knew that a partnership with the Wilsons (Cephas primarily, but if not with Cephas, then Emmett) would likely propel him into the United States Congress, which was Walter’s ultimate goal. Walter’s continued partnership with Cephas was preferred for obvious reasons: Emmett was a neophyte in 1906, when he moved to Pensacola, an alcoholic, and immature on several levels. But the idea then (as now, sometimes) was that with a consistent home, and maybe a good woman to make it happen, Emmett would straighten up, stop drinking (or at least curtail it), settle down, and everyone’s political/power dreams would be realized.

Walter and Jennie did their best to help Emmett settle down — they even went so far as to introduce Emmett to ‘suitable’ women, and at one point, pushed, er, encouraged him strongly, to ask one young woman from Columbus, Georgia they deemed suitable to marry him. This was no grand passion or true love story between Emmett and Miss Georgia. Perhaps if it was, Emmett may have capitulated. But Emmett was inconsistent. And Miss Georgia was canny enough to realize that Emmett was too much of a project, and not her type. Besides, her Anti-Saloon League President father would certainly not welcome Emmett into the family.

Walter’s role in Emmett’s life is interesting, starting with his conversation with Emmett during Jennings’ Inauguration. Stay tuned for more on their story.

 

 

Chapter 51: Inauguration Blues

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January 7, 1901
The Leon Hotel
Tallahassee, Florida

The lobby of The Leon Hotel, Tallahassee, Florida; 1905-1910. Source: State Archives of Florida

Cephas and I met his friend and former law partner, Walter Kehoe, in the lobby of The Leon Hotel right before supper. Walter had come to Tallahassee ahead of us by a day or so. “Legal business with the Governor-elect,” he said mysteriously, as he shook hands with me, and exchanging a glance with Cephas, who smiled conspiratorially in response. “I’m glad you’re here, Emmett,” he said to me. “This is an important occasion, something you wouldn’t have wanted to miss.”

From the 1901 Jennings Inauguration Scrapbook, from the Florida State University archives. Cephas and Walter Kehoe were invited to participate in the inauguration festivities; Emmett likely stayed with his brother as they were reported to be at the Leon Hotel in the Tallahassee newspapers. Source: Florida State University Archives.

After we checked in, the three of us ate in the hotel dining room. And after dinner, Cephas and Walter walked outside to the porch to smoke cigars. I told them that I wanted to walk over to campus for a bit. Cephas said it was fine with him, but not to stay out too late.

“Remember, you’ve got a full day tomorrow. We’ll need to start early,” Cephas said.

“I haven’t forgotten,” I said.

Truthfully, I didn’t want to attend the events. I didn’t want to be seen by anyone I knew, but I couldn’t stay cooped up in the hotel with Cephas, feeling as if I were constantly under his thumb.  I had been feeling claustrophobic for the past few days, always being watched by family members or people who knew me in Marianna, planning my life for me since I wasn’t coming back to WFS.

Being in Tallahassee meant I could be anonymous for a little while.

I could lose myself in a crowd, I could walk around the town with less of a chance of being recognized.

By now, it was dusk; the city was full of visitors and crowded.  As I walked away from the hotel, I noticed that there were a lot more prostitutes hanging around than usual. Ceph didn’t say anything about not availing myself in that direction — I instinctively felt for my pocketbook — I knew I didn’t have much money with me; probably not enough for a prostitute —

It was six blocks from the Leon Hotel to the campus; I kept my head down, my face out of the light of street lamps. I wasn’t going to walk too near my old dormitory in case some of the fellows would be sitting on the front porch, smoking, playing checkers or chess, or just shooting the breeze.

The main WFS building, also known as College Hall. It was constructed in 1891; it was then replaced by Westcott Hall in 1909. Source: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/11572

As I neared College Hall, I noticed the entire building was lit up, and groups of people — faculty, students, alumni — all in formal dress. I was about 75 feet away from the arched entrance, in the shadows of the large oak trees nearby. I saw Dr. Murphree was hosting a gathering in honor of the inauguration in the parlors and the recitation rooms; there was quite a large crowd there. And in there, shaking hands with men in tuxedos, laughing and smoking cigars, one turned and I saw it was Paul Carter. Paul. I instinctively stepped behind the oak tree I was next to.

So. My friends were in there, hobnobbing with important looking people.

At that moment, I realized the irony of all of this: If I were truly honest, I’ve always been on the outside, on the periphery here at the Seminary, and on the periphery of my family. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to succeed, or to be accepted; I realized that I didn’t fit in anywhere.

And ironically, this understanding about myself felt simultaneously relieving and depressing at the same time. It felt true, and logical. But what was I supposed to do with this new knowledge? What if I never found the right place for myself? What if I never succeeded? What if I ended up just an obscure, unknown…a failure? I couldn’t tell anyone about this —

And then, knowing I had to keep this to myself: Would I always feel this lonely?

I felt for the silver flask down in my coat pocket. I took it out. If I took a small drink, no one would know, and I would feel some immediate relief.

But I had promised Ceph I wouldn’t drink anything while I was in Tallahassee, because I had to be above reproach, and circumspect about my behavior at all times. I could not take a chance on anything. “We’re all on display in Tallahassee,” Cephas told me while we were on the train this afternoon. “Act the part for it to be believable, and don’t take any stupid chances.”

I agreed to it.

But I was feeling the worst kind of tension and anxiety. I wanted relief, and knew I would get it almost instantly with a quick drink, but I knew I couldn’t take the chance here, on campus, even though I was standing in the shadows — so, I turned, and started to walk out from behind the massive oak, towards the sidewalk, away from College Hall.

 

Chapter 50: A curious notation in The Argo

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September 10, 2016
University of Maryland Research Carrel
College Park, Maryland

Before I move on with Emmett’s story post-WFS, one thing that popped out at me when I was looking through Emmett’s old college yearbook was this:

An essay on Inauguration Day for Governor William Sherman Jennings; Emmett and some of his friends from WFS attended. Emmett attended with his brother, Cephas Love Wilson, who was a Florida State Senator. Source: FSU Archives

Emmett is mentioned on this page as having attended — and his friends ate his supper for him. Curious. Source: FSU Archives

The Jennings inauguration ceremonies ran from January 6-9, 1901 — and by this account, Emmett was there, and, likely in attendance with his brother Cephas, and Walter Kehoe.

So, I’m wondering if that’s when Emmett told his friends he was leaving school — and what he told them?

I wonder if Emmett was embarrassed about it, or maybe he felt at peace, because he was finally figuring out what he wanted to do with himself?