Hal Lawson Scott


I’ve been reviewing the documents for Emmett’s will for several days, going over all of the names mentioned in the file. Almost all of them are familiar. After four years of doing this project, I thought I had a complete list of the folks Emmett was closest to in his life, and that I knew who they were.

And then, I found this letter.

A portion of a document from Emmett’s will. Henry Bellinger was a professional colleague of Emmett’s (but not close). Hal Scott, though: A new mystery!

I dug around for several hours trying to find out more about this Hal Scott. I didn’t find much — he died soon after Emmett, in 1923 (causes unknown at this time), but I did find this:

Hal slugged Chipley Jones in defense of Emmett in the refined San Carlos Hotel bar! A real barroom brawl all for Emmett! Source: GenealogyBank.com

Here’s the scoop on Hal Lawson Scott:

He was born February 1884 in Montgomery, Alabama to Thomas Jefferson Scott and Mary Adelaide Taylor Williston, a solid, upper middle-class family. Hal’s family was very well connected with Theodore Roosevelt’s Republican party at the turn of the last century.

Hal was married in December 1908 to Alma McLeod in Florala, Alabama.

In 1910, he was an agent with the IRS in Montgomery; several articles in the Montgomery Advertiser indicate he was adept at busting stills. Hal remained with the IRS most of his career, serving as either an agent, collector, or receiver, in both Montgomery and Pensacola.

In 1911, he set up the Scott Investment Company in Montgomery with two siblings (Mary and John Taylor Scott).

Sometime between 1911 and 1912, Hal met Emmett. Emmett’s twin brother, Julian Wilson, lived in Montgomery at this time, and was an accountant with the L&N Railroad; it is quite likely that Hal knew Julian, and Julian may have introduced Emmett to Hal on one of Emmett’s frequent visits to Montgomery. Hal was still living in Montgomery at this time, but he had plans to move to Pensacola, because he wanted to go into business for himself. Regardless, this was also about the time Hal switched party affiliation from Republican to Democrat, and  he and Emmett built a solid friendship.

On March 4, 1914, Hal was listed in the San Carlos Hotel roster as visiting from Montgomery. This is when Emmett’s reelection campaign was in high-gear. Emmett knew Hal Scott was a go-getter and well connected, and planning a move to Pensacola. He asked Hal to work along with Chipley Jones, on his reelection campaign. Hal and Chipley were an effective team: Emmett received over 95 percent of the vote in the June primary, and was expected to run basically unopposed in the November general election. Several of Emmett’s campaign staffers expected to be rewarded for their diligence and loyalty, especially Chipley Jones, who had his eye on the big prize: The Pensacola postmastership, a sinecure with a hefty salary (about $75,000 in today’s dollars).

On July 5, 1914, two events rocked Emmett’s world — the death of his brother E. Meade Wilson, of rapid onset pulmonary tuberculosis, and the death of  A. Gibson Fell, the Postmaster of Pensacola.

Chipley Jones. Weak-chinned political sneak.

Chipley Jones was ecstatic as a man without a chin could be while trying not to act too excited that his dream job just became available because a colleague died. The man could barely contain himself — he badgered Emmett on the long train ride from Pensacola back to Washington, D.C. the ENTIRE trip. (I kid you not; that is documented.)

Emmett gave Chipley reassurances that he was the man for the job, but Emmett had lost respect for him, after Chipley had pulled an underhanded trick on John Stokes (Emmett’s opponent in the primary) right before the election. Emmett had already decided he wasn’t going to appoint Chipley; instead, he let Chipley wonder about it for three months.

By early October, Chipley was impatient and snarly to everyone who asked him what was going on about the postmastership. Things came to a head on Sunday, October 4, 1914, when, according to reports, Chipley said something derogatory to Hal about Emmett, and Hal defended his friend. I wonder if Hal aimed for Chipley’s weak chin.

There’s a few other items about Hal that I gleaned from the archives:

On Nov 29, 1914 — Hal Scott and one of Emmett’s closest friends, Kirke Monroe, form the Scott Feed & Grain Company in Pensacola.

In 1916, according to the Pensacola City Directory, Hal was working an auto dealership; i.e., Pensacola Overland Automobiles, as the company’s manager.

The Pensacola Journal, October 24, 1915

Overland Automobile. Source: myautoworld.com

Dec 28, 1916 — Hal named receiver for the F. A. & Gulf Railroad (a short railroad that extended from Crestview, Florida to primarily milling towns near the Alabama border, and specialized in moving lumber and naval stores.)

Hal Scott died on June 23, 1923 in Pensacola; his burial location is unknown.

Hal L. Scott’s will, dated 1910. Source: Ancestry.com

Hal’s wife, Alma McLeod Scott, never remarried; they never had children. Alma died in 1981. Unfortunately, there is no one directly related to Hal and Alma Scott who I could ask about the relationship between Emmett and Hal. I doubt any correspondence from Emmett or Hal exists today — but you never know.


When Your Source is Mostly Silent


I talk to dead people on a regular basis for Emmett’s story. Because the convo is mostly one-way, I don’t get a lot of sass back from my interview subjects.

Also, I don’t have to worry about Emmett and his friends not liking what I had to write about them after the piece is published, then b*tching me out — unlike the good old days, when I was a regular newspaper journalist dealing with live people.

Sometimes, seeing your own words quoted in print can be a bit of a shock if you aren’t used to it.

When I was working for The Commercial Dispatch (a newspaper in Columbus, Mississippi) 25 years ago, I remember one man coming to the newspaper office and complaining to one of my editors about a story I wrote in which he was quoted. He said, “I didn’t say that.” He demanded a correction.

I pulled my tape recorder out of my purse, and replied (with tape recorder in hand), “Yes, you did.”

I played the man’s words back to him, with an editor present. The man backed down. “I didn’t realize what I was saying,” he said, a little defensively. “I still want a correction.”

My editor explained to the fellow that people are often surprised at what spoken words look like in print, and no, there would be no correction. The quote was accurate.

When I think about Emmett and his relationship to the press, I’d say it was good at the beginning of his career. He worked hard to cultivate it; but ironically, at the height of his career in 1914, it fell apart, and it never was repaired. After that, Emmett kept mostly quiet, never really giving any kind of statement about the work he was doing for his constituents. It wasn’t that he wasn’t doing anything in office; I think he was just burned so badly by an editor he’d trusted, that he didn’t know who in the press he could trust anymore.

Mostly, the press relationship breakdown can be traced back to Emmett’s jackass campaign manager-press agent, Chipley Jones. Remember him?

The thing about Emmett is that he really was ‘green’ in terms of building and maintaining a relationship with the press. Even though he did work hard to build it, from where I sit, 100 years later, it seems rushed. Forced, even. He wanted to make good quickly, and to show everyone that he was successful, he knew the press had a big hand in that. But, he didn’t know how to play the game with the press.

I think if he had more professional experience as a politician, working his way up the system and investing time in building real relationships with the press (instead of hanging out with yes-men like Chipley Jones), he could have handled it.

Notice that his name is misspelled -- not quite 'famous' enough at this point. Source: The Pensacola Journal, October, 1907.

Notice that his name is misspelled — not quite ‘famous’ enough at this point. Source: The Pensacola Journal, October, 1907.

Emmett started building his personal/political PR campaign early and small, which was fine.

Emmett used the “Personal Mention” or “Tersely Told” columns of his hometown newspapers much like we use Facebook today: He’d drop a few lines with the editors about his comings and goings, letting everyone in Pensacola know what he was up to. It was a good way for an obscure but upwardly mobile professional man to promote himself.


Today, anyone with a Facebook account can tell the world that they are going to Vernon, Florida, or having company over from Tallahassee, which isn’t big news anymore.

In Emmett’s day, not just anyone could submit a note about their personal activities to the newspaper, and expect the information to be published: You had to be ‘someone.’

Back then, the newspaper WAS the social media of their day, and, because of Emmett’s pedigree and connections, the papers would gladly run his little blurbs here and there.

Chipley Jones: Campaign Manager, Pompous Ass

Chipley Jones: Campaign Manager, Pompous Ass. Source: The Pensacola Journal.

As I mentioned above, the relationship between Emmett and the press was fine, until July, 1914. That’s when Emmett’s campaign manager Chipley Jones turned completely against him. Jones was a master manipulator of the press: He used to be a reporter before going into the family business, and he was a leader in West Florida democratic politics, so he knew how to play both press and politics.

On the surface, Jones was an ideal campaign manager and press agent — until he felt slighted. He took everything personally. His modus operandi for revenge: Write a scathing letter about said offender and publish it in the newspaper.

Jones wrote a long, insulting letter about Emmett and had it published on the front page of The Pensacola Journal. It wasn’t enough that Emmett didn’t have a patronage position available for poor Chipley Jones (or the other hundreds of constituents who also wanted federal jobs); Jones accused him of being an alcoholic, and implied other inappropriate behavior. Charges like those were the death knell for an up-and-coming politician.

The editor of The Pensacola Journal, Frank Mayes (who had been Emmett’s champion up to this point), was also a buddy of Jones. Unfortunately, Jones convinced Mayes that Emmett was turning into a liability for the progressive Democratic party. The alcoholism charge in the paper was particularly damaging, as Mayes was a known prohibitionist, and he knew Florida legislators were planning to support prohibition. Mayes had to cut his ties to Emmett for the sake of integrity. So, Mayes printed Jones’ entire letter in The Pensacola Journal — all 25 inches of it.

So much for objective journalism.

And Emmett’s response to the personal attacks?

Not a word.

Emmet’s silence to Jones’ article dumbfounded his supporters. Other Florida editors wondered why Emmett did not respond in kind, or at least defend himself.

Was it because Jones’ letter appeared to be (mostly) sour grapes, and Emmett didn’t think it worthy of a response?

Interestingly, there were other criticisms made against Emmett’s work while in Congress, yet Emmett responded to those comments in the press quickly.

Was it because there may have been a bit of truth to some of the charges Jones made against Emmett? Or, was it because Emmett just didn’t care anymore?

Emmett probably didn’t think much of Jones, anyway, and so did not care to answer him in public. But the personal attacks in print were troubling, and the fact that Emmett didn’t explain them gave everyone pause.

I understand that Emmett probably did not want to get into a big argument in the press, for all the world to see. It might have reflected badly on himself or other members of his family.  But I wonder if he realized that his silence on this could be quite telling? Or, certainly, misunderstood? In the end, it didn’t help.

As a writer and former journalist, getting a source to talk can be difficult. Sometimes impossible.

When I was a journalism student back at Mississippi State University, I recall a class where we had a spirited discussion about when a key source refuses to talk. Do we let the story go? Is that one person’s input really necessary in order for the story to be complete? What would we do when faced with this situation?

I actually dug out the notes on this one. Yeah, I saved all my clips plus the notes on the stories. It is a force of habit; sometimes people would come back and ask me, “did I say that?” And I can show them my notes. 🙂  Anyway.

I kept all of my old clips, and old journalism class notes.

I kept all of my old clips, and old journalism class notes.

The year was 1984, the class was Advanced Journalism, the faculty member was my academic adviser and mentor, Professor Don Grierson,

Grierson used say that on occasion, a reporter will be unable to speak directly to a source. The person may be incarcerated, he said. The person may refuse to speak to any press representative, which is his or her privilege, he said. Or (I distinctly remember him chuckling as he said this), the person may be dead.

He added that while that source’s words were important, his or her actions were often more telling — and more truthful. He said:

“Observe their actions, and note their words. Are they consistent? Or, are they largely inconsistent? Words are one thing, but it is the person’s actions that generally are your clue to the person’s character. Sometimes, all you’re going to have are the actions, so, observe them closely and that can give you valid information, too.” (From my journalism class notes, 1984.)

I think it might be interesting to chart out Emmett words and actions during a certain time period, especially where my data may be a little thin at present. I’ll compare what he was actually doing, and what he was saying. I’ll include who was with him, what they were saying, where he was at the time, and if there were other related issues going on (family visiting, legislation up for a vote, and the like).

If anything, the chart will show me where I may need to look for supporting information (other newspapers, like the Tampa Tribune or the Santa Rosa papers, that mention him occasionally). It is about fill-in-the-blank. I’ll share a sample of the chart I come up with next week; you might find it useful for your own research.

Emmett may be largely quiet in my research, but he’s not entirely silent.



Friends, it isn’t that I expect to use a lot of swear words in Emmett’s book (what I have in his own words does not include cursing or profanity), but if I did, it would be because I had direct quotes from Emmett using the f-word, s-word, or whatever his preferred go-to expletive.

And if you are a reader who is offended by those kinds of words, well, guess what?

There’s an app for that!

The Clean Reader App blocks curse words in e-books. If you buy Emmett's book in traditional format, well,  tough s*it.  Source: www.washingtonpost.com

The Clean Reader App blocks curse words in e-books. If you buy Emmett’s book in traditional format, well, tough s*it. Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com

According to the article in The Washington Post, the app only obscures profane words — replacing them with little dots — because lawyers informed the developers that republishing an author’s text with changed words was a copyright violation.

Do I think Emmett cussed? Oh. Hell yeah.

For instance:

In 1914, one of Emmett’s purported friends, got his knickers in a twist because he felt Emmett owed him a big favor, and did not follow through accordingly. When he didn’t get the prize he thought he deserved, said friend tore Emmett’s reputation to shreds in a front-page story of The Pensacola Journal.

This created a PR nightmare for Emmett, who I know didn’t respond with a polite, passive, “Gee. I wish he didn’t do that. Why, that just made me mad.”


No. Emmett was incensed after this episode. I don’t know what he said. I can imagine, it, though.

Emmett was no candidate for sainthood, but he was an inexperienced young lawyer doing a tough job in Washington, and if you know anything about politics, you never can please everyone 100 percent of the time. It is an exercise in futility.

He was frustrated. His colleagues occasionally called him “waspish.” I’m sure Emmett let go a few choice zingers when he was so inclined. If I find his exact words, I’ll include them as they were said. Maybe I’ll italicize them, though. Even though Emmett probably shouted the curse words, I think putting the text in ALL CAPS is just a little too much emphasis in print. 🙂


With regard to the Clean Reader app, I personally find that anytime information is hidden from me, purposely or not, it fuels me to find out what, exactly, it is that is hidden, and why would someone want it hidden. It has the opposite effect, in my view, of calming the reader: It makes the reader curious. Curious readers (like me) aren’t satisfied with cute little dots hiding the emphatic.

It isn’t just because I like profanity, or find the words titillating; I want to know what other reason someone would want to censor the words. Censorship to me is like waving a big red flag in front of a bull; me being the bull, of course.

If I thought Emmett’s real words (profane or not) were being hidden, I’d want to know why. For sure, I’d turn over every f*cking stone doing it, too.

What are your thoughts about profanity in literature? In biography? Keep it? Filter it?


Just Between Friends (and Frenemies)

An example from 1909, not a card to or from Emmett, but one he would have seen. Source: Etsy.

An example from 1909, not a card to or from Emmett, but one he would have seen. Source: Etsy.

In Emmett’s day, postcards were sent to friends and family all the time. They were lovely, even humorous.

I know from my research that Emmett had a great sense of humor, so I am certain he sent at least a few humorous (as well as serious) postcards to his friends and family. I’d love to find some of them.

But if he were alive today, he’d have many e-card options at his fingertips!

I found some interesting examples that I imagine he’d have enjoyed sending — as well as receiving — from certain friends and family.

For example:

From Cephas (Emmett’s big brother) to anyone, anytime:

I'm sure this was the impression Cephas gave...everyone. Source: someecards.com

I’m sure this was the impression Cephas gave…everyone.
Source: Someecards.com


From Emmett to Pearl, his first serious girlfriend, 1904:

Unfortunately, the relationship was long distance, and didn't work out. Source: someecards.com

Unfortunately, the relationship was long distance, and didn’t work out. Source: Someecards.com


From Emmett to Cephas, 1905, when Emmett worked as the junior law partner in the Wilson & Wilson law firm:

I kinda think Cephas would have, too. Source: someecards.com

I kinda think Cephas would have, too. Source: Someecards.com


From Byrd Kelly to Emmett, 1911, regarding their ‘maybe’ engagement:

It wasn't a real engagement... Source: someecards.com

It wasn’t a real engagement… Source: Someecards.com


From Emmett to Byrd Kelly, 1911, summing up the reality of the situation:

Source: Someecards.com

Source: Someecards.com


From Emmett to his state Democratic Executive Committee members in 1912:

Source: Someecards.com

The Republicans in 1912 were having image problems. Source: Someecards.com


From Emmett to Carter Glass, chairman of the Banking and Currency Committee (on which Emmett served with distinction) in 1913:

The committee was famous for its members extremely contentious relationships. Source: someecards.com

The committee was famous for its members’ extremely contentious relationships. Fistfights allegedly broke out at meetings. Source: Someecards.com


From Woodrow Wilson to Emmett, after having worked an entire nine-month special session of Congress in 1913, in which he was reportedly working an 80-hour week:

Source: someecards.com

Source: Someecards.com


From Chipley Jones, Emmett’s ‘campaign manager’, in 1914, to Emmett. Chipley thought Emmett owed him a big patronage job:

Source: Someecards.com

Source: Someecards.com


From Lula Wilson to her husband, Cephas, about 1916:

Lula did file for divorce, but apparently dropped her suit, probably at the request of other family members. Source: bluntcards.com

Lula did file for divorce, but apparently dropped her suit, probably at the request of other family members. Source: Bluntcards.com


And finally, from Emmett himself to his constituency, 1917, when he left Congress:

I believe he was glad to get out of office at the end. Source: Someecards.com

I believe he was glad to get out of office at the end. Source: Someecards.com


(Thank you to Someecards.com and Bluntcards.com.)