Chapter 61: The goal

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January 4, 1903
East Hall Men’s Dormitory
Stetson University
DeLand, Florida

I love where I am at this moment.

Emmett was classified as a junior his first year at Stetson; administrators credited his two years’ work at WFS. Source: Stetson University College Catalog, 1901-02, http://digital.archives.stetson.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/Unidocs/id/2865/rec/4

This is different than the Seminary, and the Business College; this is about joining in active discussions with my professors about something I am entirely interested in, and this all makes perfect sense — the work I did for Cephas, the drudge work I did for Judge Jones. Ceph had been right: The work I did last summer for him turned out to be some of the most valuable practical experience in preparation for law school. In fact, the required Elementary Law class has been nothing but repetitive information I learned in Cephas’ law office this summer.

Law school feels natural to me. I work hard; but I take nothing for granted. I feel like I had a real chance to shine  because it all feel right, being here at Stetson. 

The first week here, Paul and I immediately joined the debate club, and helped inaugurate the Kent Club, a law school organization. We are regular attendees of both groups.

For the first time, I feel like I belong completely, without reservation. I love it. I feel at home. More so than in my actual home in Chipley, for what it is worth. This has been my first time living away from family members and with my two closest friends at East House — Paul Carter and Billy Crawford — and we have a great time! 

We play pranks on each other (one of which actually caused a small fire last week), we roughhouse, we smoke, we relax by playing checkers or chess on the front porch. Some of us even get up a game of baseball with the underclassmen on occasion.

There are 13 of us fellows living in the dorm, and two or three of us share a room. In the fall, we had 14, but one fellow got fed up with us and our pranks, and moved out. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the evening he came home from studying in the Law Library, and discovered his room was completely devoid of furniture. (We’d simply stashed it in the attic.)

We are a fun, cohesive group. We often pool our food together for giant feasts (some of which was taken surreptitiously from the women’s dorms); Crawford has a chafing dish, and we add whatever we have on hand: Hot dogs, apples, random vegetables to make up a stew of sorts. Most of the time, we eat at the stag table at Chaudoin Hall, the large women’s dormitory, which features the biggest dining room on campus. The dining is segregated by gender; there is also a ‘training table’ where the football and baseball players eat separated from the rest of us.

Most of the fellows, like myself, go on outings with a few of the girls on campus now and then; these are chaperoned affairs, but now and then, you can get alone with a girl, which is pleasant, especially if you are out with one of the girls who is ‘accommodating’ . You have to be careful; all of us do. One slip, and you’d be married, then out of school, and off to a drudge job, drudge life. I feel comfortable saying that none of us in our group expect or want anything serious with a girl at this point.

Paul Carter was popular among the girls at Stetson. Because one-on-one meetings were mostly chaperoned between men and women, the men would climb through the womens’ dorm windows to visit. The Stetson Collegiate. http://digital.archives.stetson.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/Newspapers/ p. 7, December, 1902.

I haven’t met anyone at Stetson who interests me, though I am friendly with a lot of the girls on campus. I attend parties and functions at the dorms, as most of the fellows,  but none of it is serious to me. I don’t want it to be serious.

Honestly, I feel like most of the girls here are in it to find a husband, the way they skip classes, and carry on in their dorms with fellows who sneak in through windows at night. Some of the fellows don’t come home until almost sunrise sometimes.

It’s not as if I am not tempted. I am. I know what girls do and do not at Hamilton Hall — the girl’s dorm — for instance, but I also know I absolutely cannot screw up my chances here at Stetson, so my personal needs are met off campus when necessary.

===

Emmett’s dorm, East Hall, is in the upper right hand corner. Hamilton is right below it. Source: Stetson University Archives

Last evening, while sitting on the front porch, smoking with a few of the fellows, Crawford, who is always nosing into my nonexistent love life, asked:

“Met anyone lately who looks interesting, Wilson?” 

“No. Not really.”

“There’s dancing lessons to be offered at Chaudoin Hall on Fridays by a Mrs. Spaulding.”

“She has two rather good looking daughters, doesn’t she?” one of the fellows at the checkers game on the other side of the porch said.

“That’s the one,” said Crawford, lighting a cigarette. “Might be worth checking out over there, to see what’s what, Em. Her daughters are quite outgoing.”

“I already know how to dance,” I said.

“Maybe this Spaulding woman knows newer steps. I understand she promotes herself and her daughters as quite the life of the party where they are from, Massachusetts, I think. Or New York,” Crawford said, as he exhaled smoke, and eased back in his chair.

I really wasn’t interested in going to the dance; I had a debate coming up next week, and there was a case I was preparing in my Contracts class that needed attention.

For the past few weeks, I’d been getting later and later starts with my homework, often I wasn’t starting to read until around 10 o’clock each night. Sometimes I pull a few all-nighters, especially if I let myself get talked into a social over at Chaudoin Hall, which I honestly don’t enjoy that much. I go mostly so I don’t get a reputation of being anti-social.

The girls are nice enough, but they all seem as if they are trying too hard, if you know what I mean. The more standoffish I am, the harder some of them try, and I was not brought up to be rude to young ladies.

“No,” I told the fellows, as I stood up to go upstairs. “I really have to hit the books, fellas. It took me almost two years to get back to college; I worked too hard to return to school and if I don’t get to it, Professor Brierly will chew me out in Contracts.”

They left me alone after that.

But what I didn’t say to them: “This is my last and only chance to become someone more than who I am at present, and I’m not going to screw it up.”

I think maybe some of them know that about me already, though.

 

 

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 59: I Begin at Stetson

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September 25, 1902
Stetson University
DeLand, Florida

Flagler Science Hall. This was the location of the original Stetson University Law School
Source: http://www.stetson.edu/other/about/history.php

I stood outside Science Hall at 7:30 am Thursday morning, September 25; it was a clear day, a cool morning, but I was sweating and nervous. I hadn’t had anything to drink since I arrived on campus day before yesterday; I’ve been too busy getting settled into the dorm, and, getting ready for the entrance examinations. I had to pass them, absolutely. If I failed, I’d have to go back to Marianna and work with Cephas, save up again, prepare again…and I really didn’t think I’d have it in me to do it all over again. I took my handkerchief out of my coat pocket and wiped my brow, and my mouth.

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

I heard footsteps behind me. I turned; it was Paul.

You ready? He said.

I guess so.

We both entered Science Hall together, and headed to the examination room. Paul and I had prepared each other, quizzing each other on what would be on the exam for over a week. Even though Paul was already a barred attorney in Florida, he’d still have to take the entrance exam, like anyone else who wanted to earn their law degree at Stetson.

Between working for Cephas all summer, and being quizzed by Paul, I felt well prepared, but I felt the pressure, too, to succeed, and I was stressed.

Being around Cephas this summer was probably the best thing that could have happened, to prepare me for law school; I didn’t want to admit that at first. While I learned a lot working for Judge Jones, Cephas was the tougher mentor. Cephas wasn’t also as diplomatic in his criticisms of my work; he demanded perfection out of me at all times in his legal work, and when I’d complain, Ceph would tell me that I probably wasn’t fit for the bench anyway, and if I thought the law was some soft or cushy job, maybe it would be better if I went back to the telegraph office, or just planned on clerking the rest of my life, because I’d never make it as a lawyer.

Cephas had me doing research on cases, drafting documents, running errands to court and to other offices, composing letters. Occasionally, Ceph would let me accompany him to court, where I would listen to him argue cases in such a manner that often made me feel proud, embarrassed, and afraid all at the same time. Cephas was an eloquent speaker, a gifted debater, and always thoroughly prepared. Ceph’s presence in the courtroom was something you could not overlook: He was tall, broad, distinguished, polished, commanding. He looked — and was — a force to be reckoned with, and he was absolutely respected, even by fellow attorneys who plainly did not like him. I was often amazed at the audacity Ceph had in representing his clients: He was always of the mind that he was going to win, period, and so, Cephas would not stop at anything in the service of his clients, or his own self-interest. This meant, occasionally, that he would resort to what I considered low blows — essentially, ad hominem attacks — things which may not have been completely substantiated, but Ceph knew how to weave those things into his arguments in the courtroom.

Cephas Love Wilson, 1906. Source: http://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/143975

He’d then get called out on it by the judge, who would then admonish the jury to disregard Cephas’ words. Ceph knew that even if a judge and the opposing counsel deemed his comment immaterial, and the jury was instructed to ignore or disallow what was said, that he had planted the seed of doubt in certain jurors’ minds about his opponents, and their characters, which is what often made the difference in the outcome of his cases.

As Paul and I walked down the hall towards the examination rooms — as a lawyer, he would take his exam in a different room than I — he said, “Remember, the law is a whore. Don’t forget to put that on your test.”

I laughed out loud. You sound like Cephas, I said, as we parted ways.

Yeah, well, he ought to know, Paul retorted with a chuckle. See you outside when you’re done.

As I took my seat in the classroom, and waited for the proctor to distribute the test, I remembered Cephas saying the same thing. “You have to take what you need and get what you can out of the law for your clients. Then, move on, and not think about. You can’t get caught up in clients’ personal lives. It’s all about business, it’s all law, plain and simple. None of it is ever personal. You get into trouble, you lose, when you let it get personal.”

The proctor called the room to attention, and started explaining the administration of the exam.

I realized this summer that Cephas may not always use the most ethical means to win his cases; and in fact, he did get personal with some of his clients and their business, all behind the back of Lula. I never said anything to her or anyone else; I knew better. I didn’t like everything he did to win; but he was right — it was about winning. He had the reputation of a winner. That meant he was prominent, wealthy, respected — a force to be reckoned with. I wanted what he had, too. I said as much to Cephas, too.

Cephas replied, “You need to toughen up, first, and sometimes, put your high sense of moral ethics and integrity in the background, else you will be held back. And you need to be the absolute best at everything you do in this profession.”

“All right students,” the proctor said. He looked at his pocket watch. “Open your test booklets, and begin.”

 

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.