Double the LL.B.


Paul Carter, from the 1899 Argo, the yearbook of the West Florida Seminary (now Florida State University). The original valedictorian of the 1904 Stetson University Law Class. He didn’t finish at Stetson; rather, he took classes at Georgetown University while he was private secretary to William Bailey Lamar.

Emmett’s best friend, Paul Carter, was the original valedictorian of the Stetson University Law School Class of 1904.

But fate — a job opportunity as private secretary to U.S. Congressman William Bailey Lamar — intervened. It was the opportunity of a lifetime for a smart, ambitious 23-year-old not even out of college. According to an article in the Stetson Weekly Collegiate, Paul was supposedly to return to Stetson to graduate with his class later that year — perhaps he had an arrangement with the school to finish his last semester via correspondence? Perhaps the school would have granted him credit for his work alongside Lamar in Washington, D.C. for some of the coursework?

The Class of 1904 waited until late April to elect their replacement valedictorian, Emmett Wilson. Interestingly, Emmett was not the original choice for any of the graduation class honors when the choices were made in December,1903; valedictorian and salutatorian were decided by popular vote of the graduating law school class.

Although Paul was busy in Washington, he didn’t let his law degree ambitions fall to the side. With plenty of professional experience, law school credits, and other credentials to his name, he enrolled in Georgetown University’s Law School in 1905 as a third-year student. Even though he possessed most of the credits to graduate (i.e., he needed one more semester of coursework), he was required to finish the entire year. The curriculum was challenging for Paul, and expensive: $100 a year for tuition (books not included) on top of his living expenses in D.C. (Law school tuition at Stetson for a year was $72.60 in 1906.)

The Washington Evening Star, June 8, 1906. Source: Chronicling

On June 8, 1906, Paul received his bachelor of law degree from Georgetown University.

And —

The Deland Weekly News, June 8, 1906. Source: Chronicling

Both the Georgetown article and the Stetson article mentioning appeared on the same day. What’s up with that?

Well —

1907 Stetson University Catalog. Source: Stetson University Archives

According to the 1907 Stetson University Catalog, Paul was in Florida in time to receive his degree from Stetson University.

Immediately after the ceremony, Paul and his fellow graduates went to Jacksonville to be sworn in to the Florida Bar. Then, Paul took the train from Jacksonville back to Washington, in plenty of time to attend his second graduation at Georgetown.

So, Paul Carter earned two bachelor of law degrees within two weeks. From what I’ve learned about Paul Carter over the past three years, he was an excellent lawyer and certainly deserving of his credentials. I’m curious about the arrangement he had with Stetson that allowed for him to receive his degree given his absence for over a year (even though he continued his education at another institution).


New Details Emerge as Final Draft Concludes


Paul Carter, from West Florida’s Seminary annual for 1900, The Argo. Source: FSU archive

I’ve always had a feeling new information might emerge just as I was putting the manuscript to bed, and sure enough, that’s what’s happened. I’m not upset or dismayed — quite the contrary. But it does make me anxious for the future as I get close to publication. I want Emmett’s story to be complete and accurate; perhaps those damn scrapbooks will come to light with the publication of the first part of Emmett’s story!

I was checking back on a database yesterday — just something i do regularly, just in case — and I found an important but tiny detail that will make Emmett’s final chapter come together seamlessly.

Here’s the story:


In June, 1906, Emmett was on a self-imposed exile from both Sterling, Illinois and his adopted hometown of Marianna, Florida. If you recall from earlier posts, Emmett burned his bridges with brother and law partner Cephas Love Wilson when he left in December, 1905 to form a law partnership with Nicholas Van Sant in Sterling in January, 1906.

Only one month into his new venture, Emmett discovered that winters in Florida really were a lot better than northwestern Illinois; that he really wasn’t ready to run the prestigious Van Sant & Wilson law firm all by his lonesome. Emmett probably didn’t expect he’d be actually homesick for Marianna, for his nagging but well-meaning family — even big brother Ceph.

By the first week of June, 1906 (only six months into the venture), Emmett left Sterling permanently.  But Emmett didn’t go directly home to Florida; Emmett went to Washington, D.C. to visit his best friend, Paul Carter.


William Bailey Lamar. Source:

For a long time, I figured this was a consolation visit. It was only about eight months earlier that Emmett stopped over in Washington to talk to Paul about the idea of going into a partnership with Van Sant — and Paul didn’t think it was a great idea. Likely Emmett went back to Paul, certainly more humbled and (now) more willing to follow offered advice.

Emmett arrived in Washington on or about June 10, 1906, and apparently stayed there for several days.

Even though Paul would have been glad to host Emmett, he was going to be busy: Paul was only 21 and private secretary to U.S. Congressman William B. Lamar. Not only that, Paul was attending Georgetown Law School while working for Lamar.

If Paul was attending in law school in 1906, as had been reported in several different sources discovered, I was curious about his progress given the important job he had on Capitol Hill. He had to have been working his tail feathers off.

How was he able to maintain a job like private secretary to a busy U.S. Congressman and go to law school? What was the class schedule like?


The 1906, 1907, and 1908 Georgetown University Law School Bulletins state that the classes were offered at night. That’s how Paul was able to work and finish his law degree simultaneously. Source: Google Books

The GU bulletins are wonderfully comprehensive: They include the lists of students enrolled, classifications, addresses, course schedules. But the search tool is not perfect — I would type in “Paul Carter” or “Carter,” only to have it miss a few Carters. This meant paging through several Georgetown University bulletins, starting with the 1904-05 catalog to be sure I covered everything.

I got to the very last section of the 1906-07 Georgetown University catalog — as in, the last three pages — and I was about to give up when I found this:


Georgetown University Catalog for 1906-1907. Graduate information is for June 11, 1906. Source: Google Books


And, tah-dah, this:


The graduation program for Monday, June 11, 1906! Source: Google Books

One final place to check — the D.C. papers. They were big on reporting graduation ceremonies from the local universities. Sure enough, we find that Paul not only attended the graduation ceremony, but he went out to a celebratory dinner for the law school graduates at the Raleigh Hotel:


The Evening Star, June 12, 1906, p.13. Those in attendance were listed. Paul was there; Emmett was not, though he attended Paul’s graduation. Source: Chronicling

This latest detail adds so much more depth and context to Emmett’s final chapter. I’m just so thrilled with this last minute find!


The Company He Kept


Yesterday, I came across this little article, nothing more than a little snippet from a news roundup about weekly goings-on in Washington, D.C.

Emmett in Washington, D.C., in high-powered company. Source:

Emmett in Washington, D.C., in high-powered company. Source:

It was something easily overlooked, buried away on the second page of the paper.  Actually, I found it about two years ago, when I was busily collecting anything and everything that had ‘Emmett Wilson’ in it, and filing it away to read/reference later.

Now, three years into Emmett’s research, I now see that it is full of information about Emmett. It speaks volumes to me about Emmett’s ambition, his resiliency, and what he was willing to do to make it big in West Florida politics.

I say all of this because I’ve been in a bit of writer’s funk for the past week. I’m stuck in the middle of a chapter that is going nowhere. When that happens, frustration builds, because I think I should be much further along with the manuscript than I am at present — bla, bla, bla — and then, I have an experience like I did yesterday, of looking back at a seemingly minor and unimportant article, and recognizing important details.

Two years ago, I didn’t (and couldn’t) see the importance of this short article, and now I do.

Why is this little article important? Here’s the back story:

In 1904, Emmett was the valedictorian of the Stetson University Law Class of 1904, a young man full of promise and potential, and energy. He had it made, too. This was a young man who (unlike most of his graduating class) had a job ready to go in his profession of choice upon graduation, a home where he would live rent-free, and powerful and important political contacts to use in fledging his career.

Emmett never had to ‘apply’ for a job at any time in his entire 35-year existence. Seriously.

Emmett never had to scan want ads in a newspaper, or sign up with a placement agency. He never had the experience of sitting in a stuffy reception room, sweating it out with other applicants, perhaps fiddling with his uncomfortable three-inch collar while waiting for his name to be called for an interview. He didn’t have to worry about the interview questions. He really didn’t have to ever worry about unemployment. Must have nice, huh?

Every single job he had was provided to him, by a family member.  No effort (and, so it seems, no significant experience) required.

Once Emmett started whatever job he had, he worked hard. I know this — his work ethic is mentioned several times across his career. We really don’t know what the actual quality of his overall work product was — but it had to have been at least adequate for him to represent clients. He didn’t win every single case, but he didn’t lose every single case, either.

During his first year as an attorney, his cases weren’t all that exciting: Mostly, his clients were either plaintiffs or defendants in lewd cohabitation, bigamy, assumption, partition, and embezzlement cases. My friend, the excellent Sue Tindel (the clerk and archivist of the Jackson County [FL] Court), once commented to me that Emmett was either a fiery, aggressive attorney or there was some influence that got him appointed federal prosecutor in 1907, because his court experience appears limited.

I rather think it was the latter, based on how Emmett was ‘given’ every one of the jobs he ever held — and — given the fact that two years after he graduated from law school, Emmett was jobless, homeless, and having to move back home with his father for a short period.

That must have been a hugely humbling experience for Emmett.

Emmett meets this guy, Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States. I wonder if he could have imagined that, 18 months earlier? Source:

Emmett mets this guy, Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States. I wonder if he could have imagined that, 18 months earlier? Source:

Back to the topic of the article in today’s post: Eighteen months after Emmett hit bottom, he’s apparently near the top again, as he is in the company of several highly important political figures in West Florida history, to meet the 26th President of the United States.

It is unclear why this group was in Washington, but one name jumps right out at me: General W.A. Maxwell. That would be Walker Anderson Maxwell, Emmett’s uncle, brother to Evelyn Croom Maxwell (with whom Emmett was a law partner in 1908) of Pensacola, son of Augustus Emmett Maxwell.

There isn’t a lot of information available about Walker, but this is what I’ve discovered so far:

In 1900, Walker was enumerated in the Phillips household, in Marianna, Florida. He was listed as a boarder, and was a bookkeeper by profession. Walker would have known (and seen) his nephews Emmett and Cephas on a regular basis.

Wedding announcement from The Richmond Dispatch, January 15, 1902. There must be an error in the reporting, as Judge Augustus E. Maxwell's actual death was in 1903. Source: Virginia Herald archives.

Wedding announcement from The Richmond Dispatch, January 15, 1902. There must be an error in the reporting, as Judge Augustus E. Maxwell died in May, 1903. Source: Virginia Herald archives.

In 1902, Walker married Emilie Cussen in Richmond Virginia.

I wasn’t able to locate any military service associated with Walker, but then, I found a source that indicated that his title was an honorific often given to members of the Florida governor’s staff.

From the May 21, 1909 edition of The Pensacola Journal. Source: Chronicling America.gove

From the May 21, 1909 edition of The Pensacola Journal.
Source: Chronicling America.gove

Walker Maxwell died in 1909 at age 48. I have a request in for the death certificate; I’m curious about the sudden death. The newspaper’s explanation (above) is worded very much like Emmett’s obituary; an ‘illness’ which, in reality, was not of a ‘short duration’ at all.

I’ll present a quick sketch of the other members of the group listed in the first article in a follow-up post. I remember once reading an article from Emmett’s days at Stetson, when he vocalized great disdain for the hero of San Juan Hill. After I dig around a little bit into these other fellows’ lives, I may be able to figure out why this group of important Florida Democrats would visit Teddy Roosevelt.

For now, I feel the muse speaking to me about the book chapter that’s been driving me crazy this past week.