Saturday, October 20, 2012

Dancey Fort (1870-1955)


   Hailing from the city of Clarksville, Tennesee, oddly named attorney and jurist Dancey Fort was regarded as one of the Volunteer State's prominent practitioners of law during his life. A practicing attorney for over three decades, Fort also made substantial headway in state politics, serving as a city attorney, state senator, and State Commissioner of Finance and Taxation .
   Dancey Fort's story begins in the town of Adams, Tennessee, where he was born on October 11, 1870, being the son of Josiah and Eliza Penelope Dancey Fort. He was given the odd first name "Dancey" due to it being his mother's maiden name, and as a young man attended local schools and eventually enrolled at the University of Tennessee. Fort later studied at the Cumberland University, graduating in 1891 with a bachelor of laws degree.
  After completing his studies, Fort returned to Clarksville and opened a successful law practice, and "handled much important litigation before the courts". He is recorded by the 1923 work Tennessee, the Volunteer State as being attorney for the Cumberland Telephone and Telegraph Company and "several other local corporations." He married in November 1896 to Ms. Bennie Gill (1873-1957), with whom he had two children, Josiah and Mary Yancey Fort. 
   In the same year as his marriage, Fort began testing the political waters, running for a seat in the Tennessee State House of Representatives. He was unsuccessful in this attempt, but did win election to the state senate in November 1906 from Montgomery County. Fort was reelected to the senate in November 1908 (serving from 1909-11) and would also be named as chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Executive Committee. In addition to the above offices, Fort would serve as City Attorney for Clarksville for twenty-five years (1901-1926) and also held a directorship in the Northern Bank of Tennessee.
   After leaving the Tennessee legislature Fort's public profile continued to rise, and in 1932 and 1936  was a delegate to the Democratic National Conventions held in Baltimore and Philadelphia, respectively. In the following year Tennessee Governor Hill McAllister appointed Fort as State Commissioner of Finance and Taxation. He served as Commissioner until 1936, when he resigned to accept a seat on the 9th Judicial Circuit Court of Tennessee. His service on the bench lasted sixteen years, concluding with his retirement in 1952.
  While a figure of distinction in Tennessee politics and law for many years, Fort also fond time to be a leading light in local civic affairs, holding office as clerk of the Cumberland Association of Baptist Churches for seventeen years, a teacher in the Baranca Sunday School, and was a charter member of the Kiwanis Club of Clarksville. Fort was also an active figure in a number of local fraternal organizations, holding memberships in the Knights of Pythias and the Junior Order of Odd Fellows
   Dancey Fort died at age 83 on June 5, 1955 and shortly thereafter was interred at the Greenwood Cemetery in Clarksville. His wife Bennie survived her husband by two years, dying on January 7, 1957 at age 83. She too was interred at Greenwood, and it is presumed that Fort's two children are buried here as well, although no exact gravesite location could be found for them. The rare portrait of Judge Fort shown above was located in the earlier mentioned Tennessee, the Volunteer State, published in 1923.

     This death notice for Dancey Fort appeared in the Kingsport Times on the day following his death. 

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