Sunday, December 2, 2012

Pross Tid Cross (1876-1969)

Portrait from the Official Manual of the State of Missouri.

     A lifelong resident of Missouri, Pross Tid Cross was endowed with one of those funny rhyming names that would make even the most stone-faced person laugh out loud. During a long life of ninety-three years, Cross carved out an influential career as a city attorney, telephone company executive and a three-term Missouri state representative from Clinton County. The above picture of Mr. Cross was located in the 1906 edition of the Missouri State Manual, and the biography of him featured there stands as one of the few mentions of him to be found online.
   Born on July 8, 1876 in Caldwell County, Missouri, Pross T. Cross was one of five children born to John Albert (1842-1926) and Matilda Beckett Cross (1853-1941). He attended public and private schools local to the Caldwell County area and went on to study law under the tutelage of his fatherPross Cross was admitted to the bar in May 1896 and in the following year married to Nina Clemons Peel (1879-1947) with whom he had the following children: Gerald (1898-1987), Laura (1901-1992) and Mary (birth-date unknown). 
   Soon after passing the bar Cross established a law practice and within a few years had built up a reputation as one of the premier attorneys in the state, making a name for himself in the "handling of personal injury and damage cases."  He is also recorded by the History of Northwest Missouri as having had a "very extensive and remunerative" law practice headquartered in the city of Lathrop.
    While Cross's skill as an attorney won him wide repute, he also began to branch out into the field of politics during the early 1900s. After serving as city attorney for Lathrop for a few years he launched a candidacy for a seat in the Missouri State House of Representatives in 1904. In that year's election Cross faced off against Republican nominee G.L. Long, and when the votes were tallied that November, Cross emerged the victor by a vote of 1,876 to 1,762. 

From the 1906 Missouri State Manual.

   After taking his seat in January 1905, it didn't take long for Cross to make an impact in the legislature. During his three terms in house Cross became an avowed leader in passing legislation directed at the bloated railway industry and its various abuses of power. Described as a "strong speaker and fluid talker" by his fellow legislators, Cross drew the ire of railroad companies and corporations by introducing numerous bills that curtailed their power and held them accountable for their wrongdoing. Amongst the most important pieces of legislation Cross introduced was a bill that increased the amount of monetary damages in case of death caused by railroads from five thousand dollars to ten thousand, a bill that reduced passenger fair on Missouri railroads to two cents, and a bill that prevented railroad companies from moving cases from state to federal courts of law. The History of Northwest Missouri makes special note of his ability to pass legislation, stating that "the bills which Mr. Cross introduced and secured passage of in the Legislature of Missouri, had cost the railroads in the state millions of dollars annually." Even more remarkable was that Pross Cross was barely into his thirties at this stage in his public career!

                      Pross T. Cross as he appeared in the 1909 edition of the Missouri State Manual.

    Acknowledged as the Democratic Party's leader on the floor of the House of Representatives, Cross is recorded as being the "sponsor of and introducing more bills than any other member of the house" during his three terms of service. Cross left the legislature in January 1911 and returned to his earlier career as an attorney. In 1947 Nina Peel Cross died of an undisclosed illness after fifty-one years of marriage. Cross would later remarry to Alma V. Hubbard (1896-1955) after his first wife's death but no exact date could be found for their marriage. 
   Little else is known of Cross's life after leaving the legislature, but a 1963 newspaper article has been located that mentions him as being the owner of a Lathrop, Missouri based telephone company. This article (published in the Montana Standard) gives note that Cross (even at 86 years of age) was a conservative force in the town of Lathrop, refusing to allow new telephone designs and dial phones to be placed in town. Cross himself is quoted in the article as saying that the "system he is being urged to install is on the verge of becoming obsolete, to be replaced by a push button system." The Standard also makes light of his age and unusual name, saying that "the manager is 86 years of age and his name is Pross T. Cross, two things which would entitle him to more than casual attention if no other things should." Due to Cross's stubbornness and fortitude, one can wonder if Lathrop ever converted to a modern telephone system!

   Pross Tid Cross died in Missouri on October 1, 1969, at age 93. He was survived by his children and was subsequently interred alongside his wives Nina and Alma at the Lathrop Cemetery in Lathrop, Missouri.

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