Our first "update" related article for the new year of 2013 is a brief return to a highly popular posting from October 2012 that highlighted the life of obscure Washington politician and lawyer Govnor Teats. Since putting his article up online a few months ago the humorously named Teats has become the single most viewed profile on the site, due to a number of interesting factors! In early December of 2012 a brief snippet on Mr. Teats (as well as his picture from the site here) was featured on the popular website www.cracked.com, much to my great surprise!
I had never heard of cracked.com but have since found out its one of the most popular sites on the web, and ol' Govnor Teats was featured in an article called a "quick fix" on that website under the header "the 5 Greatest Accomplishments By Men With Stupid Names". While Teat's name is certainly one of the funnier ones you'll read about here on the site, he is certainly amongst good company with a four other funny named politicians on cracked.com, including current U.S. Ambassador to Denmark Richard "Dick" Swett. You can see Teat's article on cracked.com at the following link posted below.....
While the TSNIAPH getting a mention on cracked.com would make any writer's day, it was numerous pieces of e-mail correspondence with Olalla, Washington based amateur historian and writer Greg Spadoni that truly made Govnor Teats' profile here one the site one of the most memorable I've yet written.
Towards the end of October of last year I completed the article on Mr. Teats and posted it on the site here. Little did I realize that on the opposite side of the country someone else was doing their own research on ol' Govnor, research that managed to fill in a few of the blanks in Teat's life while also helping to shape an overall character assessment of him. And now for the backstory!
Within a week of completing Teats' profile I received an e-mail from Greg, relating his research in regards to Gino Spadoni, who was accused (and initially convicted) in the shooting death of his ex-foreman Harry Hallen at the Griffin Wheel Co. in Tacoma. The murder itself occurred in March 1921 and Gino was eventually picked up on an unrelated charge of arson in San Francisco in 1925, and this is where the story (worthy of a movie screenplay in this author's opinion) takes a very interesting turn!
Enter Govnor Teats.........
After being returned to Tacoma, Gino Spadoni underwent a substantial amount of questioning by Tacoma police, and a trial date for him was set for June 1, 1925. The judge in the case? Mr. Govnor Teats!
As related in my article on him in October of last year, Teats became a Superior Court judge in Tacoma sometime in the early 1920s, and as Greg so eloquently put in his history of the Griffin Wheel Murder, the choice of ol' Govnor to head the trial "was unfortunate, for his less than stellar conduct of the trial, which began before the first juror had even been selected, was to have a profound impact on the ultimate outcome."
Throughout the course of 1925 the Spadoni trial and its proceedings were front page news in Tacoma newspapers. Closing arguments for the trial began in mid June 1925, with Judge Teats reading instructions to the jury. After a lengthy deliberation, the jury deadlocked, and after further deliberation, found Spadoni guilty of murder in the first degree. The story doesn't end there however, as Spadoni's lawyer (S.A. Gagliardi), successfully appealed his conviction, making a point to state that Judge Teats had made numerous points of error during the course of the trial!! Gagliardi's appeal eventually reached the Washington State Supreme Court, and after reading over the points of error, Gino Spadoni's conviction was overturned...partly thanks to the judicial ineptness of one Govnor Teats.
A second trial for Spadoni began some time later in May 1926 under a new judge, Fred Remann. This trial eventually saw witnesses refuse to testify or change their testimony, with the end result being that Spadoni was acquitted of all charges, walking away a free man. He eventually relocated to California, where he lived quietly for the next five decades. He later died in Italy in 1979 at age 85 and is also buried here.
Teats' tenure as a judge after the Spadoni trial is also under some scrutiny. Greg made note of another trial Teats was involved in, one in which he "outraged the defense", so it certainly seems that as a public servant, Teats fell a bit short of the mark!
After reading Greg's thought provoking look at a forgotten piece of Washington history, its quite interesting to note that a funny named man featured on the site played an integral role in letting a (probable) murderer go free. While Teats' involvement in the Spadoni trial encompassed a major part of our e-mail correspondence, Greg also clued me into a few new details on Teat's life that so far remained a mystery.
The first was Teat's date of death, which as of my October article was listed as occurring sometime in 1926. The correct date of his demise was September 4th of that year at age 68. Greg also found that Govnor met his end as a result of an ear infection (of all things!), making him the first politician profiled thus far to die in this way! And to top it off, Greg found that Teats was cremated shortly after his death, with the location of his remains so far being unknown. I'd also like to note that the Teats great grandchildren eventually changed their last name to Deitz some years after Govnor's death!
While Teats obviously had to have some skill as a lawyer and politician (he was elected to the Washington State legislature after all) both Greg and I agree that Teats public career was tainted by acts of buffoonery, both as a judge and earlier. During our correspondence I located even more damning evidence that Teats really wasn't a skilled public servant, as written in the below excerpts from the Revised Charter and Ordinance of the City of Tacoma, published in 1905.
The above passages detail Teats' appointment to the Tacoma Civil Service Commission in April 1896 and his subsequent ouster from that office a year later in July 1897. It seems that Teats (as well as his two fellow commission members) weren't up to the task of performing their duties properly, and were dismissed from office. Charges were actually presented to then Tacoma mayor Angelo Fawcett citing Teats' "gross incompetency, neglect of duty and prostitution of a public trust for his private gain." Not exactly the kind of thing you want on your resumé!
With all that being said, it's quite easy to look back on Teats' career and nitpick due to various mistakes he may have made. These errors of judgement (as well as a very funny name) have led three separate parties (myself, Greg and cracked.com) to really take Teats to the proverbial woodshed, and even a near century after his death, it seems the poor guy still can't catch a break!
You can read all about the Griffin Wheel Murder, Gino Spadoni (and more on Judge Teats) at the following link! Please check it out!
In this second update to the Govnor Teats article, SNIAPH site friend Greg Spadoni (mentioned above) has located even more interesting facts on ol' Govnor, including two different obituaries for him published in Tacoma newspapers after his death in September 1926. Greg also managed to locate the birth and death dates for Teat's wife Florence and his three sons, all of which have been added to the main article above. Through Greg's exhaustive research on Govnor, this article has grown exponentially, and will continue to do so as long as new tidbits on Govnor are discovered!
This rare Teats' obit was provided by Greg Spadoni.
As was mentioned in previous installment, Govnor Teats was felled by an ear infection, or, to be more precise, a mastoid of the right ear. Judge Teats had evidently been ill for a few months prior to his death, but still managed to maintain an active schedule, hearing cases up until a few hours before his death. This obituary mentions that in addition to his political and judicial activities, Teats was also involved in a number of local fraternal organizations, including the Elks Club, the Knights of Pythias and the Modern Woodmen of America. You'll also note that Teats is listed as serving a "hectic term as civil service commissioner", which (if you've read the previous update) is a very good way of putting it!
In addition to the above obituary, Greg also located two new portraits of Govnor, both of which are shown below.
Teats is caricatured as a Roman gladiator (or rather a slighty out-of-shape Roman gladiator) in the above portrait, which was drawn around the time Govnor was serving in the legislature in 1911. Teats' was described in a passage that accompanied the portrait as "the doughty champion of labor. A hard stubborn fighter with a stinging blow that penetrates the vital heart and pierces the quick." While that passage makes Teats' sound like a championship boxer, he did indeed try to be a champion of the working man, eventually holding the chairmanship of the legislative committee on labor and labor statistics. The second portrait of Teats (shown below) appeared in the Tacoma Daily Ledger shortly after he was reinstated on the Tacoma Civil Service Commission.
From the Tacoma Daily Ledger, October 22, 1897.
In addition the extensive help that Greg put forth in regards to the above tidbits on Govnor's life, he was also busy at work on his own biography on this humorously named man, which I consider to be the definitive work on Govnor to be found online. The biography in its entirety can be viewed and read at the link posted below!