Monday, May 5, 2014

Verrazzani Carlyle Bratton Sr. (1860-1923)

Portrait courtesy of Find-A-Grave.

    Our first profile for May takes us to Searcy County, Arkansas and one Verrazzani Carlyle "V.C." Bratton Sr., certainly one of the oddest named men to be elected to public office in "the Natural State". As a former Sheriff, Judge, and county clerk for Searcy County, Bratton would go on to further distinction when he served as an Arkansas delegate to the  Democratic National Convention of 1916.
   The eldest of eight children born to James and Dicy Anah Hatchett Bratton, Verrazzani Carlyle Bratton's birth occurred in Wiley's Cove, Arkansas on July 19, 1860. While the origins of his outstandingly different first name remain unknown at the time of this writing, Bratton may have received his first name in honor of Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano (1485-1528), whose name is sometimes anglicized as John Verrazzani. Notable for being the first European explorer since the Vikings to explore the Atlantic coast of North America, Verrazzano may be familiar to most as being the namesake of Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, which spans between Staten Island and Brooklyn.
   The 1894 Reminiscent History of the Ozark Region relates that "V.C."Bratton began his education in schools native to the area of his birth, while also "learning the details of farming." While still a youth Bratton learned the trade of bookkeeping and would eventually become a clerk in a general store in Marshall, Arkansas. His early years in Marshall saw him become "active and popular politically" in local Democratic party circles, and at age 26 was elected as the clerk of Searcy County, Arkansas, subsequently serving four years in office (1886-1890).
   V.C. Bratton married in November 1889 to Arnetta Jane Greenhaw (1870-1938), and this couple later became the parents to eight children, who are listed as follows in order of birth: York (died in infancy in 1890), Una Rose (1892-1985), Verrazzani Dinsmore (died in infancy in 1899), Mary Dicey (1903-1980), Helen Kathleen (1907-1980), Verrazzani Carlyle Jr. (1911-1984), James Berry (1914-1982) and an infant child who died in 1891.
    In the same year as his marriage V.C. Bratton opened a general store in the town of Marshall, Arkansas, and through "honorable business methods" managed to build up "a patronage eminently satisfactory in every way." While still engaged with his mercantile firm, Bratton reentered Searcy County politics in 1894 when he was elected as County Sheriff for a term of two years. A member of both the Masonic and Odd Fellows Lodges, Bratton also served as Searcy County's delegate to the Northern Arkansas Mineral Convention of 1901, which was held in Marion County. 
   In the 1905 election year, Verrazzani Bratton continued his rise through the ranks of local county politics, being elected as judge of Searcy County, Arkansas. He was re-elected as judge in 1907, 1909 and 1911, and while still an incumbent judge was elected as vice president of the Marshall Bank, this occurring in 1908. Bratton had been one of the bank's founders and had also served on its official board since its incorporation. In addition to his involvement with the bank Bratton was also the builder of the "Bratton Hotel" in Marshall, which is mentioned by the 1911 Historical Review of Arkansas as having been made "the favorite resort for professional and commercial men who gravitate to the county seat."

From the Harrison County Times, February 28, 1914.

   In February 1914 "V.C." Bratton announced that he would be seeking the Democratic nomination for Congress from Arkansas' 3rd district, with the primary election taking place in April of that year. In his campaign announcement (published in the February 28th edition of the Harrison County Times), Bratton laid out an extensive list of what his congressional platform would consist of, including the following:
  • Being "in favor of the government aiding the states in construction of good roads."
  • Being "opposed to a large standing army in a time of peace."
  • Being "in favor of liberal appropriations for the purpose of farm demonstration work, soil surveying, eradicating the cattle tick and in stamping out hog cholera."
  • Being "in favor of the government and state, with the proper restrictions, to authorize individuals and corporations to construct dams across our streams for hydro electric power purposes, etc.
  Touting his previous experience as Searcy County Judge, sheriff and circuit court clerk, Bratton further related in his candidacy notice that:
"I mention this public service that you may, by referring to any reputable citizen of Searcy County, learn of my devotion to duty and loyalty to the people's interests, and enable you to judge my fitness for, and ability to, discharge the duties of this office."
  Despite carrying two decades worth of political experience with him, V.C. Bratton came up short in the vote count in April 1914. As one of six men vying for the nomination in that year's primary, Bratton placed fourth, the nomination instead going to former University of Arkansas President John Newton Tillman (1859-1929). Tillman would go on to win the national election that November and would serve a total of fourteen years in Congress, dying in office in 1929. 

An election result for V.C. Bratton, from the April 4, 1914 Harrison Times.

    Following his defeat for Congress Bratton returned to his duties as Searcy County judge, his term concluding in 1914. Two years after leaving the office of judge V.C. Bratton served as part of the Arkansas delegation to the 1916 Democratic National Convention in St. Louis, where Charles Evans Hughes received the nomination for President. A roster from the Arkansas delegation (bearing Bratton's name) is shown below.

  Little could be found on Bratton's life following his service as a delegate, excepting notice of his death in Searcy County, Arkansas on July 16, 1923, three days short of his 63rd birthday. He was survived by his wife Nettie and five of his children, and both he, his wife and two of their infant children are interred at the Marshall Cemetery in Searcy County.

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