Saturday, December 31, 2016

Florentius Merrill Hallowell (1852-1937)

Portrait from S.D. Butcher's Pioneer History of Custer County, Nebraska, 1901.

    For the past four years I've traditionally devoted the last article of the year to an especially odd named political figure, and this year's final posting takes us to Nebraska and one of that state's most unusually named public officials, Florentius Merrill Hallowell of Buffalo County. A transplant to Nebraska from Maine, Hallowell was an attorney based in the city of Kearney and later served a decade as Buffalo County Judge. Late in his life he resided in New Jersey and California, dying in the latter state in 1937.
   Born in Augusta, Maine on August 12, 1852, Florentius Merrill Hallowell was the son of John (1820-1901) and Elizabeth Gaslin Hallowell (1814-1890). Hallowell's early life in Maine saw him attend the Waterville Classical Institute and the Maine State Normal School. In 1873 he enrolled at the Colby College and would graduate in the class of 1877 with his A.B. degree. Hallowell's time at Colby proved to have had a profound influence on him, and never forgot his Alma mater, as he later established the Hallowell Public Speaking Prize as a gift for the school. This prize (totaling $100) was made available for the encouragement of public speaking.  
   Both prior to and following his graduation Hallowell taught school at several locations in Maine, including Vassalboro and the Oak Grove Seminary in Bath. On Christmas Day 1876 Florentius M. Hallowell married to Etta Kilbreth (1850-1918), to whom he was wed for over forty years. The couple's union would see the births of five children, Florence (1881-1961), Marion (1883-1965), Amy (1887-1968), Bertha Lillian (1888-1978) and Howard Haynes (1892-1934).
  A year following his marriage Hallowell and his wife removed from Maine to Kearney, Nebraska. Soon after his arrival he began reading law in the office of his maternal uncle William Gaslin and was later admitted to the Nebraska bar. In 1878 Hallowell was named as official court reporter for Nebraska's 5th judicial district and held that post until 1892. During this time Hallowell also made his first foray into Buffalo County's business community, serving as the President of the 1st National Bank of Elm Creek and vice president of the Kearney National Bank. 
  Through the latter portion of the 1890s Florentius Hallowell continued to practice law in Kearney and first entered local politics in 1892 when he was elected as Secretary of the Kearney Board of Education. In 1900 he won election as Judge of Buffalo County and officially took on judicial duties at the beginning of the following year. His first term as judge extended until 1905, when he was succeeded by Ira Marston.  
   Hallowell was returned to the bench in 1907 and continued to serve until news reports broke that did momentary damage to Hallowell's reputation. In October 1911 the Omaha Bee published a report from a Kearney based newspaper that leveled charges against Hallowell, noting that "excessive fees have been collected by him from litigants in his office." 

From the Valentine Democrat, November 2, 1911.

   The affects of the Bee's October 1911 report continued to snowball through the coming year, and by March 1913 further reports had been leveled at Hallowell, with the Buffalo County Attorney and board of supervisors charging him with 
"practicing law in his own court and unlawfully preparing papers for cases and accepting fees for such work."
   Ouster proceedings were launched against Hallowell in March 1913 and a later report by a referee assigned to the case noted that the only count with substantial proof was that of practicing law in his own court. On June 15, 1913 Hallowell was removed from the office of judge, with a Nebraska district court declaring the office vacant. A short while later the Buffalo County Board of Supervisors appointed J.E. Morrison to the vacant judgeship.
  Understandably irked at being removed from office (as well as having the aforementioned charges made against him), Hallowell took action, bringing suit against Buffalo County on the basis that he was wrongly removed from office. Hallowell's appeal later resulted in his ouster being held void, and he was reinstated as judge. Despite being reinstated, Hallowell would bring further suit against Buffalo County, "seeking payment of his salary for the time he was removed from office", wages that totaled $1,053.85.  A later court finding denotes that J.E. Morrison, the man who had been appointed to succeed Hallowell as judge, had been the rightful holder of that office, and had rightfully earned the salary entitled to being judge. The court found that Buffalo County could not be compelled to pay the same salary to the de jure officer (Hallowell).
   Florentius Hallowell served as Buffalo County Judge through the remainder of 1914 and later retired from the practice of law. Widowed in 1918, he was later resident of Cranford, New Jersey and is also recorded as having spent "a number of years in Maine." In the twilight of his life he resettled in Placerville, El Dorado, California, where he died on March 26, 1937 at age 84. He was later interred at the Placerville Union Cemetery

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Baptista Maynard Tognoni (1914-1955)

Portrait from the Handbook of the Nevada Legislature, 1953.

   Hailing from a state that has been severely underrepresented here on the site, Nevada state representative Baptista Maynard Tognoni packed an incredible amount of activity into a life that ended at just 40 years of age. A veteran of WWII and an assayer and freight agent with several Nevada based businesses, Tognoni would serve two terms in the Nevada legislature from Eureka County, dying in office in February 1955.
  Born of Italian descent on March 6, 1914 in Eureka, Nevada, Baptista M. Tognoni was the son of Giovanni Antonio and Bernardina Caviglia Tognoni. Little is known of his early life in Eureka, excepting notice of his graduating from the Eureka County High School in 1931
  Tognoni entered into the Army in 1942 and would serve with distinction during the Second World War. He would attend the Radar School at Camp Davis, North Carolina and after receiving his certificate of proficiency served over two years in the South Pacific, being stationed in Australia, New Guinea and the Philippines
   By the time of his discharge in December 1945, Baptista M. Tognoni had attained the rank of Staff SargentFollowing his return stateside he worked as a freight agent for the White Pine Fuel Co. and as an assayer for the Standard Oil Company from 1948-49. He would later be employed with the Nevada State Highway survey crew from 2951-1953. In November 1952 he was elected as one of Eureka County's representatives to the Nevada legislature and took his seat at the start of the 1953-55 session. 
  During his brief service in state government Tognoni held seats on the house committees on Fish and Game, Mines and Mining, Veterans Affairs and Roads and Transportation. He would win reelection to the legislature in November 1954 and served until his death in Carson City on February 3, 1955, a few weeks short of his 41st birthday. Details on Tognoni's sudden death remain sketchy at best, with a legislative memorial resolution noting that he had "for many months" been in a state of impaired health and was apparently "stricken with a fatal ailment until a comparatively short time before the end came." This ailment was later revealed to have been a sudden heart attack.
   Tognoni's sudden death resulted in a vacant seat in the assembly, and shortly after his passing former state senator John H. "Jack" Murray was appointed to fill the vacancy. Following his death Tognoni was buried with military honors at the St. Brendan's Catholic Cemetery in Eureka.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Krat Cecil Spence (1872-1923)

Portrait from the Official Manual of Missouri, 1905-06.

     As 2016 slowly winds to a close we return to Missouri to examine the life and political career of Krat Cecil Spence, a three term member of that state's house of representatives during the early 1900s. Possessing a truly unique first name (he happens to be the only "Krat" I've located thus far), Spence had  served as Prosecuting Attorney for Stoddard County, Missouri prior to his election as a state representative.
    One of twelve children born to John Alexander and Cynthia (Leathers) Spence, Krat Cecil Spence was born in White County, Illinois on February 12, 1872. His education occurred at the Northern Indiana School and after a period of studying law was admitted to the Illinois bar. Little is known of Spence's early life in Illinois, and by July 1895 he had relocated to Bloomfield, Stoddard County, Missouri.
   Following his resettlement Spence established a law practice in Bloomfield and around 1900 was elected as Prosecuting Attorney for Stoddard County. He would serve four years in that post and in 1904 received the Democratic nomination for state representative. In November of that year Spence would defeat Republican nominee Ralph Bailey by a vote of 2,271 to 2,095 and took his seat at the start of the 1905-06 session. 
   Described by the Official Manual of Missouri as being "one of the best orators on the floor" during the 1905-06 legislative term, Spence was also remarked as having an interest in good roads and was an "active committee worker", serving on the house committees on Criminal Jurisprudence, Roads and Highways and Elections. Interestingly, this session of the Missouri legislature proved to be one of the most unusual in terms of oddly named representatives, with Pross Tid Cross, Abra Claudius Pettijohn, Emelius Pope Dorris, Goldburn Hiram Wilson and Littleton T. Dryden joining Krat C. Spence at the Missouri capitol!
   Reelected to the legislature in 1906, Krat Spence would serve one further term in the Missouri legislature (being reelected in 1908) and during this final term served on the committees on the Clerical Force, Revision, Roads and Highways. After leaving the state house Spence returned to practicing law and  in 1917 was an organizer of the Stoddard County Bar Association, of which he would serve as vice-president. 
  Krat Cecil Spence died at age 51 in Bloomfield, Missouri on September 5, 1923. He had married sometime prior to his death to Ms. Fannye E. Lockhart (1878-1959), who would later remarry to Dr. Tolman W. Cotton. Both Spence and his wife were interred at the Bloomfield Cemetery

Portrait from the 1909-10 Official Manual of Missouri.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Reau Estes Folk (1865-1948)

Portrait from the Chronicle, 1903.

   A prominent political office holder in late 19th and early 20th century Tennessee, Reau Estes Folk served several years as chief clerk of the Tennessee House of Representatives prior to his election as Tennessee State Treasurer in 1901, an office he would hold for over a decade. Born in Brownsville, Tennessee on September 21, 1865, Reau Estes Folk was the son of Judge Henry Bate and Martha Cornelia Estes Folk
  One of several children, Reau E. Folk wasn't the only member of the Folk family to attain public prominence, as his younger brother Joseph Wingate Folk (1869-1923) went on to serve a term as Governor of Missouri and later was an unsuccessful aspirant for the U.S. Senate. Another brother, Edgar Estes Folk (1856-1917), became a noted Baptist minister and prohibition advocate, and still another brother, Carey Albert Folk (1867-1944), served as the President of Boscobel College in Nashville. 
   Young Reau attended the public schools of Brownsville and would begin study at Wake Forest University in North Carolina in 1881. He studied law under his father for a short period before finding an interest in journalistic work. Folk would subsequently take on a position as reporter for the Nashville American and later was the city editor for the Memphis based Daily Scimitar. He continued work on the latter paper until 1891, when he returned to Nashville to rejoin the staff of the American.
  Reau E. Folk entered the political life of Tennessee in 1893 when he won election as chief clerk of the Tennessee House of Representatives. Folk would be returned to that office on three more occasions (1895, 1897 and 1899) and while still serving as chief clerk pulled double duty as managing editor of the Nashville Daily Sun from 1895-97. 

Reau E. Folk, from the 1895-96 Tennessee legislative composite.

   After eight years of service as chief clerk of the Kentucky legislature Reau Folk was elected by the legislature to fill a vacancy in the office of Tennessee State Treasurer, that vacancy coming about due to the resignation of E.D. Craig. Folk's popularity at the state capitol proved to be so large that shortly before Craig's resignation, over ninety Tennessee state legislators lobbied then Governor Benton McMillin to appoint Folk to fill the vacant post!
   Folk's decade long tenure as state treasurer also saw him fill the role of state insurance commissioner, and in that post Folk was particularly successful. During his stewardship of that department Folk took strides to:
"Bar out of the state all unsafe companies, and in pursuit of this object he has revoked the licenses of a number of concerns that had already secured a foothold within those lines." 
  In addition to his service as state treasurer and insurance commissioner, Folk was delegate to the National Insurance Commissioners convention on several occasions, and served on its executive committee. His time there also saw him chair a special committee designed to press Congress to outlaw fraudulent insurance companies from using the U.S. mail system.  
  Reau Folk married on February 6, 1901 to Nannie Dudley Pitcher (1877-1954), to whom he was wed for over forty years. The couple would have at least two sons, Winston Estes Pilcher (1901-1994) and Reau Estes Jr. (1917-1973). Of these sons, Winston E.P. Folk would go on to prominence through his service in the U.S. Navy, being a deputy director of Civil Relations as well as a Rear Admiral.
   After leaving state government Reau Folk maintained memberships in several fraternal groups, including the Knights of Pythias and Elks Lodges. He would serve as a trustee for the Ladies Hermitage Association (a group devoted to the preservation of Andrew Jackson's home "The Hermitage") and during his time with that organization chaired a special committee that undertook a detailed study of the Battle of New Orleans. This study was later written up by Folk and published in book form in 1935 under the lengthy title "Battle of New Orleans, Its Real Meaning: exposure of untruth being taught young america concerning the second most important military event in the life of the republic."
  Reau Estes Folk died in Nashville on February 8, 1948 at age 82. His wife Nannie survived him by six years, and following her death in 1954 was interred alongside her husband at the famed Mount Olivet Cemetery in Nashville.

Portrait from the Notable Men of Tennessee Vol. I, 1905.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Trancy Clarenton Rhodes (1899-1979)

Portrait from the Arizona legislative composite, 1964.

    A longtime resident of Maricopa, Arizona, Trancy Clarenton "Doc" Rhodes was a prominent business and political leader in that county for many years, having removed to Arizona from Texas. Known by both his initials and the nickname "Doc", Rhodes represented Maricopa County in the Arizona legislature for nearly sixteen years, and during his last term saw his son Billie (1921-1965) win election to the Arizona state senate.
   Born in North Carolina on October 13, 1899, Trancy Clarenton Rhodes was the son of Guy Colton and Mary Green Rhodes. The Rhodes family relocated to Texas when their son was a child and he would receive his early education in that state. T.C. Rhodes married in Texas in January 1919 to Lou Ella Griffith (1903-1989), to whom he was wed for sixty years. The couple's lengthy union would see the births of five children, William "Billie" Clarenton (1921-1965), Richard Samuel, Gerald Austin (1925-1927), Margie Lou and Earl Griffith. Of these children, Billie and Earle would follow their father into politics, with Billie briefly serving in the Arizona senate and Earl being elected as a city judge in Avondale.
   In 1924 T.C. Rhodes and his family removed to Arizona, where they would reside for the remainder of their lives. The family first settled in Glendale, but later established "a homestead near east Buckeye". Rhodes would subsequently follow a career in ranching and cotton growing in the areas of Goodyear and Avondale, and was viewed by his fellow farmers as having always been "on the cutting edge of farming techniques that led to outstanding crop yields."
   Active in the civic life of Maricopa County, T.C. Rhodes served for over three decades as a member of the Avondale school board and also was a charter member of the Tri-City Chamber of Commerce. Rhodes also attained prominence in a number of fraternal groups in the area, being active in the Kiwanis Club, the Wigwam Golf Club and the Boy Scouts of America.

"Doc" Rhodes, as he appeared in the 1952-53 Arizona legislative composite.

   In 1950 "Doc" Rhodes was elected to his first term in the Arizona State House of Representatives. Taking his seat at the start of the 1951-53 session, Rhodes' tenure in the legislature extended fifteen years (1951-1966), and his lengthy service saw him chair the house committees on Education, State Government and County Affairs. Sources also note that Rhodes was heavily invested in "agricultural and tax matters, and was responsible for introducing much legislation in those areas." 
   During his final term in the state house Rhodes witnessed his eldest son Billie win election to the Arizona senate from Maricopa County. A former president of the Maricopa County Farm Bureau and Secretary Treasurer of the Arizona Cotton Growers, Billie Clarenton Rhodes senate term was cut short due to his sudden death at age 44 in 1965 due to a brain hemorrhage
  "Doc" Rhodes final legislative term concluded in 1966 and three years later celebrated his fiftieth wedding anniversary.  A resident of Litchfield Park, Arizona, in the latter period of his life, Rhodes died on June 9, 1979 at age 79. He was survived by his wife Lou Ella, who died in 1989. Both Rhodes and his wife were interred at the Greenwood Memory Lawn Cemetery in Phoenix.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Meek Corrothers Chiles Jr. (1892-1988)

Portrait from the Texas Bar Journal, Volume 52, Issue 5, 1989.

    An attorney based in Rusk, Uvalde, San Antonio and Houston, Texas, Meek Corrothers Chiles practiced law for nearly five decades. In addition to his law practice Chiles served Cherokee County, Texas as its County Attorney for four years beginning in the early 1920s. Born in Troup, Texas on February 8, 1892, Meek Correthers Chiles was the son of Meek and Alice Barron Chiles. Little is known of Chiles' early life,  excepting that he was a student in the public schools in the town of his birth. As a young adult Chiles entered into study at the Southwest Texas Teacher's College, as well as the University of Texas Law School.
   Admitted to the Texas bar in 1920, Chiles was elected as Cherokee County Attorney in November of that year. Taking office at the start of the new year, Chiles served in that post until 1925 and afterwards was a member of the Houston based law firm of Fulbright, Crooker and Freeman from 1923-40.  Meek C. Chiles married in June 1923 to Lucretia Morrow (1894-1989), with whom he had one daughter, Martha Alice (1927-2009).
  Around 1940 Chiles removed to Uvalde, Texas, where he operated a private practice until 1942, when he relocated to San Antonio. During his residency here he was a member of the firm of Eskridge, Groce and Chiles, and in 1944 removed to Houston, where he would reside until his death. Chiles' time in Houston saw him continue in the practice of law and from 1948 to 1962 was a partner in the firm of Vinson and Elkins.
   Meek C. Chiles died in Houston on July 17, 1988 at the age of 96. He was survived by his wife Lucretia who died the following year at age 94. Both Chiles and his wife were interred at the Memorial Oaks Cemetery in Houston, as was their daughter Martha, who died in 2009. In an aside note, Chiles' middle name is recorded as being spelled several different ways, including Carothers, Corrothers and Correthers, the last named spelling being the one inscribed on his headstone in Houston.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Zales Nelson Ecton (1898-1961)

Portrait from the Dillon Daily Tribune, November 4, 1946.

   A prominent name in Montana politics in the mid 20th century, Zales Nelson Ecton represented Montana in the U.S. Senate for one term beginning in 1947. A member of the both houses of the Montana legislature prior to his election to the Senate, Ecton's notoriety on the political stage quickly faded after his failed reelection bid in 1952. Despite this loss, Ecton accomplished much good for his state while in office, and was remarked as having been a "bitter foe of reckless spending, corruption and the give-a-way foreign policy."
  Born in Decatur County, Iowa on April 1, 1898, Zales Nelson Ecton was the son of Aaron Smith and Mary Delphia Ecton. The origins as to Ecton's unusual first name "Zales" remain unknown, and when age nine removed with his family to Gallatin County, Montana. He would attend school in the city of Bozeman and later studied at the Montana State College. During the First World War Ecton trained with the Student Army Training Corps but did not see action. 
  Following his training Ecton resumed his studies, enrolling at the University of Chicago Law School. He married on November 25, 1920 to Vera Harris (1898-1980), to whom he was wed until his death. The couple would have two children, Eloise (1923-1992) and Zales Jr. (1926-2006). 
  Beginning in the early 1920s Zales Ecton was engaged in ranching, making a specialty in grain production and cattle raising. He is mentioned as having owned a "1,000 acre dry land farm" near Manhattan, Montana and also helped to organize "the first oil and gas cooperative for farmers in Gallatin County." This cooperative later evolved into the Gallatin Farmers Company, of which Ecton would serve two years as president
  Ecton actively followed ranching until entering state politics in the early 1930s. Elected to represent Gallatin County in the Montana House of Representatives in 1932, Ecton served two terms in that body and in 1937 began a nine year stint in the state senate. His near decade long tenure in the Montana senate saw him serve as a member of the Republican State Policy Committee and in 1943 was a prime mover in the attempt to pass legislation that would have created the 18th judicial district, "for the benefit of Gallatin County residents."
    In 1946 Zales Ecton announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senator from Montana. He would win the Republican primary in July of that year with 66% of the vote and in November faced off against Democratic nominee Leif Erickson (1906-1998), who had defeated longtime Senator Burton K. Wheeler in the state Democratic primary. On election day in November Ecton won out over Erickson, besting him by over 15,000 votes. Ecton's senatorial win was a watershed moment for Montana Republicans, as he was the first Republican ever to be elected to the U.S. Senate in the state's history.

An Ecton campaign advertisement from the Big Timber Pioneer, Oct. 17, 1946.

   Taking his seat at the start of the 1947 senate session, Ecton went full bore into his duties as a freshman senator, taking a stand against reckless spending and the ever increasing national debt. A member of the committees on Appropriations and the Interior and Insular Affairs, Ecton would introduce and sponsor a total of 35 measures during his term, all of which became law. As the Flathead Courier remarked on Ecton's legislation:
"Most of these relate to farm problems, public lands, reclamation, rural electrification, Indian affairs, mines and miners and civil service. He stated, however, that what this country needs most is fewer laws and better administration of those we have."
   In addition to his attention the above legislation, Ecton also worked closely with anti-communist Joseph McCarthy, being noted as one of the Wisconsin senator's closest allies. Ecton would support the House Un-American Activities Committee (chaired by McCarthy) and in his 1952 reelection bid even had a visit from McCarthy, who had come to Montana to campaign for Ecton.
   In 1952 Ecton announced that he would be a candidate for reelection, and during that year's campaign faced off against Mike Mansfield (1903-2001), who had represented Montana's 1st Congressional district in Congress since 1943. Despite attempts to paint Mansfield as being soft on communist activity in the United States, Ecton was narrowly defeated in his bid for second term, garnering 127, 360 votes to Mansfield's 133, 109. Mansfield would go on to serve twenty-four years in the senate (sixteen of those as senate majority leader), and at the conclusion of his last senate term was named as U.S. Ambassador to Japan by President Carter.
    After his defeat for reelection Zales Ecton resided in Bozeman, Montana, where he continued with his earlier ranching interests. He died at a hospital that city on March 3, 1961 at age 62, following an "extended illness." Ecton was survived by his wife Vera, who, following her death in 1980, was interred alongside her husband at the Sunset Hills Cemetery in Bozeman. 


Zales Ecton during his time in the U.S. Senate.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Ula Barksdale Ross (1869-1947)

From the Official and Statistical Register of Mississippi, 1917.

    A one term member of the Mississippi legislature and a former Mayor of Lambert, Mississippi, Ula Barksdale Ross can rightly lay claim to being the only man named "Ula" to be elected to state office in Mississippi. Born in Calhoun County, Mississippi on March 3, 1869, Ula Barksdale Ross was the son of George Washington and Sarah Catherine Gedford Ross. Young Ula was a student in the public schools of Calhoun County and married in December 1887 to Myrtis McDowell Linder (1870-1956), also of Calhoun County. The couple were wed for nearly sixty years and had three children, Herman Linder (1889-1962), George Lee (1891-1954), and Thelma Vance (1902-1976).
  For the majority of his life Ula B. Ross worked in real estate and insurance, while also being a farmer. He would serve as Mayor of Lambert, Mississippi for a short period and in 1909 was an organizer of the Quitman County Bank.  In 1915 he was elected to the Mississippi state legislature as a representative from Quitman County and during his term (1916-1920) served on the committees on Corporations; Public Lands; Mississippi Levees and Roads, Ferries and Bridges. Ross also chaired the committee on the Penitentiary. 
  Following his one term at the state capitol Ross returned to private life in Quitman County and in 1928 was again a candidate for Mayor of Lambert. Active in several non political areas in his community, Ross was a member of the local Baptist Church as well as the Knights of Pythias, Odd Fellows and Masonic lodges. Ula Barksdale Ross died at age 78 on July 4, 1947 and was later interred at the Lambert Cemetery. He was survived by his wife Myrtis, who, following her death in 1956, was interred at the same cemetery as her husband.