Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Oak Oral McKenzie (1888-1952)

Portrait from the Texas Bar Journal, Volume 16, 1953.

  Continuing on our theme of oddly named Texas County attorneys and judges, the following write-up takes us to Brazos County and Oak Oral McKenzie, a transplant to Texas from Illinois. After removing to the Lonestar State in 1912 he embarked on a career in law that would extend until his death and earns a place here on the site due to his time as Brazos County Attorney in the early 1920s.
  Born on April 14, 1888 and raised in Beardstown, Illinois, Oak Oral McKenzie was the son of Eugene and Mary Agnes McKenzie. He would attend school in Beardstown and following his graduation from the local high school enrolled at Illinois Wesleyan University. Deciding upon a career in law, McKenzie earned his bachelor of laws degree from that institution in 1911.
  Shortly after being admitted to the Illinois bar, Oak McKenzie removed to Texas, settling in the city of Yoakum. Here he would engage in railroad work and auditing and in 1912 he married to Ruth Leora Baldwin (1891-1978). The couple were wed for four decades and had a total of five children, Oak Oral Jr. (1916-2003),, Mary Worth (1910-2006),  Warren Baldwin (1926-2013) and two other daughters. In 1917 McKenzie was admitted to practice law in Texas and would resettle in Bryan, Brazos County in the following year.
   After establishing himself in the Bryan community McKenzie ran for Brazos County Attorney, successfully winning election to that office. He would serve from 1922-1926 and afterwards he and his wife would operate the McKenzie-Baldwin Business College at Bryan, where McKenzie himself "taught classes in business law and business procedure."
  An active Mason of many years standing, Oak Oral McKenzie would also serve as president of the Bryan Chamber of Commerce and the local Rotary Club. He died in Bryan on October 30, 1952 at age 64 and was survived by his wife and children. McKenzie was later interred at the Bryan City Cemetery.

Oak McKenzie's senior portrait from the Illinois Wesleyan Yearbook, 1912.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Czerny Roberts Newland (1891-1973)

Portrait from the Texas Bar Journal, May 1973.

  The city of Linden, Texas received extensive mention in January 7th's write-up on Shields Ivans Cornett, a former Linden mayor and Cass County Judge. As it turns out, Linden lucked into the good fortune of electing two oddly named mayors, and the man that preceded Cornett in that office, Czerny Roberts Newland, is profiled today. Like Mr. Cornett, C.R. Newland (as most sources list him) was a long time Linden based attorney and in the early 1940s these two oddly named men operated a law firm together in that city. 
   Born on May 30, 1891 in Garland, Texas, Czerny Roberts Newland was the son of Neal Stone and Mary Alice (Roberts) Newland.  The origins behind Newland receiving the name "Czerny" have been lost to history, and one can only speculate as to why his parents would bestow this unusual name upon their son. Newland received his education at public and private schools in the Dallas County area, including the St. Matthew's School for Boys.
   Prior to practicing law Newland worked as a telegraph operator, and after a period of study was admitted to practice law in February 1917. Newland would briefly operate a firm with Judge M. L. Robertson in Dallas before removing to the city of Burkburnett in Wichita County. It was in that county that Newland took an interest in oil related litigation and leases, and remained there until resettling in Linden, Texas in the 1920s.  Newland had married in the mid 1910s to Hettie Emily Henderson (1893-1939), with whom he had several children, including sons Czerny II (born 1919), Roy Henderson (1923-1977), Charles Hardin (1926-1973) and daughters Frances, Mary Kate, Nannie and Alice Nell. The couple would separate in the early 1930s and in 1931 Newland remarried to Elizabeth McCary Scott (birthdate unknown), to whom he was wed until his death in 1973.
   Following his settlement in Linden Newland operated a joint law practice with G.E. Bartlett, and in the late 1920s was elected as the Mayor of Linden. He would serve twelve years in that office, but the exact dates of his terms (and whether they were consecutive or non-consecutive) remain a mystery. Several newspaper reports denote Newland first served as Linden's mayor in 1929 and was still serving in that post from 1934 to 1937, this according to numerous newspaper mentions of him in office during that time. 
   In 1937 C.R. Newland formed the law partnership of Newland, Cornett and Whitworth, taking as his partners future Linden Mayor Shields I. Cornett and attorney B.F. Whitworth. The last named man would leave this firm in 1940, whereafter Newland and Cornett would continue operations under the title Newland and Cornett.

From the Citizens Journal, January 25, 1940.

   After leaving the mayor's office C.R. Newland continued to be politically active, being a member of the Texas Democratic Committee for over a decade and in 1944 served as part of the Texas delegation to that year's Democratic National Convention being held in Chicago. Newland would also be affiliated with the Sells Petroleum Corp. in Gladwater, Texas, being the head of that company's legal and land departments.
   In the twilight of his life C.R. Newland traveled widely and is also recorded as having been an "avid hunter and fisherman" and member of the local Lions Club. He died in Marshall, Texas on January 4, 1973 and was later interred at the Linden Cemetery #1, the same location as that of his law partner Shields I. Cornett.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Shields Ivans Cornett (1893-1950)

Portrait from the Texas State Bar Journal, Vol. 6, 1950.

    Shields Ivans Cornett was for many years a leading citizen and attorney based in Linden, Cass County, Texas. In addition to practicing law he served Cass County as its County Judge and County Attorney, and in 1940 was elected as Linden's Mayor. Born on January 3, 1893 in Cornett, Texas, Shields Ivans Cornett was the son of George Thomas and Frances Holston Cornett. He would attend the public schools of Cornett and graduated from the local high school. In 1911 he married to Stella Vida Harrell (1895-1974), with whom he would have two children, Woodrow Wilson (1913-1994), and Frances (1918-2010).
   In the late 1910s Cornett began reading law in his spare time and also worked at farming. Admitted to the Texas bar in 1925, Cornett quickly rose to the top of his profession in Cass County, and just one year after being admitted to practice was elected as Cass County Attorney, an office he would hold until resigning in 1931. For the next two years he would practice law in Daingerfield, Texas and in 1932 was an unsuccessful candidate for Cass County Judge, being defeated by S.L. Henderson.
   Following his return to Linden in the early 1930s Shields I. Cornett continued with his practice and in the succeeding years established a reputation as one of that city's prominent public men, being a past president of the Linden Chamber of Commerce and a member of the board of stewards of the Linden Methodist Church. Returning to political life in the early 1940s, Cornett would serve as the chairman of the Cass County Democratic Committee for a decade and in 1940 won election as Mayor of Linden, serving until 1945
   During Cornett's tenure as Mayor of Linden he pulled double duty, chairing the county's selective service board during WWII. In 1945 Cornett became Cass County Judge, and served on the bench for two terms, leaving office in 1949. He returned to private practice after leaving that judgeship and continued until his death at age 57 on March 21, 1950. The Texas Bar Journal notes that Cornett had suffered a heart attack and was later transferred to a hospital in Texarkana, Texas, where he subsequently died. Cornett was survived by his wife and two children and was later interred at the Linden Cemetery.

From the Citizens Journal, March 23, 1950.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Elzo Francis Been (1883-1970)

From the Abilene Reporter News, Sept. 20, 1964.

   It's just a few days into the new year and the Lonestar State yields yet another interestingly named public official, Judge Elzo Francis Been of Eastland County. A practicing attorney for over fifty years, Been migrated to Texas at a young age and after being admitted to the state bar built up a substantial law practice in Eastland. A holder of several local offices in the 1910s and 20s, Been was elected as Judge for Texas' 88th Judicial district in 1924, and over two decades later briefly served as Eastland County Attorney.
   The son of Zachariah Huston and Julia Ann (Ownby) Been, Elzo Francis Been was born in Greenwood, Arkansas on November 9, 1883. Relocating to Texas at an early age, Been would attend school in the town of Gorman and began his college education at the Howard Payne College at Brownwood, Texas. Been earned his bachelor of laws degree from the Cumberland University Law School in the class of 1913 and in the following year married to Fannie Pearl Cannon (1888-1979). The couple were wed for fifty-five years and their union would see the births of two children, Truett Elzo (1915-2003) and Ruby Nell (1920-2011).
   Following his admittance to the Texas bar Elzo Been briefly practiced law in the town of Rising Sun, residing there from 1913-14. in 1915 he removed to Eastland County, where he would reside for the remainder of his life. After building up his law practice in that county he began to dabble in local politics, serving as a deputy tax collector and county clerk, holding the latter office from 1915-17. Been would later advance to the post of Eastland County Attorney, and from 1923 to 1924 was assistant county attorney. 
  In 1924 Elzo Been was elected as Judge for Texas' 88th Judicial district and served eight years on the bench. He retired from the bench in 1932, citing a distaste for the office, as well as noting that he "worried too much about other people's problems--whether or not I had made the right decision in a case." 
  After leaving the bench Been continued with his law practice and built up a large farm in Long Branch, where he would raise cattle. He returned to political life in 1950 when he agreed to serve as Eastland County Attorney for a term of one year, filling a vacancy occasioned by the resignation of Nathan E. Gresham. Been retired from that post in December 1951 and returned to private practice. He died in Elgin, Texas on September 24, 1970 at age 86 and was survived by his wife Fannie and two children. Following her death in 1979 Fannie Been was interred alongside her husband at the Murray Memorial Cemetery in Carbon, Texas.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Frethias Jefferson Netherton (1865-1897)

                                                              F.J. Netherton during his time as State Superintendent.

    2017 is upon us and with a new year comes an intriguing new name discovery from Arizona, Frethias Jefferson Netherton. Sporting a highly unusual first name (which, as of this writing, is of indeterminate origin), "F.J" Netherton was a California native who found his calling in educational matters in the Arizona Territory. At the age of just 28 he was named as Superintendent of Public Instruction for that territory and served one term. Netherton would meet a sudden end in 1897 when he was thrown from his horse while on a cattle drive, dying of his injuries a short while later.
   A native son of Contra Costa County, California, Frethias J. Netherton's birth occurred in that county on March 7, 1865, being one of several children born to John Smith and Matilda Estes Netherton. As a youth he worked the family's "ranch-farm" near Martinez, California and attended the public school in Point of Timber, California. Young Frethias also studied at the Oakland High School (graduating in 1887) and would take the reins of the family farm in the mid 1880s due to his father being stricken blind
   Following his graduation Netherton saw a future for himself in newspaper work, and for a short time was employed at the Oakland Enquirer. After several months in their employ, Netherton relocated to Mesa, Arizona in 1888, where he took on the position of principal of the Mesa public school. His time as principal extended five years and in 1893 reached his highest degree of public prominence when he was named as Arizona Territorial Superintendent of Public Instruction, an office that he would fill for two years.
   As the highest ranking educational figure in the Arizona Territory, F.J. Netherton would be called to serve in several other capacities by virtue of his office, including memberships on the Board of Directors of the State Normal School, the Territorial Board of Education, regent of the Arizona University and the Territorial Board of Examiners. Netherton would also hold the presidency of the Arizona Teacher's Association in 1893 and 1894, and in the last named year was a delegate to the National Editorial Association. One should also note that Netherton accomplished all of the above before reaching the age of thirty!


F.J. Netherton during his youth, courtesy of Find-A-Grave.

   Netherton's time as Territorial Superintendent was widely lauded and received prominent mention in the 1896 Historical and Biographical Record of the Territory of Arizona. Remarked as a "genuine Jeffersonian Democrat", Netherton:
"Succeeded, to a great extent, in raising the standard of excellence in the teaching force in the Territory, and in arousing an interest in educational matters generally. His policy on matters of school economy, etc., is ably given in his addresses before the Arizona Teacher's Association and the biennial report to the Governor."
   After leaving the post of superintendent Netherton continued to be actively involved in educational matters in the territory, becoming principal of the Yuma public schools. In 1897 he branched out into the butchery business, purchasing an interest in a meat market in Mesa, Arizona. In June of that year he and several other men embarked on a cattle drive near Mesa, during which several cattle became separated from the rest of the herd. As the Arizona Sentinel later reported, Netherton rapidly dashed after them on horseback, only to be thrown over the horse's head when it suddenly halted due to the cattle stopping. The Sentinel later reported that:
"He struck the ground on his forehead and face, smashing the bones of the forehead, breaking his nose and terribly lacerating both eyes." 
   Following the accident Netherton was taken back to Mesa, where he was recorded as being insensible for a short time. He would briefly regain consciousness but lived only a few hours after the accident, dying on June 30, 1897. Just thirty-two years old at the time of his death, Netherton's passing was widely reported throughout the territory, with many newspapers noting that  "a young life, with so many bright prospects before it has been so suddenly extinguished." A lifelong bachelor, Frethias J. Netherton was survived his father John and several siblings. His body was later returned to California for burial in the Netherton family plot in the Union Cemetery in Brentwood.


Netherton's obituary from the Graham Guardian, July 9, 1897.