Sunday, October 12, 2014

Bruce Bennett: chartering a disaster

Bruce Bennett and family. Source:

In a government career marked by corruption and harassment of civil rights groups, Bruce Bennett is somehow best remembered for his role in the debate over teaching evolution in schools.

The Arkansas state legislature crafted an anti-evolution law in 1928, making it unlawful for any teacher in the state's schools or colleges to include evolution in their courses. The law also banned textbooks featuring evolution and set a fine of $500 for anyone who violated the statute. Coming just three years after the fight over evolution in the Scopes Monkey Trial, backers of the bill said the legislation amounted to supporting the Bible over atheism and giving taxpayers control over what would be taught in schools. At the general election in November, voters overwhelmingly approved the measure with 108,991 in favor and 63,406 opposed.

The law was never strongly enforced, and attempts to repeal it were made in 1937 and 1959 as support for such fundamentalist measures waned. It wasn't until 1965 that the effort gained significant public attention. Susan Epperson, a high school teacher in Little Rock, became the plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the bill on the basis that evolution instruction was part of "the obligations of a responsible teacher of biology."

Bennett, the attorney general of Arkansas, was eager to take on the suit and even expressed his hope to disprove Darwin's theory during the proceedings. Maintaining the old argument that evolution promoted atheism and deprived the state's schools of choosing what they would teach, he asked, "Will our children be 'free' to choose their religion after their minds have been warped by anti-religious propaganda; or will they be forever captives of the Darwin theory, foisted upon them in their youth?"

Judge Murray O. Reed had no wish to see the state embarrassed by a Scopes-like circus more than four decades after that case. The case was scheduled to last only one day - April 1, 1966 - and the proceedings in the Pulaski County Chancery Court lasted only two-and-a-half hours. On May 27, Reed declared that the law was unconstitutional since it sought to "hinder the quest for knowledge, restrict the freedom to learn, and restrain the freedom to teach."

The ruling was subsequently overturned by the Arkansas Supreme Court, then appealed to the United States Supreme Court. The justices upheld Reed's ruling in a 7-2 decision, saying the Arkansas law was unconstitutional since it infringed upon the First Amendment. Justice Abe Fortas said in the majority report that the right of free speech "does not permit the state to require that teaching and learning must be tailored to the principles or prohibitions of any religious sect or dogma" and that the law essentially gave preference to the creationist view by "seeking to blot out" the conflicting scientific theory.

The case set a precedent for the legality of other anti-evolution laws, establishing that public schools could not be forbidden from teaching Darwin's theory as a way of upholding religious doctrine. Bennett's grandstanding and loss in the lower court also contributed to the loss of his office, which in turn led to revelations that he had used his office for corrupt purposes.

Bennett was born on October 31, 1917, in Helena, Arkansas. Four years later, he moved with his family to the small city of El Dorado and completed school. He studied pre-law at El Dorado Junior College and Third District Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Southern Arkansas) in the nearby community of Magnolia.

Bennett joined the Army in 1940 and remained in the military after the United States entered the Second World War. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1942 and served 14 months in Europe before returning to the U.S. for pilot training. For the remainder of the war, he would be a commander of a B-29 in the South Pacific. Bennett flew 30 missions over Japan, coming home with the Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, and Air Medal with three clusters. He resumed his studies and earned a degree from Vanderbilt Law School in 1949.

Three years later, Bennett began his political career. He was elected as a Democrat to be prosecuting attorney of the Thirteenth Judicial District in 1952 and 1954. He was elected as the state's attorney general in 1956 and re-elected in 1958.

The emerging civil rights movement would find that they had no friend in Bennett. Little Rock became the focal point of a standoff between Arkansas state officials and the federal government in September of 1957, when a federal court ordered the school district to integrate in compliance with the Supreme Court's "Brown v. Board of Education" decision. Governor Orval Faubus called out the National Guard to prevent nine black students from entering Central High School. Stymied by his failed attempts to negotiate the issue with the recalcitrant governor, President Dwight D. Eisenhower responded by federalizing the Arkansas National Guard and ordering the Army's 101st Airborne Division in from Kentucky to provide protection for the students and ensure order during the integration.

Bennett subsequently crafted several bills to harass civil rights activists, especially the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The measures prevented the NAACP from providing legal counsel or funding for lawsuits in the state and prohibited NAACP members from becoming state employees. With Faubus's support, Bennett also had the Arkansas NAACP's nonprofit status revoked in 1958 and banned it for nonpayment of taxes.

Six months later, Bennett went farther by accusing civil rights protesters and NAACP members of being "enemies of America" in league with an international Communist conspiracy. He ordered the organization's membership lists and personnel records to be opened for scrutinizing by state officials, then organized public hearings on the issue before the Arkansas Legislative Council's Special Education Committee. Bennett was so convinced that the civil rights movement was "riddled with Communists" that he appeared as an expert witness on the allegation in Tennessee and ran unsuccessfully as a segregationist for the Democratic nomination for governor in 1960, accusing Faubus of being a secret ally of NAACP state leader Daisy Bates despite Faubus's open resistance to desegregation.

Bennett remained popular enough that he was re-elected as attorney general in 1962 and 1964. He lost the primary to Joe Purcell in 1966, soon after his failed attempt to uphold the anti-evolution law. Ten days after taking office, Purcell set his sights on his predecessor by filing a lawsuit charging that the Arkansas Loan and Thrift had been selling securities illegally.

Bennett had helped found the AL&T in 1964, using the attorney general's office for the purpose. Along with used car dealer Ernest A. Bartlett Jr. and others, he incorporated the institute using a 1937 industrial loan charter from a defunct financial institution. The AL&T solicited investors for industrial development projects, luring people in with promises of high interest rates and deposit guarantees. In truth, the AL&T put investors' money into questionable developments while padding the accounts of the institution's officers. During his time as attorney general, Bennett held several shares in AL&T in his wife's name and collected regular legal fees from them. He also bought an inactive insurance company and sold it to the AL&T for $64,000; this organization was redubbed the Savings Guarantor Corporation and used to guarantee investors' deposits even though it was backed by no equity other than worthless AL&T stock.

The fraud crossed state lines, with Bennett and Bartlett taking a part in setting up a similar scheme in Louisiana. He made a hefty profit off the Louisiana Loan and Thrift, set up with the cooperation of Louisiana Attorney General Jack P.F. Gremillion, by borrowing $160,000 from the institution before canceling the debt by transferring his stock to another man. Between AL&T and its Louisiana twin, Bennett made some $200,000. He also used his official position to protect the AL&T from state regulation, issuing five secret opinions to state officials stating that Arkansas's securities laws didn't apply to the institution since it was operating under an old industrial loan charter rather than as a bank or savings and loan.

Purcell's suit sought to order the AL&T to stop representing itself as either a bank trust company or a savings and loan. Tom Glaze, a trial attorney in Arkansas during this time, recalls that this filing went nowhere because of a blatant conflict of interest in the Pulaski County Chancery Court. Claude Carpenter Jr., the business and law partner of the court's Chancellor Kay Matthews, enjoyed insider dealings with AL&T. The institute's founder, Ernest A. Bartlett Jr., even visited Carpenter soon after the filing and paid him a $23,000 retainer. Carpenter, who would be named a co-conspirator in the case, denied doing anything with the money other than fly to Las Vegas with Bartlett to gamble and chat with him about Arkansas Razorbacks football.

The cozy relationship stalled the matter for several months, with Matthews granting plenty of extensions. The delay finally prompted state officials to go over the court's head. Governor Winthrop Rockefeller had become the first Republican elected to the office since 1872 with his victory in 1966; his securities commissioner, Don Smith, appealed for help from the Securities and Exchange Commission. On March 13, 1968, U.S. District Court Judge John E. Miller ordered AL&T to be shut down and placed into receivership.

More than 2,000 people and two churches had invested over $4 million in AL&T. The investors would only recoup about one-quarter of what they had put into the fraudulent institution when its assets were liquidated. In one amusing exchange, a representative from the Booneville Lutheran Mission asked that the churches be the first to receive any recovered assets so they would be able to replenish their building accounts; the man explained, "This is not the people's money, this is God's money." In denying the request, Miller replied, "God should have looked after it a little better then." The AL&T was denounced as the "Arkansas Loan & Theft."

Bennett insisted that his only connection to the AL&T was that his wife briefly owned some shares in the institution. He was confident enough in his own chances of acquittal that he ran once again for the Democratic nomination for governor in 1968, although he finished a distant fourth. The investigation of the AL&T records soon uncovered his close connection with the institution, including the secret opinions on regulation of the AL&T.

In 1969, Bennett was indicted on 28 counts of securities violations, mail fraud, and wire fraud. Three other officers - Bartlett and brothers Afton and Hoyce Borum - were charged with the same crimes. Several other people, including Carpenter and some members of the Arkansas General Assembly, were named as unindicted co-conspirators.

Bennett was able to escape punishment became of his poor health, namely throat cancer. Bartlett would be convicted of some of the charges against him and receive a sentence of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The Borum brothers would also be convicted, but receive shorter sentences. The charges against Bennett were dismissed on May 20, 1977, due to his ongoing health issues as well as difficulties in finding witnesses to testify against him. "I'd like to thank my friends and attorneys for their continued faith in me," he said after the court's decision.

Bennett died two years later on August 26, 1979.  

Sources: The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, Civil Rights Digital Library, National Parks Service, "Arkansas Battles to Save Ban on Darwin's Theory" in the Ellensburg Daily Record on Aug. 16 1966, Chronology of the Evolution-Creationism Controversy by Sehoya Cotner and Mark Decker and Randy Moore, Fulbright: A Biography by Randall Bennett Woods, The Arkansas Rockefeller by John L. Ward, Waiting for the Cemetery Vote: The Fight to Stop Election Fraud in Arkansas by Tom Glaze

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Oakes Ames: digging himself a hole


In his support of the transcontinental railroad, Oakes Ames also became one of the most significant figures in the Credit Mobilier financing scheme. Though he was perhaps the most helpful witness in implicating other legislators who were involved in the shady deals for the railroad, he was also one of the very few people punished for his actions.

Ames was born in Easton, Massachusetts, on January 10, 1804. He attended the public schools as well as Dighton Academy, but left at the age of 16 to begin working in his father's business, Ames & Sons. He and his brother Oliver would be the third generation of the Ames family to be involved in manufacturing shovels in North Easton, and they couldn't have entered at a more fortuitous time. Oakes and Oliver worked their way up to the head of the company in 1844, shortly before the demand for shovels went through the roof. The company supplied shovels to miners during the California gold rush and also provided them to people involved in agricultural development in the Mississippi Valley and another gold rush in Australia. The self-made fortune Ames earned from these sales got him the nickname "King of Spades."

Ames first became involved in railroads around 1855, when he joined in land speculation in Iowa. He became the principal stockholder and director of the Chicago, Iowa and Nebraska Railroad the next year. Ames also bought an interest in the Lackawanna Steel Corporation, knowing they would be primarily involved in the production on rails.

A founder of the Massachusetts Republican Party, Ames also joined the executive council of Massachusetts in 1860. Two years later, he was elected to the House of Representatives. That was the same year he became an early investor in the transcontinental railroad, loaning $200,000 to Central Pacific lobbyist Collis Huntington for that purpose. Ames also served on the committee that passed an amended Pacific Railroad bill in 1864. He became so closely associated with the railroad that a town in Iowa was named for him. Ames also recalled that President Abraham Lincoln told him early in 1865, "Ames, you take hold of this. The road must be built, and you are the man to do it. Take hold of it yourself. By building the Union Pacific, you will be the remembered man of your generation."

To secure funding for the transcontinental railroad, Oakes and Oliver joined with Union Pacific executive Thomas C. Durant to establish the Credit Mobilier. Taking its name from a defunct French firm, the Credit Mobilier would be used to generate support for the project in Congress and build the Union Pacific. Oliver was named president of that railroad in 1866.

The Credit Mobilier soon offered its founders an easy way to defraud the government. Durant arranged to have Herbert M. Moxie make the only construction bid for work on the Union Pacific. Since the government bonds were awarded to the Credit Mobilier, the firm was essentially paying itself for the work and subcontracting the actual labor out to builders. The estimates for the cost of the railroad were inflated, and the planned route out of Omaha was given several unnecessary twists and turns to increase profits.

The scheme nearly fell apart in a power struggle between Durant and the Ames brothers after the latter were able to oust Durant from the presidency of the Credit Mobilier board and replace him with Oliver. The board split into two factions, with construction on the railroad continuing at no profit. In October of 1867, Durant was readmitted as president and a revised construction contract brought in retroactive payments to the board. 

The booming Credit Mobilier stock soon became popular among the legislators in Congress. "We want more friends in this Congress, and if a man will look into the law (and it is difficult to get them to do it unless they have an interest to do so) he cannot help being convinced that we should not be interfered with," Ames declared. He began distributing Credit Mobilier in blocks of 20 or more, usually keeping them in his own name for the sake of simplification. Union Pacific rounds also began making the rounds. It was a useful way to secure favorable legislation and derail any investigations into shady dealings with the railroad.

In the winter of 1866, Ames received 373 shares of Credit Mobilier stock and distributed 160 of them to nine members of the House of Representatives and two members of the Senate. Another 30 went to a a private party. It's unclear what happened to the remaining 183 shares. Ames may have kept it for himself, or he may have given it to other legislators. The latter option seems less likely, as Ames kept a record of his transactions in a ledger. 

The Credit Mobilier dealings came under more scrutiny in the 1872 election season when a lawsuit against the firm led to the revelation of a partial list of stock gifts. The list included a number of major political figures including Vice President Schuyler Colfax, vice presidential candidate Henry Wilson, Speaker of the House James G. Blaine, and future president James Garfield. The opposition press made much of the accusations. Charles Francis Adams Jr. wrote the initial expose on the affair in an article for the New York Sun, dubbing the Credit Mobilier "The Pacific Railroad Ring." The article, published on September 4, included a list of 13 congressmen accused of taking stocks. Despite the scandal, President Ulysses S. Grant, the Republican candidate, was easily re-elected. It did lead Congress to form an investigative committee (led by Rep. Luke Poland, a Republican from Vermont) in December of 1872.

Ames told the committee that the transactions involving the Credit Mobilier stock were "influenced by the same motive: to aid the credit of the road." He didn't consider the activity to be illegal, saying the shares were sold in a "strictly honest and honorable way." Some of the legislators had even returned the stock soon after. However, members of Congress backed away from Ames' testimony, considering that he had readily admitted that he had sold them a lucrative stock at an insider's price in order to guarantee favorable legislation for the railroad. 

Shunned by the other accused members in the case, Ames produced his ledger and began naming people who had received the stock. One friend of Ames wrote, "Ames had been bullied and badgered till his patience and good nature were exhausted. Sorrow and determination were written in every line in his strong face. He looked broken." Ames' ledger cleared Blaine and Wilson, but implicated everyone else who had been named. Most of the legislators had sold the stock quickly, realizing minor gains. Rep. James Brooks, a Democrat from New York, had held onto his stock longer and made a considerable profit. 

By the time the Poland Committee completed its work, Ames was already running down his days in Congress; he had chosen not to run for re-election in 1872. But when the committee made its recommendations for punishment, it asked for Ames and Brooks to be expelled from the House of Representatives.

On February 27, 1873, the House of Representatives voted 115-110 to accept Republican Representative Aaron Sargent's suggestion that Ames and Brooks be censured for "seeking to secure congressional attention to the affairs of a corporation in which he was interested, and whose interested directly depended upon the legislation of Congress, by inducing members of Congress to invest in the stocks of said corporation." The recommendation passed 181-36 in the case of Ames and 174-32 in the case of Brooks. There was some talk of keeping the Poland Committee in place to investigate the other members who had been named, but these efforts faded out and none of the other members named in the Credit Mobilier scandal was punished.

Ames died only a few months after receiving this punishment. He passed away in North Easton, Massachusetts, on May 8, 1873.

There was still plenty of sympathy for the late congressman. In 1883, the state legislature of Massachusetts passed resolutions of gratitude for his work and expressed its faith in his personal integrity. It asked the United States Congress to extend a similar recognition to Ames, but this appeal apparently fell on deaf ears. Both Oakes and Oliver are also memorialized on a curious granite pyramid in Wyoming. Once set alongside the high point of the Union Pacific railroad, the rerouting of the line over the years has left the monument isolated in a remote prairie near Laramie.

Sources: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, Oakes Ames biography on American Experience, "The Credit Mobilier Scandal" on American Experience, "The Credit Mobilier Scandal" on the Historical Highlights section of the House of Representatives website, Empire Express: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad by David Haward Bain, The Complete History of Railroads: Trade, Transport, and Expansion edited by Robert Curley, Business Scandals, Corruption, and Reform: An Encyclopedia by Gary Giroux

Friday, May 16, 2014

Richard W. Leche: keep on trucking


When the political machine overseen by Huey P. Long was left leaderless after Long's assassination, Richard Webster Leche was selected to take the reins. Leche's time as governor of Louisiana would essentially mark the beginning of the end of the Long machine's power, as he retreated from some positions held by the late "Kingfish." Leche himself would be be best known for making good on a statement he made after his inauguration: "When I took the oath of office, I didn't take any vow of poverty."

Born in New Orleans on May 15, 1898, Leche attended the local schools before starting studies at Tulane University. The entry of the United States into World War I interrupted his education, as Leche volunteered for the Army. He fell ill in the outbreak of Spanish influenza and never saw active combat, but still managed to serve two years in the military and leave as a second lieutenant in the infantry. After some time as an auto parts salesman in Chicago, Leche returned to school and earned an LL.B from Loyola University in 1923. He began practicing law soon after.

Leche's first bid for public office came in 1928, when he ran as a Democrat for the Louisiana state senate. Though he was unsuccessful, the experience did bring Leche into the fold of Long's machine as it successfully sent the Kingfish into the governor's office. Two years later, when Long ran for Senate, Long managed his campaign as well as that of congressional candidate of Paul H. Maloney. Both men were elected.

Long refused to relinquish the governor's title even after his election to the Senate, continuing his state duties until January of 1932. When he left the state title, it kicked off a procession of short-lived governors. Though Lieutenant Governor Paul N. Cyr was in line to take Long's place, Long managed to maneuver state senate president Alvin O. King into the office. King served for only a matter of months before he was replaced by Oscar K. Allen, a former state senator.

Leche served as King's private secretary and legal adviser between 1932 and 1934. He left the position when he was appointed to the Louisiana Court of Appeals, Parish of Orleans. Leche may have happily left politics behind in favor of a judicial career but for an unexpected event in September of 1935. Long, nearing the end of his first Senate term, had recently announced that he would run for President. When visiting the state capitol in Baton Rouge, he was fatally shot by an assassin. Without the Kingfish, there was a vacuum at the top of the Long machine.

Leche was chosen to fill this void. With Allen's death in January of 1936, Lieutenant Governor James A. Noe reluctantly held the governor's office for the remainder of the term. Leche easily won the Democratic nomination, earning three times the number of votes as the anti-Long candidate. He ran unopposed in the general election in April and was sworn into office in May, becoming the first governor to have access to the significant executive powers the legislature bestowed upon the office after Long's death.

During his term, Leche kept up some of Long's initiatives to improve state infrastructure but also worked to improve Louisiana's relations with the federal government through stronger support of New Deal programs. He oversaw improvements to roads, bridges, and schools as well as the construction of new hospitals. Leche's term included the establishment of a department of commerce and industry, the passing of a state conservation bill, and the organization of a state mineral board. Leche also took some steps that Long had strongly opposed, including a 10-year tax exemption for new businesses and a one percent sales tax to support welfare programs.

Leche may have sought to abandon his role as governor before the completion of his term, as he had his eye on one of two new federal district court judge's positions created in Louisiana in 1938. By this time, however, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was looking into possible financial wrongdoing and improper relations among state departments in Louisiana. Leche made only $7,500 a year as governor, but he had managed to purchase a yacht, country estate, and private hunting reserve during his short  time in office. Leche had also made the questionable decision to fund a lavish, air-conditioned cage for the Louisiana State University tiger mascot as the state's residents suffered the hardships of the Great Depression.

The Times-Picayune and its afternoon paper, States, joined in the offensive against state corruption. Articles exposed misdeeds among state officials, including a practice among Long stalwarts to force supporters in the state government to deduct from their salaries to support political causes. The coverage did not gain much traction until an article in 1939 which included a photo of an LSU truck delivering windows to a house construction site of Leche's close friends, James and Catherine McLachlan.

Leche resigned later in the month, citing poor health. He was succeeded by Earl K. Long, Huey Long's son. The resignation came just as the widespread state corruption was exposed in a torrent of criminal charges that came to be known as the Louisiana Scandals. Some 250 people were indicted. Several Long supporters committed suicide, and LSU president James Monroe Smith fled to Canada in an unsuccessful effort to avoid punishment. Prosecutors estimated that about $100 million had been swindled from the state in the course of the scandals. The revelation of this corruption also allowed the anti-Long faction to break the machine's extended hold on the governor's office; though Earl K. Long would return for two non-consecutive terms in the late 1940s and 1950s, anti-Long Democrat Sam H. Jones defeated him in the 1940 gubernatorial election.

Leche was indicted later in 1939 and accused of complicity in a number of schemes. One charged that he conspired with businessmen Freeman Burford and Seymour Weiss to step up oil production and pipe the excess into Texas in violation of interstate commerce law, netting a $67,000 profit by dodging oil regulations. Leche was also accused of misusing money intended for LSU and using money from the Works Progress Administration, a federal program of the New Deal, to build his house. Another scheme involved the sale of 233 trucks to the State Highway Commission at inflated prices between 1937 and 1938; prosecutors charged that Leche's political allies had managed the sales and defrauded the state of $111,370, with the governor receiving $31,000 in kickbacks for his role.

Leche admitted to making money on the oil deal, paying only $10,000 for a house worth $75,000, and netting an income of $450,000 while in office. However, he argued that he had made this money through legal means. He said he had made a profit from oil and gas commissions as well as the sale of a Long-friendly newspaper called American Progress.

Though a jury acquitted Leche on bribery charges, he was convicted of mail fraud related to the truck scheme in June of 1940. Sentenced to 10 years in prison and disbarment, he began serving his jail time in December of 1941. Released on parole in 1945, Leche turned to agriculture and began running the Bayou Gardens, a nursery that still exists today. President Harry Truman, shortly before leaving office in January of 1953, granted Leche a pardon.

The presidential action allowed Leche to be readmitted to the bar, and he resumed his legal practice. He also began serving as a construction lobbyist in the 1960s. Leche died on February 22, 1965.

Sources: National Governors Association, Louisiana Secretary of State, The Encyclopedia of Louisiana, "Federal Jury Indicts Leche of Louisiana" in the St. Petersburg Times on Aug. 7 1939, "Leche in Penitentiary" in the Times Daily on Dec. 31 1941, "1939: Political Scandals Capture New Orleans Headlines" in the Times-Picayune on Nov. 12 2011, Political Corruption in America: An Encyclopedia of Scandals, Power, and Greed by Mark Grossman, The Governors of Louisiana by Miriam G. Reeves, Louisiana Governors: Rulers, Rascals, and Reformers by Walter Greaves-Cowan and Jack B. McGuire, I Called Him Grand Dad by Thomas T. Fields Jr.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Charles Christopher Sheats: wearing the Union label

When several southern states broke off from the United States after President Abraham Lincoln's election, the support for forming a new nation in the South was far from uniform. Charles Christopher Sheats, one of the most prominent "scalawags" of the Civil War, would never lend his support to secession. His stance made him an enemy of the Confederacy, but ensured him a political future when the Union triumphed in the conflict.

Sheats was born in Walker County, Alabama, on April 10, 1839. He was raised on a farm and attended the public schools, thought he spent time at Somerville Academy in Morgan County. At the age of 18, he became a local schoolteacher.

The secession crisis erupted just a few years into Sheats' teaching career. Winston County was a poor region, with most residents working subsistence agriculture. Few people were wealthy enough to own slaves, and the idea of breaking away from the United States proved unpalatable. When the state held a secession convention in 1860, Sheats easily defeated pro-secession planter Andrew Kaieser in a 515 to 128 vote.

The first vote at a convention in Montgomery was 53-46 against immediate secession. Sheats sided with the "cooperationists," who argued that secession shouldn't take place without giving Lincoln's policies a try and that it should only occur if approved at a popular vote. But increasing tensions and the secession of more states prompted Alabama to take another vote. On January 11, 1861, the convention voted 61-39 in favor of secession. Sheats not only opposed secession on the second vote, but refused to sign the ordinance of secession adopted at the convention.
Sheats would soon grow bolder, leading the opposition to the Confederacy in Winston County. After the CSA went to war with the Union, an anti-secessionist rally was held at Looney's Tavern. The date given for the rally was the symbolic day of July 4, 1861, though other scholars suggest the meeting may have been held as late as the early months of 1862. Sheats was the lead speaker at this rally, which ultimately passed three resolutions. One praised Sheats for his actions at the secession convention. Another denied that a state had the ability to secede, but proclaimed that a county could break away from its state if secession was recognized. The last resolution declared Winston County to be neutral in the conflict. The claims, particularly the second one, earned the region the nickname "Free State of Winston County," although it never formally seceded from Alabama.
Winston County was not without its pro-Confederate residents, who angrily called for Unionists like Sheats to be jailed. But Sheats remained a popular figure, and in 1861 he was elected to the Alabama state house of representatives. He never attended a session. Since representatives had to sign an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy to serve, Sheats opted to stay at home rather than pledge support for the secessionist government.

In 1862, amid increasing concerns that his Unionist statements would lead to his arrest, Sheats fled to the mountains of Morgan County in northern Alabama. This was a common refuge for Unionists who were seeking to avoid conscription into the Confederate military. Soon after Sheats arrived, Colonel Abel Streight led a contingent of Union soldiers into the area. Streight knew about the Unionist sentiment among the refugees, and he was looking for men who would fight for the Union.

Sheats was eager to help, encouraging others to join the Union Army. In one stirring speech, he declared, "Tomorrow morning I am going to the Union Army. I am going to expose this fiendish villainy before the world." He vowed to fight CSA "to hell and back" and said he would "stay here no longer till I am enabled to dwell in quiet at home."

A bad leg would prevent Sheats from ever joining the Union military, but he helped to get at least 150 men to go north. Then, in the autumn, Confederate troops arrested Sheats on the order of Governor John G. Shorter. Shorter accused Sheats of "having communications with the enemy, giving them aid and comfort, and inducing citizens of this state to enlist as soldiers in the army of the United States." The arrest prompted the legislature to expel Sheats in a 69-4 vote, but Winston County remained Unionist. Their choice to succeed Sheats was Zachariah White, a man who had also made pro-Union speeches, helped people join Union army, and proclaimed that he would have joined the Union if he was younger.

Indicted on a charge of treason, Sheats was unable to get a trial and was transferred to prison in Salisbury, North Carolina. He was later returned to the Madison County jail before his release. However, he was again arrested in the middle of 1863 for his active role in the Peace Society, an organization urging Alabama to surrender to the Union. This time, Sheats would stay in jail until the Confederacy's surrender.

Sheats' consistent opposition to the Confederacy would save his political future. Having never sworn allegiance to the CSA, he was never subject to the postwar restrictions on holding office. He was an unsuccessful candidate, among four other Unionists, for a seat in the House of Representatives in 1864. A year later, he was elected to the Alabama constitutional convention. He turned his focus from education to the law, and was admitted to the bar in 1867 before starting a practice in Decatur.
Sheats was also a Republican elector in 1868 and 1872, the years Ulysses S. Grant ran for President. Grant rewarded him after his 1868 election by appointing him to be consul at Elsinore, Denmark, on May 31, 1869. Sheats remained in this role until 1872, when he was elected to the House. He served one term before he was defeated in the 1874 election.

Sheats was appointed appraiser of merchandise for the port of Mobile, and also served as the state's assistant collector of internal revenue. He held a few other minor offices and maintained a farm in his later years. He died in Decatur on May 27, 1904.

Sources: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, Encyclopedia of Alabama, Portraits of Conflict: A Photographic History of Alabama in the Civil War by Ben H. Severance, Congressional Directory of the Forty-Third Congress by Ben Perley Poore, Northern Alabama: Historical and Biographical, Taming the Storm: The Life and Times of Judge Frank M. Johnson Jr. and the South's Fight over Civil Rights by Jack Bass

Sunday, February 16, 2014

William Augustus Barstow: three governor monte

Image from:

Though elections throughout United States are usually filled with close votes, a gubernatorial contest in Wisconsin is a strong contender for one of the strangest and most controversial in the country's history. In the course of three months, the state had three governors - including two who both claimed the office at the same time.

William Augustus Barstow's route to the capitol began in Connecticut. He was born in the rural town of Plainfield on September 13, 1813. His childhood alternated between schooling in the winter and farm work in the summer. Barstown ended his studies at the age of 16, when he went to work as a clerk for his brother's store in Norwich. Five years later, he moved to Cleveland, Ohio, to join another brother in a flour milling and forwarding business. When the enterprise failed in the depression of the late 1830s, Barstow moved to Prairieville, Wisconsin. He remained in the flour business, partnering with John Gale to run a mill. Barstow would also become involved in railroad investment, becoming one of the first directors of the Milwaukee and Mississippi Railroad and working to secure the route's charter.

Once in the Badger State, Barstow also kicked off his political career. He took on roles in Prairieville's local government, serving as the town's highway commissioner and postmaster. He was also a member of the Milwaukee Country Board, and in 1846 he took an active role in the movement to separate Waukesha from Milwaukee County. In 1849, he was elected as the Wisconsin secretary of state on the Whig ticket. While in office, allegations of corruption were leveled against him. Barstow was accused of selling land tracts to speculators while serving on the Public Lands Commission, ignoring the requirement that potential buyers had to submit a bid first. He was also suspected of awarding state printing contracts to his friends while on the State Printing Commission. Barstow was never formally charged with a crime, but the suspicions contributed to his failure to win re-election in 1851.

In the ensuing years, Barstow switched his allegiance to the Democratic Party. It was a rocky transition, as he feuded with Milwaukee postmaster and party boss Josiah Noonan. In 1852, Noonan had Barstow arrested to compel payment of a $300 loan. Barstow retaliated after the election by trying to get President Franklin Pierce to remove Noonan from his office. When this effort proved unsuccessful, Barstow led an impeachment effort against Noonan's political ally, circuit court judge Levi Hubbell.

Despite this intra-party tension, Barstow still managed to secure the Democratic nomination for the 1853 gubernatorial race. He handily defeated the Whig and Free Soil candidates in the general election, becoming Wisconsin's third governor. While in office, Barstow fought efforts by Know-Nothings to deny citizenship to foreign-born residents. He also refused to support prohibition, vetoing a bill by the state legislature to ban alcohol sales.

But like his time as secretary of state, Barstow was soon plagued by corruption allegations including the bribing of lobbyists and misuse of funds. He was again accused of malfeasance in securing land grants and printing contracts. The governor joined eight legislators and the secretary of state, A.T. Gray, in the formation of the St. Croix and Lake Superior Railroad Company. Soon, there were suggestions that Barstow had used bribes to facilitate the exchanges between this company and the Milwaukee Railroad Company. Barstow also threatened to veto any legislation seeking to investigate the handling of land grants by the Fox-Wisconsin River Improvement Company, in which he owned stock. The state treasurer's account showed a mysterious loss of $40,000.

One Madison printer gave Barstow's enemies a catchphrase when a letter he wrote went public. The printer was keen on securing a state printing grant, even if he had to "buy up Barstow and the balance." Barstow was thought to be cozy with lobbyists and conspiring officials in corrupt deals, and "Barstow and the balance" soon became their nickname among the opposition parties. The group was also referred to as "the forty thieves," operating out of a headquarters known as "Monk's Hall."

Once again, Barstow escaped any formal charges but was weighed down heavily by the corruption accusations when his re-election bid came up in 1855. His main opponent was Coles Bashford, running on the newly formed Republican Party's ticket. Bashford's campaign eagerly sought to capitalize on Barstow's suspected corruption, portraying the GOP candidate as a reformer. But when the votes were tallied, Barstow had retained his office by the narrowest of margins. Out of 72,598 ballots, the governor had won re-election by 157 votes.

The Republicans did not believe the results for a minute. The State Board of Canvassers, charged with counting the votes and determining the winners, was controlled by the Democrats. At his inauguration in January of 1856, Barstow staged an ostentatious claim to the office. He packed the state senate with about 2,000 supporters, brought seven militia companies to secure the state capitol, and had the canvassers read a statement supporting the election results. He was sworn in by a state supreme court justice.

On the same day, Bashford staged his own quiet inauguration ceremony at the state supreme court. Taking along his own supporting militia units, he took the oath of office from the court's chief justice. Wisconsin now technically had two governors.

Three days later, Bashford demanded Barstow's resignation. Barstow refused, his reply implying that he wouldn't be above using armed force if anyone attempted to oust him from office. He also argued that the state supreme court did not have jurisdiction in the matter since it was a political issue. The court replied that it was within its duties to resolve legal issues, even those involving the executive branch. The justices launched their own investigation to determine whether there were any irregularities.

On March 20, the inquiry concluded that the canvassers had doctored the ballots enough to sway the result. One town of only 200 people had recorded 612 votes. Northern townships where no one lived had somehow sent in votes to be tabulated. Several Barstow votes from outlying districts were written on paper that was only available in the state capitol. In some areas where the populace leaned toward Bashford, the polls were never opened or votes were left uncounted. The court ruled that Bashford was the rightful winner and that Barstow should be ousted from office; it was the first such court decision on an election in the United States.

The drama was not quite over. Rather than hand over the office to his rival, Barstow resigned the day after the court's decision. This action turned the governorship over to Arthur McArthur. McArthur, the grandfather of World War II general Douglas McArthur, became the shortest serving Wisconsin governor by spending only four days in office. The state was still sharply divided enough that one of McArthur's few actions while governor was an order to remove the arms and ammunition stored at the capitol building to avoid any violence.

The impasse finally ended when Bashford, tired of waiting for McArthur to cede the title to him, entered the governor's office with a group of burly supporters. His attorney, Timothy O. Howe, advised him to hang up his coat and begin his duties. Howe advised Bashford not to "lay violent hands on so distinguished a man as Governor McArthur," but the show of intimidation was enough to concern McArthur. When he asked if Bashford would use force to compel his exit, Bashford replied, "I presume no force will be necessary, but in case any be needed, there will be no hesitation whatever, with the sheriff's help, in applying it." McArthur quickly left the capitol to the jeers and taunts of Bashford's supporters. Bashford took the formal oath of office on March 27.

Any hope that Bashford's term would be cleaner than Barstow's was soon disappointed. Bashford was also accused of corruption while in office, including the mishandling of land grants and evidence that he accepted a $50,000 bribe. But like Barstow, he was able to serve out his term without facing criminal charges.

Barstow, meanwhile, moved to Janesville to set up a bank before returning to the milling business. He remained there until 1861, when he committed to the Union cause of the Civil War. He mustered the Third Wisconsin Cavalry and became a colonel in the regiment. He was made a provost marshal-general upon their arrival in Kansas in June of 1862. The regiment was active in fighting Confederate raids from the Indian Territory and also participated in the Battle of Honey Springs, which helped break Confederate strength in the region.

Barstow did not see action in this fight, since poor health forced him to leave the field in February of 1863. He served on a court-martial board in St. Louis and was discharged in March of 1865, brevetted as a brigadier general of volunteers. He had less than a year to live at this point, settling down in Leavenworth, Kansas, before his death on December 14, 1865.

Sources: National Governors Association, The Wisconsin Historical Society, House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, "It'll Be Hard to Top Past Inaugurations" in the Milwaukee Journal on Jan. 1 1961, "Governors Add Up to Two Totals" in the Milwaukee Sentinel on Nov. 28 1986, "3 Governors Held Office Within Weeks" in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Dec. 10 1998, The Military History of Wisconsin by Wisconsin Biographical Directory edited by Caryn Hannan, State of Wisconsin Blue Book, 1993-1994, Political Corruption in America: An Encyclopedia of Scandals, Power, and Greed by Mark Grossman, The Almanac of Political Corruption, Scandals & Dirty Politics by Kim Long, The Wisconsin State Constitution by Jack Stark, Political Abolitionism in Wisconsin, 1840-1861 by Michael J. McManus, Forgotten Tales of Wisconsin by Martin Hintz

Monday, January 27, 2014

Earl L. Butz: just plane stupid joke


Earl Lauer Butz was not one to soften his abrasive speech when discussing the issues facing the Department of Agriculture. He brushed off criticism, hitting back at his foes with with disparaging put-downs or jokes. When women across the country organized protests and boycotts in response to a sudden spike in food prices, Butz commented that if they did not have “such a low level of economic intelligence,” they would understand that prices had gone up across the board and that “you can’t get more by paying less.” He was more abrupt on another occasion, calling the boycotts were a result of "stupid women and crazed housewives."

Butz's remarks did not get him in trouble until November of 1974. Pope Paul VI had expressed his opposition to the use of artificial birth control as a way of controlling population growth and helping to alleviate hunger. At a press conference, Butz responded to the papal position in part by putting on a faux Italian accent and saying, "He no play-a the game, he no make-a the rules." Realizing that he had gone too far, Butz quickly asked the reporters to consider the joke off the record. But since this stipulations has to be made before a statement to be valid, the wisecrack was fair game for the morning papers.

Catholics and Italians were enraged that a Cabinet official would make such a mockery of the Pope. The Archdiocese of New York led a campaign demanding that Butz should resign unless he apologized for his "crude, pointed insult directed at Pope John Paul VI, spiritual leader of the world's Catholics." The outcry was enough for President Gerald Ford to call for a meeting with Butz to ascertain what had happened. He subsequently rebuked the Secretary of Agriculture and ordered him to make a formal apology.

The apology was enough to settle the matter. But two years later, the public would be reminded of Butz's propensity for crude humor when he made a joke so appalling that it ended his government career.

Butz was born near Albion, Indiana on July 3, 1909. He grew up working on the family farm before attending Purdue University, graduating in 1932. He returned to the farm for another year of work, then became a research fellow with the Federal Land Bank in Louisville, Kentucky. He went back to his studies soon after, earning Purdue's first doctorate in agricultural economics in 1937.

Most of Butz's life would be centered around the university. He joined Purdue's faculty and became the head of the agricultural economics department from 1946 to 1954. He left the school for three years to serve as assistant secretary of agriculture under President Dwight Eisenhower. He again returned to Purdue in 1957 to become the dean of the College of Agriculture, remaining there for another 10 years. Butz tried to make a return to politics in 1968 by seeking the Republican nomination for governor of Indiana, but was unsuccessful. Instead, he remained at Purdue as the dean of continuing education as well as the vice president of the Purdue Research Foundation.

Butz was already a controversial choice for a Cabinet post when President Richard Nixon nominated him to replace Clifford Hardin as Secretary of Agriculture, but it was not due to his off-color wit. Rather, a number of senators were disturbed by his unabashed connections to large agribusiness concerns. Butz served on the boards of a number of these corporations, and when it came to smaller farms his philosophy was that they needed to grow and adapt if they wanted to remain relevant. "The family farm must be preserved but I do not want to lock it in concrete," he said during the confirmation hearings in the Senate. "If the family farm I grew up on had not adjusted we would be shucking corn by hand and we would be knocking potato bugs off potatoes with a wooden handle...The family farm has to adjust. It has to produce more in the days ahead to survive." The concerns about Butz's business philosophy, as well as his opposition to the free school lunch program and his call for cuts to food stamp aid, made for a divisive decision. Voting mostly along party lines, with Democrats and a handful of farm state Republicans opposed, the Senate was 51-44 in favor of Butz becoming the new Secretary of Agriculture.

Butz immediately pushed for a new approach to agriculture, putting a heavy focus on exports. He encouraged farmers to increase their production, increasing the size of their crops so the surplus could be sold overseas. Meanwhile, government subsidies to farmers would be sharply reduced. The system revamped the New Deal farm policies of price supports, government grain purchases, and letting some land lie fallow to avoid soil erosion; now the government would make direct payments to farmers based on a set price for a product. Both the New Deal and Butz models sought to get farmers a fair price for their crop in a bad year. With the Butz model, farmers were encouraged to grow as much as possible and sell at any price, since the government would make up the difference if their sale price was less than the government's benchmark.

Butz was trying to strike a delicate balance. The surplus sales would allow farm income to increase, while the cost of government subsidies would decrease and food prices would remain stable. But the combination of excess crops and reduced price supports could also harm farmers during surplus years, while heavy exports could lead to increased food prices and food shortages. A $30 million grain shipment to the Soviet Union in 1972 was the first major export, and it led directly to the spike in prices, food shortages, and subsequent protests and boycotts.

The policy was successful in its other goals, however. Farm income increased 20 percent between 1970 and 1976, while government subsidies fell from $3.7 billion to $500 million in the same period. Butz's supporters argued that the rising tide lifted all boats, helping to increase agricultural profitability overall. Food exports continued, including a 16.5 million grain shipment to the Soviet Union in 1975 and another one of 2.2 million tons in 1976.

But the ripple effect was also apparent in less savory ways as well. Poultry farmers were hit hard, as grain producers were able to corner the market on feed. Some were forced into contracts with food processors, having to ramp up production for little or no payout. Other poultry farmers were so desperate to keep feed prices manageable that they slaughtered any chicks they wouldn't be able to raise. More recent critics have suggested that Butz's policies inhibited agricultural progress in developing countries and helped increase obesity rates in the United States.

The fears that Butz would give preference to large agribusinesses while taking an "adapt or die" philosophy toward smaller farms were well-founded. Large grain exporters were allowed to buy up surpluses at bargain prices while further benefiting from subsidies. Officials from the Department of Agriculture often found high-level positions in agribusiness after they left government service. Susan Demarco, a founder of the Agribusiness Accountability Project, declared, "Secretary Butz is not a friend of family farmers; he is their funeral director." Carol Foreman, director of the Consumer Federation of America, said of Butz was "a spokesman for the big corporate farmers, for the food processors, and for the grocery people. He's not on the side of farmers or consumers. He's on the side of people who buy from farmers and sell to consumers."

Butz brushed aside such allegations, saying that they were politically motivated. He defended his policies, saying that smaller farmers were less efficient. Stopping the exports and deferring more to small producers, he argued, would lead to less food production and higher government subsidies, while shortages and increased food prices would continue. Butz also criticized agricultural unions of being selfish and was unsympathetic to concerns about the use of pesticides and chemicals to increase crop yields. “Before we go back to organic agriculture, somebody is going to have to decide what 50 million people we are going to let starve," he said.

President Gerald Ford retained Butz following Nixon's resignation, but there were numerous indications that he was not long for the post. In 1975, there were rumors that Ford would consider Butz to be too much of a liability for his 1976 election chances and that he would appoint a new Secretary of Agriculture before then. In fact, Butz had sought to leave the post for personal reasons the year before, but Ford convinced him to stay on. When Jimmy Carter became the Democratic nominee for President in 1976, he made it clear that he would not keep Butz in the Cabinet if he was elected.

In August of 1976, Butz was flying back to Washington from the Republican National Convention with singers Pat Boone and Sonny Bono as well as John W. Dean III, who had served as White House Counsel under Nixon and testified as a key witness for the prosecution in the Watergate scandal. Dean had recently finished a prison term for his role in Watergate and had been hired by Rolling Stone magazine to cover the convention. Boone asked Butz how the GOP could attract more black voters.

Butz replied, "The only thing the coloreds are looking for in life are tight pussy, loose shoes, and a warm place to shit."

The comment made it into the Rolling Stone article penned by Dean, though it was attributed only to a Cabinet official. New Times magazine investigated further, analyzing the itineraries of Cabinet members and naming Butz as the offending party. The comment was lewd enough that most newspapers could only paraphrase it. But once members of both major political parties learned of the statement, they began to call for Butz to resign or for Ford to fire him. Ford again gave Butz a "severe reprimand" for "highly offensive" rhetoric, and Butz again issued a public apology.

This time, the controversy didn't go away. The Carter campaign criticized Ford for a lack of leadership, saying he too easily forgave officials for their misconduct and that Butz's remarks were offensive enough that he should have been fired. The public had not forgotten Ford's hasty pardon of Nixon in Watergate; the Butz incident, Carter's campaign charge, was just another attempt at whitewashing. This time, it seemed that Ford was hoping the scandal would diminish so that Butz could stay in the Cabinet and help direct more of the farm vote to Ford.

With the pressure continuing to mount shortly before the election, Butz announced that he would resign. He said “the use of a bad racial commentary in no way reflects my real attitude,” and hoped that the action would remove any suspicions that Ford or his administration were racist. But Butz was not entirely contrite. He complained that he had been repeating an old joke, and that the remark was taken out of context. "This is the price I pay for a gross indiscretion in a private conversation," he griped. Butz also said he would continue to advocate for Ford during his campaign unless the President asked him not to. Ford accepted the resignation, saying it was "one of the saddest decisions of my presidency." John A. Knebel, the undersecretary of agriculture, took over the position.

Opinions differed on whether the comments truly reflected Butz's beliefs. Sympathizers suggested that no one was likely to come out unscathed if all their private conversations were made public; Butz was simply a victim of a bad joke that became publicized, they argued. Critics said Butz had made enough offensive comments that they made a pattern, suggesting that he thought little of groups such as Italians or blacks. The Carter campaign continued to criticize Ford's leadership and handling of the situation, accusing the President of waiting until after the release of opinion polls to decide what to do.

Butz again returned to Purdue to serve as dean emeritus of the school of agriculture, but also became a much sought-after lecturer on farm issues. Risque language continued to be a trademark of his, but none of his comments elicited further controversy. Butz was critical of Democratic farm policies in general, but was more complimentary of Carter due to the new President's agricultural background. "Say what you will about his being a peanut farmer and all that born again baloney, he is a very skilled politician," Butz said in a 1977 speech. "He is the most skilled politician who has been in the White House since Franklin D Roosevelt."

When Butz got in trouble again, it was related to his lectures but not to their content. He was charged with fraudulently understating his 1978 federal taxable income by failing to report more than $148,000 earned in the talks. In May of 1981, he pleaded guilty to the charge. Butz said he had been very busy at the time and that he willfully decided to file in a lower tax bracket. "I was not in a strong cash flow position as of April 15," he admitted. "I could have borrowed money. I didn't." Butz was sentenced to 30 days in jail and five years of probation, and also ordered to make restitution on his unpaid taxes. The plea was part of an deal in which the government agreed not to investigate Butz's taxes from 1977. He served 25 days behind bars before his release.

The sentence did not have any major effect on Butz's lecturing circuit or his work at Purdue. His talks were successful enough that he was able to make a $1 million donation to the school of agriculture in 1999. Butz's earlier indiscretions would hurt him one last time in 2005, when Purdue considered naming a lecture hall for him. The plan was met with student protests and ultimately scrapped. Butz died in his sleep on February 2, 2008.

Sources:  "Butz is Confirmed to Cabinet Position" in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on Dec. 3 1971, "Catholics Want Earl Butz Removed" in the Tuscaloosa News on Nov. 27 1974, "Pope Remark by Earl Butz Under Attack" in the Observer-Reporter on Nov. 29 1974, "Earl Butz: Controversial Figure Regarding Today's Food Prices" in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on March 7 1975, "Earl Butz: A Controversial Man and His Agriculture" in the Palm Beach Post-Times on Jun. 27 1976, "President Reprimands Earl Butz" in the Eugene Register-Guard on Oct. 2 1976, "Butz' Ouster May Be Soon" in the Eugene Register-Guard on Oct. 3 1976, "Earl Butz Resigns Under Pressure" in the Observer-Reporter on Oct. 5 1976, "Earl Butz: Profile of a Barnburner" in the Miami News on Oct. 6 1976, "Butz' Words Paraphrased in Most Family Newspapers" in the Miami News on Oct. 6 1976, "'Private Joke' Ignited Public Furor" in the Miami News on Oct. 6 1976, "Earl Butz Wanted Resignation Later" in the Spokesman-Review on Oct. 12 1976, "Earl Butz Predicts Global Warfare if Food Production Doesn't Rise" in the Montreal Gazette on Aug. 29 1977, "Earl Butz Pleads Guilty to Income Tax Evasion" in the Toledo Blade on May 23 1981, "Earl Butz, Ex-U.S. Agriculture Secretary, Dies at 98" in Bloomberg on Feb. 3 2008, "Earl L. Butz, Felled by Racial Remark, Is Dead at 98" in the New York Times on Feb. 4 2008, "Earl Butz, History's Victim" on on Feb. 4 2008, The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan, The New Encyclopedia of American Scandal by George C. Kohn

Friday, December 27, 2013

George E. Foulkes: postal service shakedown

Photo credit:

George Ernest Foulkes would earn a seat in the House of Representatives based on a solid background of government service and agricultural work. He would be ousted soon after amid accusations that he was using his new position for personal gain.

Foulkes was born in Chicago on Christmas Day of 1878. After attending the public schools, he studied law at Lake Forest University and graduated the same year. He was admitted to the bar the same year and began working as a special agent for the United States Treasury Department. The work brought him to bureaus in New York City, the Twin Cities in Minnesota, and El Paso, Texas. Foulkes remained in this service until 1919.

It was not until he settled down to another line of work that Foulkes began to show interest in politics. He moved to Hartford, Michigan, in 1920 to begin pursuing agriculture. Four years later, he appeared as a delegate to the Democratic state convention. He returned to this summit in 1926 and 1928. Finally, in 1932, Foulkes won a seat in the House of Representatives.

Foulkes gave special attention to agricultural issues while in Congress. In March of 1934, he asked that United States beet and cane sugar producers be given special preference over Cuban growers. There were signs that Foulkes was not content to remain in the House, however. He announced that he would put his name up for consideration in the year's Senate race if former Detroit mayor Frank Murphy, the governor-general of the Philippines, decided against running. Foulkes argued that since the sitting senator was from Detroit, it would make more sense to have the other seat occupied by a person from the western part of Michigan. The Farmer-Labor Party named him as their candidate for Michigan's gubernatorial election, but Foulkes declined the nomination.

The ugly allegations that surfaced shortly before the 1934 election ensured that Foulkes would be unlikely to win any elected office he sought to pursue. In August of 1934, Foulkes was accused of trying to solicit campaign donations from Michigan postmasters in order to guarantee their continued appointments. Postal authorities began investigating the matter after Edmund N. Cook, who acted as postmaster at Allegran between November 1933 and spring of 1934, agreed to pay Foulkes $20 on an assessment of $250 and promptly brought this piece of evidence to the attention of his superiors. At the general election, Foulkes lost to Republican candidate Clare Hoffman.

The investigation unveiled enough evidence to indict Foulkes and two others. Foulkes was charged with conspiracy. Elmer Smith, a former postmaster, was accused of solicitation of funds. Daniel Gerow, a former Shiawassee County sheriff and Democratic state central committee leader who had been considered the likely person to be U.S. marshal for Michigan's western district, was accused of both crimes.

Several postmasters had sworn affidavits alleging similar behavior to that charged by Cook. Gerow was accused of approaching 27 postmasters with a letter written by Foulkes, which suggested that the postmasters' permanent appointments would not be approved unless they contributed 10 percent of their assessments to the congressman's campaign fund. One postmaster, Ed Hackman, said he first received the demand by a letter delivered by Gerow and later in a conference where Foulkes made the threat directly to him.

Gerow quickly changed his plea from not guilty to no contest, and Smith followed suit. Foulkes was convicted at a trial in November of 1935 and ordered to serve 18 months in prison and pay a $1,000 fine. Gerow was ordered to pay $2,800 in fines--$200 on each of his 14 indictments--or go to prison. Smith was fined $500 and also told that he would go to jail if he could not raise the money.

Foulkes was paroled in June of 1936 and returned to farming. He continued in this line of work, writing on agricultural issues and becoming active in farm organization work. In 1958, an article in the Toledo Blade reported a perplexing offer Foulkes had made to bequeath his estate to a poor British farm boy. The article said that Foulkes had seven farms in North Dakota totaling about 6,000 acres and that the British Embassy was working to find a recipient.

The report correctly identified Foulkes as a Hartford resident, though his age was slightly off and it put his birthplace as Shropshire, England. This suggests that Foulkes chose to make the offer to another George Foulkes across the pond, a Shropshire native who shared his name and was serving as a member of Parliament.

The offer came not long before Foulkes' death. He passed away in Hartford on December 13, 1960.

Sources: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, "Vigorous Fight is Being Carried on to Save the Sugar Industry" in the Owosso Argus-Press on Mar. 2 1934, "Foulkes May Enter in Senate Contest" in the Owosso Argus-Press on Mar. 7 1934, "Postal Inspectors Look Into Charges" in the Owosso Argus-Press on Aug. 18 1934, "Warrants Are Issued Today" in the Owosso Argus-Press on May 3 1935, "Evidence Links Gerow, Foulkes in Conspiracy" in the Owosso Argus-Press on Nov. 19 1935, "Geo. Foulkes Starts Term in U.S. Prison" in the News-Palladium on Nov. 25 1935, "Parole is Granted Former Congressman" in the Southeast Missourian on Jun. 15 1936, "Michigan Resident to Give Farm to Poor British Boy" in the Toledo Blade on May 10 1958

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Joseph Barker: the street preacher mayor

Photo credit:

To Joseph Barker's supporters in Pittsburgh's 1850 mayoral election, their candidate was a shining example of a straight-talking man who had been punished for exercising his First Amendment rights. To his foes, Barker was little more than a foul-mouthed hooligan who gave free reign to bigots.

Little is known about Barker's early life. He was born around 1806 in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. According to the Lawrenceville Historical Society, there are indications that Barker held some minor elected positions in the 1840s. However, he was best known as a corner preacher, dressed in black with a cape and stovepipe hat, giving sermons twice a week on what he saw as the ills of society.

Barker typically took a nativist route, shouting denunciations of Catholics, Freemasons, and any Protestants who were opposed to his ideals. The harangues also criticized slavery and intemperance, and occasionally veered toward local politics when he lambasted politicians and the state of the Pittsburgh police. Barker had his supporters, including one particularly vehement follower named Hugh Kirkland who sometimes assisted him in his spectacles, but he frequently irritated those trying to keep the peace. On one occasion, he was ordered to serve 30 days in the workhouse for an anti-Catholic speech.

In November of 1849, a riot broke out after one of Barker's particularly pugnacious speeches against the Catholic clergy. He was quickly charged with blocking the streets and using "indecent, lewd, and immoral language calculated to deprave the morals of the community." A jury found him guilty, and Barker didn't help his case by threatening and swearing at the jury and judge, Benjamin Patton, at his sentencing. He was sentenced to one year in prison and a $250 fine.

Barker's supporters upheld him as a symbol of free speech and took an unusual strategy in trying to win his freedom. A mayoral election was scheduled for January of 1850, and they began a write-in campaign to name Barker to the office. Pittsburgh had about 36,000 people at the time, and sources differ about whether the turnout was high for a municipal election or low because people generally ignored these elections due to rampant corruption. When the results were tallied, Barker had eked out a win over two other candidates, earning 1,787 votes to the 1,584 for Democratic candidate John B. Guthrie and 1,034 for Whig candidate Robert McCutcheon.

With the mayor-elect still behind bars, Barker's swearing in became a farcical episode. Governor William F. Johnston agreed to pardon him so he could serve his term in office, but the document did not arrive in time for the scheduled day. When a mob threatened to break Barker out of jail, the sheriff relented and released him temporarily. Patton was chosen to give the oath of office to the man whom he had jailed just months before, but the judge took the occasion well. "Permit me, sir, to say that I hope you will more then realize the expectations of your friends," he said. With the pardon still nowhere to be found, Barker was returned to the jail to spend his first day in office behind bars before his freedom was finally approved.

To the surprise of his critics, Barker cooled his fiery demeanor and set about pursuing a number of reforms in the city. He introduced a program to test scales of merchants to ensure they weren't cheating customers, a move that reportedly enraged one vendor so much that she threw a slab of butter in the mayor's face. Barker also ordered crackdowns on vice dens, gambling, and drunkenness; sought enforcement of the 10-hour workday; and instituted a ban on prize fights.

Despite the tangible reforms, Barker's nativist streak was clearly visible in other decisions. On one occasion, a German steamboat band sought to bar the use of the calliope by a band on a nearby vessel since the instrument was drowning out their own music. Barker refused, commenting, "The calliope is an American institution, and the brass band is a damned imported Dutch institution. I am for America all the time." He also had the Catholic bishop and Mother Superior of Mercy Hospital arrested and fined $20 because the hospital's sewer line was allegedly creating a nuisance; he refused an appeal since a judge wasn't readily available. There were some indications that Barker's administration was encouraging more incidents of harassment against Catholics and vandalism of their institutions. Parishioners took shifts to guard churches and Mercy Hospital amid rumors that they would be set ablaze.

Barker's term was also distinguished by bitter feuding with the police department. He fired several night officers for alleged misconduct and replaced them with his own friends. When the police commissioners reinstated the night officers, Barker had them arrested. In a dispute over a prisoner, he also ordered the arrest of a jailer and the sheriff. The actions created two separate police forces, of the regular officers and Barker's appointees, and they sometimes came to blows. A tentative peace was struck when the police resumed the major duties of keeping the peace while Barker's men were relegated to minor duties such as lighting streetlamps. A court finally forced Barker to disband his own force.

Barker was arrested on several occasions during his tenure. There are conflicting reports about how many times he was taken into custody, including one where the police arrested him during the staffing squabble, but several accounts mention a string of arrests in October of 1850. He was twice charged with assault and battery, and in one of these incidents he was accused of trying to kill a man named John Barton. Barker was also charged with the abduction for interfering in a child custody matter. He was acquitted of all of these charges, though he was convicted of the more nebulous charge of "misdemeanor in office."

Running for re-election in January of 1851, Barker was only able to garner a quarter of the vote; Guthrie returned as a candidate and was successful. Barker returned to street preaching and was soon convicted of sparking another riot. He made two more unsuccessful bids for mayor, in 1852 and 1854. He remained a colorful personality, getting thrown out of the state senate chamber for going on a rant there, picking up more charges of obscenity and drunkenness, and earning several sentences sending him to a work farm. As the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania put it, he "rapidly sank into obscurity, a victim of intensified drink, fanaticism, and epilepsy."

Barker's demise was characteristically dramatic. He was walking along the railroad tracks in Manchester, returning from an August 1862 rally supporting the Northern cause in the Civil War, when an oncoming train struck and beheaded him.

Sources: The Political Graveyard, the Lawrenceville Historical Society, "Today in History" in the Pittsburgh Press on Jan. 7 1943, "Like Fiery Mayor-Father, Barker Dies in Obscurity" in the Pittsburgh Press  on Mar. 13 1948, "Joseph Barker Had Knack for Getting Into Trouble" in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Jan. 11 1950, "Political Opportunist Was Colorful Character in Pittsburgh History" in the Tribune-Review on Jan. 27 2002, "Jailed Street Preacher Elected Mayor" in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Apr. 2 2002, "Winner of the First Joe Barker Memorial Award is..." in the Pittsburgh Catholic on Nov. 12 2007, "Let's Learn About: Mayor Joseph Barker" in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Oct. 29 2009, "Mayoral Madness" in the Pittsburgh Magazine in May 2013, History of Pittsburgh and Environs, Volume II, Pittsburgh: The Story of a City, 1750-1865 by Leland DeWitt Baldwin and Ward Hunter

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Orville E. Hodge: high flying lifestyle

Hodge is fingerprinted by Paul Terrill, chief investigator for the Sangamon County Sheriff's Department, following his arrest in July of 1956. Photo credit:

Like Paul Powell's illicit shoebox fortune and Otto Kerner's tax evasion, the case of Orville E. Hodge is often cited as a major one in the seemingly perpetual financial scandals carried out by Illinois public officials.

Born in Anderson, Illinois, in October of 1904, Hodge moved with his family to Granite City when he was four years old. In his adulthood, he would inherit his father's company, the Hodge Agency, and specialize in realty, insurance, and construction. After serving in the Illinois house of representatives, he was elected as the state's auditor of public accounts. Known as a jovial figure who made friends easily, Hodge was considered a rising star of the Republican Party who had the governor's office in his future.

Starting the auditor role in 1953, Hodge initially met with success. He negotiated a budget for his office that brought an additional $2.5 million to the auditor's office over the previous biennium. In 1955, however, Hodge came before the Illinois legislature with hat in hand. He had spent enough of the budget that it would run out before the end of the term. The legislators approved a $525,000 emergency appropriation to bail him out, trusting that Hodge was a capable official.

The next year, an unraveled financial scheme proved just how wrong this assumption was. Investigative reporter George Thiem, writing for the Chicago Daily News, pursued a tip that Hodge was mismanaging his accounts. Thiem uncovered 15 instances where Hodge had written state warrants, or checks, totaling $108,000 to people or firms. None of those named on the checks ever received a dime. The revelation would earn Thiem a Pulitzer Prize and Hodge a stay in prison. State and federal authorities began investigating his accounts in July of 1956.

The investigation uncovered a chronic pattern of embezzlement that had started in May of 1955. In addition to writing false warrants and state contracts, Hodge had falsified expense reports and set up dummy employees to receive kickbacks from their salaries. Although investigators initially found irregularities amounting to $536,226, the figure began to steadily climb as more and more misconduct was brought to light. Governor William G. Stratton, who at first ordered Hodge to double his $50,000 bond, now urged the auditor to resign. Hodge did so, with Stratton inviting retired University of Illinois comptroller Lloyd Morey to take over the position for the six months remaining in Hodge's term.

Federal investigators soon ordered the arrests of Hodge as well as Edward A. Epping, his former office manager, and Edward A. Hintz, the resigned president of Chicago's Southmoor Bank and Trust. Epping was accused of taking six state checks to the bank, where Hintz cashed them. Hodge was charged with using the assets to purchase a number of luxury items including two private airplanes, four luxury cars, a resort hotel suite in Florida, a home on Lake Springfield, and other real estate and stocks. The total amount of stolen money was uncertain, and indeed varied among reports; most put the figure in the area of $1.5 million while others said it was considerable higher, citing the specific sum of $2,500,008. "Where do they get that $2.5 million?" Hodge himself would later ask in a prison interview. "I was sent here for $650,000 and they're getting that back." One calculation suggested that Hodge had embezzled more than $1 million by depositing phony state warrants in federally insured banks, misappropriated $500,000 by liquidating the funds of closed banks, and acquired another $1 million through illegal expense accounts, expenditures, and fraudulent contracts.

Hodge was charged with both state and federal crimes, since the activity had involved the misappropriation of bank loans insured by the United States. Hodge wrote a 176-page "clean breast" statement, admitting to the wrongdoing and saying he had misappropriated funds both to maintain a high standard of living and to further his aspirations to be governor. He admitted that Epping and Hintz had been involved in the scheme, but denied that they had benefited personally. Hodge also returned $528,000 to the state shortly after the wrongdoing was discovered and vowed to give up his assets to aid the restitution.

In August, just one month after the illegal activity came to light, Hodge pleaded guilty to federal charges of embezzlement, forgery, running a confidence game, and conspiracy to defraud the state. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison, with the stipulation that the term would be cut in half if he made good on a $816,427 restitution. Later in the same month, Hodge was sentenced on state charges that he had embezzled $637,000. The prosecutor, a fellow Republican named George Coutrakon, wanted to make an example out of Hodge by sentencing him to 42 to 45 years in prison. However, Hodge was ultimately ordered to serve 12 to 15 years in prison, concurrent to the federal sentence.

Soon after, Hintz was sentenced to three years in federal prison. In September of 1956, Epping was ordered to serve four to five years behind bars. A policeman, William Lydon, was found guilty of conspiring with Hodge to get false bids on remodeling contracts to the tune of $88,787; a jury convicted him of conspiracy in November of 1957 and fined him $2,000. The final conviction related to Hodge came in January of 1958, when Epping was further convicted on federal charges of forgery, running a confidence game, and embezzlement. He was sentenced the next month to another one to 10 years behind bars.

The court confirmed that Hodge had paid his restitution in 1957, meeting the requirement to reduce the federal sentence. Morey would use his brief time in office to develop a reform program, while his successor Elbert S. Smith continued this reorganization and efforts to get back the money Hodge had stolen. The state would ultimately recover more than $2 million. Hodge served six-and-a-half years of the remaining sentence before Governor Otto Kerner reduced his sentence to 10 years so he would be eligible for parole. He was released at the end of January in 1963.

Nearly broke, Hodge returned to his hometown of Granite City to start working in his sister's hardware store. He later began working as a used car salesman and real estate agent. Hodge died in December of 1986.

Sources: History of the State of Illinois Comptroller Office, "State Auditor to Be Ousted in Shortages" in The Dispatch on Jul. 12 1956, "Governor Tells Illinois Auditor to Get Off Ballot" in the Palm Beach Post on Jul. 12 1956, "Funds Loss Set At $800,000" in the Portsmouth Times on Jul. 19 1956, "Illinois Orders Arrest of Hodge, Two Others" in the Milwaukee Journal on Jul. 21 1956, "Hodge Pleads Innocent in Illinois Fund Scandal" in the Milwaukee Journal on Jul. 26 1956,  "Ex-Official to Give Up All Assets" in the Miami News on Aug. 9 1956, "Hodge Admits Guilt in State Fraud Case" in the St. Petersburg Times on Aug. 14 1956, "Hodge Guilty; Gets 20 Years" in the Milwaukee Journal on Aug. 15 1956, "Illinois Gets Million Plus From Hodge" in the Miami News on Aug. 17 1956, "Auditor Gets 12 Years For Tapping Ill. Till" in the Meriden Record on Aug. 21 1956, "Bankers is Sentenced to 3 Years" in the New York Times on Aug. 25 1956, "Hodge's Office Manager Gets 4 to 5 Years" in the Leiston Evening Journal on Sep. 8 1956, "Hodge's Sentence Cut" in the New York Times on Mar. 5 1957, "Orville Hodge Whimpers Year Enough Time in Jail" in the Lakeland Ledger on Aug. 16 1957, "Policeman in Hodge Case Fined" in the Daytona Beach Morning Herald on Nov. 25 1957, "Jury Convicts Auditor's Aide" in the Spokesman-Review on Jan. 13 1958, "Orville Hodge is Back Home" in the Palm Beach Post on Feb. 1 1963, "Orville Hodge, Auditor Who Robbed State" in the Chicago Tribune on Jan. 1 1987, "Orville Hodge Married Again" in the Milwaukee Journal on Sep. 9 1965, "Lots of Other Illinois Pols Have Found Trouble" in the Carmi Times on Jun. 27 2011, The Gentleman From Illinois: Stories From Forty Years of Elective Public Service by Alan J. Dixon, The Man Who Emptied Death Row: Governor George Ryan and the Politics of Crime by James L. Merriner

Friday, August 9, 2013

Thomas Heflin: even bad men love their mommas

Photo credit:

"Cotton Tom" Heflin had a curious pair of choices in what he considered to be his accomplishments while a member of Congress. He was especially proud of his role in the establishment of Mother's Day. He also looked back fondly on the time he shot a black man during a confrontation on a Washington, D.C. streetcar.

James Thomas Heflin was born in Louina, Albama, in April of 1869. After attending Southern university in Greensboro and Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College, later named for its host city of Auburn, Heflin began studying law. He was admitted to the bar in 1893 and began practicing in Lafayette. His first entry into politics came in 1893, when he served for a year as the community's mayor.

Heflin continued a steady progression from local politics into state level positions. He served as register in chancery from 1894 to 1896, when he resigned to become a member of the state house of representatives; he held a seat there until 1900. One of his first overtly white supremacist acts came in 1901 when he was a member of the state constitutional convention. Heflin helped draft legislation in the document aimed at barring African-Americans from voting.

In 1902, Heflin began serving as Alabama's secretary of state. He resigned in 1904, halfway through his term. A special election was called for May of 1904 to fill a vacancy caused by the death of Representative Charles W. Thompson. Heflin won the election as well as the regular 1904 election and served in the next seven Congresses. He earned his nickname through a persistent advocacy for more favorable cotton prices, while also recommending an expansion of rural mail routes and railroad regulation.

The shooting incident had its roots in Heflin's proposal in February of 1908 to bring Jim Crow laws to D.C. streetcars, arguing that segregation of public transportation had proved successful in Alabama. The proposal was shot down by the House, and earned Heflin plenty of rancor. One person, writing a letter to him, suggested that Heflin's morals should encourage him to stand to give up his seat to a black woman on the streetcar. Many other writers threatened him with death. In response, Heflin applied for permission to carry a pistol in public.

A month later, Heflin was riding on a streetcar with Rep. Edwin J. Ellerbe of South Carolina on his way to deliver a temperance lecture. The exact circumstances of the incident are unclear, as contemporary reports give several versions of what happened. They all agree, however, that Heflin was offended by a black passenger who was cursing and drinking from a bottle of whiskey while a woman sat nearby. When Heflin asked the passenger, Louis Lundy, to stop, Lundy shouted insults back at him. A scuffle erupted on the streetcar as it pulled up to a station in front of the St. James Hotel, and Heflin threw Lundy onto the platform.

The reports on what happened next varied widely. One version suggested that Heflin had struck Lundy in the head with his pistol, accounting for the wound there, and then fired warning shots at his feet. Another said Heflin shot Lundy in the neck or a grazing wound above the ear. In any case, Heflin thought Lundy was reaching for a razor and opened fire while at a streetcar platform with several people still milling about. One round ricocheted and hit Thomas McCreary, a horse trainer, in the leg. It was described as a minor wound, but the New York Times later claimed that complications with the injury nearly took McCreary's life and that he spent six weeks in the hospital.

Arrested on a charge of assault to kill, Heflin was kept in a police captain's office rather than a cell before making a $5,000 bail. Upon his return to Congress, he was thronged by like-minded representatives as well as telegrams praising him for his action. Yet some Southern newspapers criticized him for turning what they saw as a relatively minor annoyance into a violent episode, saying it represented a foolish kneejerk anti-black sentiment. Heflin defended his action. "Under the circumstances there was nothing more for me to do," he said. "I am glad to say I have not yet reached the point where I will see a Negro, or a white man either, take a drink in the presence of a lady without saying something to him. I did only what any other gentleman placed in similar circumstances would have done."

Heflin even threatened to press a case against Lundy for carrying a weapon on a streetcar. Indeed, Lundy was a repeat offender with 12 arrests on record between 1905 and 1907 on charges ranging from disorderly conduct to grand larceny. Yet Heflin's threat was somewhat hypocritical. Despite his claim that he had been cleared to carry a pistol, the D.C. police wouldn't confirm the permission to the New York Times and the newspaper's search of police records found no such authorization.

The charges finally levied against Heflin in an indictment were three counts of assault. However, the indictment was quashed when Lundy failed to show up in the court appearance. Soon after, Lundy sued Heflin and demanded $20,000 in damage. This suit apparently fell through, and to add insult to injury Heflin agreed to pay for the medical expenses McCreary incurred in the incident.

Heflin was not quite done with public scuffles. In August of 1909, he and another congressman were nearly hit by a speeding car. Heflin chased down the vehicle and took the plate number. When the driver asked what he was doing, the two exchanged insults and then blows. Unlike the shooting, no charges were filed in this fight.

The accomplishment Heflin was proudest of was his role in establishing the legislation that would lead to the declaration of the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day. The idea had been championed by Anna Jarvis of Philadelphia, and in 1914 Heflin introduced the House resolution on the holiday; it would later be approved by President Woodrow Wilson. Yet Heflin was also a noted opponent of women's suffrage, with women's groups in Alabama vowing to fight his re-election after he said he thought a woman's place was in the home.

Aside from his role in Mother's Day, Heflin's congressional career was marked largely by bombast. His loud speeches and dress, which typically including a frock coat and 10-gallon hat, made him a favorite to spectators in the Capitol. In September of 1914, he claimed that the votes and proposals of 13 to 14 members of the House indicated that they were being influenced by a German slush fund. In October of 1917, an investigating committee determined that the accusation was false.

It was far from the last accusation Heflin would make. He blustered about conspiracies and accusations, denouncing everything from another candidate's supposedly soft stance on Communism to newspaper coverage to the presidential handshake policy. He later developed a central theme of supporting Prohibition and opposing Catholicism. Critics said Heflin's remarks were making an embarrassment of Alabama and Congress; the New York Times noted in 1927 that his anti-Catholic remarks had "become almost a habit" and that a fellow member had denounced his remarks as those of an "ill-mannered fellow."

Yet the electorate continued to like Heflin enough to return him to office again and again. In November of 1920, he was elected to the Senate to fill a vacancy caused by the death of John H. Bankhead. He was re-elected in the regular election of 1924.

Heflin's fall from grace came in 1928. The Democrats chose Governor Al Smith of New York, a Catholic, as their presidential candidate. Accusing Smith and Catholics in general as conspiring to overthrow the United States, Heflin broke ranks and publicly supported Republican presidential candidate Herbert Hoover. "Alabama isn't going for Al Smith. Neither is any other southern state, except possibly Louisiana," Heflin declared in January of the election year. "He is a Tammanyite, wringing wet and a Roman Catholic. I would vote against him for all three reasons."

The remarks against Smith earned Heflin plenty of denunciation. The state's newspapers and Democratic leaders accused him of being little more than a mouthpiece for the Ku Klux Klan. Speaking against Smith at an Alabama high school the day before the election, protesters threw eggs at him. In one appearance before a Massachusetts KKK group in 1929, Heflin was pelted with stones and a quart bottle.

The "Yellow Dog Democrats" organized a campaign against Heflin. Although there are other stories related to the origin of the name, it generally referred to Southerners who would support the Democratic Party in any case. The phrase "I'd vote for a yellow dog if he ran on the Democratic ticket" surfaced in response to Heflin's support of Hoover.

Alabama Democrats had their revenge shortly after Smith's unsuccessful run for the White House. Party leaders made an amendment to the qualifications for 1930 candidates, requiring them to swear an oath that they had not openly opposed any Democratic candidates in 1928. Heflin organized the Jeffersonian Democratic Party in an attempt to retain his seat, but his biases continued to undermine him. Prior to the election, he made a number of baseless accusations in a prolonged rant. They included charges that a slush fund overseen by Tammany Hall and the Catholics had been at work in forcing him out, that Catholics dominated the press, that some of the members changing the party rules had been drunk while doing so, that prior presidents had vetoed immigration bills so more Catholics could flood into the country, and that the national Democratic Party chairman - John J. Raskob - was in bed with the Catholics. "He is the chamberlin to the Pope," Heflin proclaimed. "No doubt he is now in the royal chamber discussing plans."

Voters dealt Heflin a resounding defeat at the polls, where he fell by 50,000 votes to Democratic candidate John Bankhead II. Nevertheless, Heflin kept up his charges of fraud and corruption and challenged the result. The Alabama house of representatives, by now weary of Heflin's antics, passed a resolution in January of 1931 criticizing him for "very poor sportsmanship" and his record in general, saying it "made Alabama the laughing stock of the Union by his bigotry, lack of religious tolerance, and the lack of many of the courtesies generally expected between one gentleman and another."

But the Senate still took up the challenge, and in March of 1932 the Senate Election Committee voted along party lines to vacate Bankhead's seat and open it up to appointment. The committee felt there had been a widespread violation of election laws, including an illegal primary. In April, Heflin appeared before the Senate to ask for Bankhead's ouster and said there had been expenditures of over $1 million in the 1930 election. The same month, however, the full Senate voted 64-18 to reject Heflin's appeal.

By this time, Heflin had also earned rebuke for a letter he had submitted to the Congressional Record criticizing New York's legalization of interracial marriage. Critics said the letter would harm Alabama businesses at a particularly inopportune time, as the Great Depression set in. Grover Cleveland Hall, writing an editorial for the Montgomery Advertiser, blasted Heflin as "a bully by nature, a mountebank by instinct, a Senator by choice...Thus this preposterous blob excites our pity if not our respect, and we leave him to his conscience in order that he may be entirely alone and meditate over the life of a charlatan whose personal interest and personal vanity are always of paramount concern to him."

The unsuccessful challenge to the 1930 election results ultimately led Heflin to seek reconciliation with the Democrats. In October of 1932, he offered to campaign on behalf of Democratic presidential candidate Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Three years later, he was appointed a special representative of the Federal Housing Administration. He left in 1936 to serve a year as a special assistant to the U.S. Attorney General in Alabama, a position he held in 1937. Heflin again became a special representative of the Federal Housing Administration between 1939 and 1942.

Following his retirement, Heflin died in Lafayette in April of 1951.

Sources: The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, Encyclopedia of Alabama, "'Jim Crow' Cars Denied by Congress" in the New York Times on Feb. 23 1908, "Congressman Shot Negro in Street Car" in the New York Times on Mar. 28 1908, "2 Negros Shot By Congressman" in the Newburgh Daily Journal on Mar. 28 1908, "Praise Congressman Who Shot a Negro" in the New York Times on Mar. 29 1908, "Heflin Sued by Negro" in the New York Times on Apr. 5 1908, "Topics of the Times" in the New York Times on Apr. 5 1908, "Heflin, M.C., Fights a Reckless Motorist" in the New York Times on Aug. 5 1909, "Heflin Pays for Shooting" in the New York Times on Apr. 30 1908, "Women to Oppose Heflin" in the New York Times on Feb. 13 1913, "Charges Fail" in the Gettysburg Times on Oct. 6 1917, "Rebuke Senator For Abusing Other Solon" in the Evening News on Feb. 3 1923, "Heflin is Silenced in Church Attack" in the New York Times on Feb. 19 1927, "Heflin Renews His Attack on Church and Gov. Smith" in the Evening Independent on Jan. 24 1928, "Heflin Centre of Egg Shower in Alabama" in the Providence News on Nov. 7 1928, "Heflin is 'Missed'" in the Pittsburgh Press on Mar. 19 1929, "Heflin Assails Press, Church" in the Pittsburgh Press on Apr. 22 1930, "Legislature Flays Heflin" in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Jan. 30 1931, "Heflin Wins Ouster Point" in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Mar. 5 1932, "Heflin Tells Senate 'Leads' Indicate More Than a Million Spent" in the Evening Independent on Apr. 27 1932, "Senate Refuses To Oust Bankhead, 64 to 18" in the New York Times on Apr. 29 1932, "Heflin Proffers Service to Party" in the Lewiston Morning Tribune on Oct. 16 1932, "J. Thomas Heflin, Former Senator From Alabama, Dies" in the News and Courier on Apr. 23 1951, "The Bum Who Fathered Mother's Day" in the New York Times on May 8 1994, Fighting the Devil in Dixie: How Civil Rights Activists Took On the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama by Wayne Greenhaw, Encyclopedia of the United States Congress by Robert E. Dewhirst and John David Rausch