Thursday, June 28, 2018

Walter Clark—Fighting Judge and Women’s Rights Advocate

            Walter McKenzie Clark was the oldest child of Gen. David and Anna Maria Thorne Clark. He was born on August 19, 1846 at Prospect Hill in Halifax Co., NC, but spent most of his young years at Ventosa, the Clark plantation on the Roanoke River
           At the age of 8, Walter was sent to school at Vine Hill Academy near Clarksville [later Scotland Neck] also in Halifax County. In a letter to his mother he wrote, “I go to Sunday School and church, and also clean my teeth every morning, and everything else you requested me to do.” In 1857, he was sent to Ridgeway School in Warren Co. and in 1859 to Belmont Select School in Granville Co., where he excelled in every subject. In 1860, at the age of 14, he was enrolled in Tew’s Military Academy at Hillsboro, Orange Co.

            Soon after NC seceded from the Union on May 20, 1861, Gov. Ellis called for volunteers to assemble at Camp Ellis, near Raleigh, Wake Co. He asked Col. Tew of the Academy to assign a cadet to act as drill master for the first contingent of raw recruits. Walter Clark—only 14 years old—was given the assignment.
            The Camp Ellis troops were organized into the 22nd Regiment under the command of Col. J. Johnston Pettigrew, and Clark, known as “Little Clark,” was elected 2nd lieutenant and drill master, where he served until November when he became drill master for the 35th NC Regiment at Camp Mangum, also in Wake Co.
            In the summer of 1862, “Little Clark” became Col. Matt W. Ransom’s adjutant. The regiment joined Gen. Lee’s army and Clark saw plenty of action. He was present at the Second Battle of Manassas and took part in the capture of Harper’s Ferry. After that, the troops marched double-quick to Sharpsburg, where on Sept. 17, the bloodiest one-day battle of the war was fought.
            Clark later wrote an account of that day in which he told how he was pulled out of the line of fire: “All the mounted officers in the division instantly dismounted, turning their horses loose to gallop to the rear. It being the first time I had been so suddenly thrown in contact with a line of battle, and not noticing, with the smoke and uproar, that the others had dismounted, I thought it my duty to stick to my horse; in another moment, when the smoke would have lifted, I should have been taken for a general officer and would have been swept out of my saddle by a hundred bullets. A kind-hearted veteran close by peremptorily pulled me off my horse. At that instant a Minnie ball, whistling over the just emptied saddle, struck the back of my left hand which was still clinging to the pommel, leaving a slight scar… .”
      Gen. Ransom had a slightly different recollection. He said that a big mountaineer private ran up to Clark and pulled him off his horse, exclaiming, “Git off’n this horse, you darned little fool! You’ll git killed.”
            Later, when the regiment was in winter quarters near Richmond, VA with Gen. Lee, Clark wrote his mother asking for a pair of boots. The soles of his shoes had given away and his feet were partially on the ground. “I have thought my feet would freeze in these low shoes, for they keep no more water out than if I had none. It is folly to think that persons in the army can purchase at any time, anywhere, what they need.”
            At another time he wrote his mother, “ …we had to lie in an open ditch, the rain pouring down, without blankets or a mouthful to eat (and the enemy picking off every man who raised up to stretch his benumbed limbs) for two nights and a day …”
            Walter Clark resigned his commission in 1863 and enrolled at UNC. He graduated a year later, first in his class. He was reading law, although, as he wrote his father, “… I would not be entitled to plead until I am twenty one.” As soon as he graduated in June 1864, he returned to his regiment and continued to serve until he was paroled on May 2, 1865.
After the War
            When Clark returned to Ventosa, there was nothing left. The fields were a wilderness of weed. Federal soldiers had stolen the livestock and burned the mansion to the ground. David Clark’s health was ruined and Walter took over management of Ventosa and Riverside, near New Bern in Craven Co. He became the head of the family at age 18 and managed to rehabilitate Ventosa and keep his family—mother, invalid father and 8 siblings—together.
            In December 1865, at the age of 19, he wrote to the Raleigh Daily Standard: “The picture of abandoned farms, stagnated business, a dejected people and open lawlessness is fearful to contemplate. Gentlemen may go to Raleigh and legislate, but what does their collective wisdom amount to if the plow stands still in the furrow and the anvil rests on its block? …”
            In January, 1867, Walter Clark was admitted to the practice of law in Halifax Co. and opened his office in Scotland Neck. At 21, he was licensed by the Supreme Court. He soon moved his office to Halifax where his practice thrived.
“Miss Sudie”
            “[I] go up to Company Shops [Burlington, Alamance Co.] today for the purpose of seeing Miss Sudie Graham.” This was the start of Clark’s ardent 3 year courtship of “Miss Sudie” Graham. She lived in Hillsboro, Orange Co., far from Halifax, and Clark often told of catching midnight freight trains on his return trips.
            On Jan. 27, 1875, Walter Clark and Susan Washington Graham were married. Clark was a director and general counsel for the Raleigh & Gaston and the Raleigh & Augusta Railroads, and it was more convenient for him to live in Raleigh. The young couple had an inexpensive but comfortable house, and it was there they raised their family of 8—5 boys and 3 girls.

Stock Certificate
LaBarre Galleries:

            Clark seemed to have boundless energy and enthusiasm. He and Gov. Holt purchased the Raleigh News, a daily paper which Clark managed for a number of years. He wrote an annotated Clark’s Code of Civil Procedure that was so well done every practicing lawyer had to have a copy. He compiled and edited the State Records of North Carolina (16 vols., 1886-97). He wrote a historical summary of Methodism in NC and represented the Methodist church at a number of national and international conferences. In addition, he found time to help his children with their lessons and take the boys swimming in Crabtree Creek.
Fighting Judge
            Clark was appointed to the Superior Court in 1885 and was elected, in 1889, to the NC Supreme Court where he served until his death in 1924. He was inflexible against all violators of the law. Recognized as a progressive, Clark was an ardent advocate for women, children and minorities. He had conflicts with such powerhouses as the American Tobacco Co. and several railroad companies, including the Atlantic Coast Line. He urged better child labor laws, once denying the right of an employer to plead that a child working with dangerous machinery assumed the risk incident to the employment, and when injured was barred from recovery.
Women’s Rights
            Walter Clark took an avid interest in woman’s suffrage, serving as legal adviser to the North Carolina League of Women Voters. He made his first speech favoring woman suffrage in 1911.

            In 1913, Clark spoke to the Federation of Women’s clubs in New Bern. He said, in part: “…The legal status of women under the common law … was simply that of a slave. A married woman under the common law owned no property, except after the death of her husband. She could make no contracts, not even for necessaries and not even with the consent of her husband. She could not will or devise her property. Upon her marriage the husband and the wife became one—and that one was the husband. He was master, the wife was a nonentity. The moment she married, he became entitled to all her personal property. He was entitled to the rents and profits of her real estate, which he could sell for his lifetime, or it could be sold for his debts. If she died, the husband still possessed the right to the rents and profits of all her realty for the rest of his life, while at his death she received only a child’s part of his personalty [personal property] and a life right, called a dower, in only one-third of his realty. … She could not appoint a guardian for her children, even when she outlived her husband.

            “As to her personal rights, the married woman came under the absolute control of her husband, who could chastise her if he saw fit, provided the chastisement inflicted no permanent injury. The reason given for this by Judge Pearson as late as 1868 was that it was the husband’s duty to ‘make the wife behave herself,’ and if he beat her without good cause it was held that the courts would not punish him, because it was too small a matter to take notice of, unless she was permanently injured. As late as 1868 it was held by our Supreme Court that if a husband whipped his wife with a switch no larger than his thumb he could not be punished.

 "Can this plaintiff discharge that duty when so authorized by an act of the Legislature and commissioned by the Governor? Or is she barred because she is a woman? Under the Constitution of the United States no one is debarred from holding any office from President down because of sex. What provision of the state Constitution will be shattered, and what detriment will the public welfare receive, if by legislative and executive authority a woman shall authenticate a certificate made by herself by impressing the seal upon a piece of paper? If the defendant were a man, he would not be debarred from holding this appointment unless he were an idiot, a lunatic, or a convict."
From a case heard by the NC Supreme Court in 1915

            “The first improvement came in 1848 when a statute ‘provided that as to women married thereafter, their real estate could not be sold by the husband nor for his debts.’ In 1868, the new constitution contained a provision that was intended to emancipate married women by providing that ‘a married woman should own her property as fully as if she had remained single; that she might will it, and that she could sell her personalty, but it was still required that she must get the written assent of her husband to convey her realty. This last restriction still holds in this state … .’ Despite the new provision, “the courts placidly proceeded to hold that the earnings from her needle or cooking, or otherwise acquired by her labor should nevertheless become absolutely the property of her husband, and that she could not sue for it.” It was not until 1913 that women were granted the right to their own earnings.
            In 1916, Judge Clark spoke in Greenville, Pitt Co. on the subject of votes for women. He argued, although women could not vote, legally they could hold any state office, as the constitution did not specify that office-holders must be men.
            Walter Clark died on May 20, 1924.
[From The Connector, Newsletter of Tar River Connections Genealogy Society: Vol. 12, Number 3: Summer 2008.
Sources: Dictionary of N.C. Biography edited by William S. Powell; “Soldier, Planter, Judge” by Gene Dugan, Ramparts, Summer 1998;]

Monday, June 25, 2018


          “The Flying Parson” is first of all a preacher. The matter of flying is secondary even though it did win for him the transcontinental air race.[1]   
            When he was 17 he began to preach.
            “And a mighty good mechanic was spoiled,” his North Carolina neighbors said, for the boy had always been “handy with tools.”
            The war brought him his chance as a mechanic, first in a munitions shop and then in the flying service. In January, 1917, he went into a shell factory.
            Then, when the United States went into the war, Maynard went in too. For 18 months he was in France, first in training for aviation and then as instructor at one of the camps. During the latter part of the time he was also preaching—helping (Homer) Rodehe(a)ver[2] with a series of meetings, addressing crowds of doughboys in “Y” huts.[3]  Sometimes he preached to his fellow flyers, and the fact that he was a good aviator made them the more willing to listen to his sermons.

Front Line Hunt
"History of the YMCA in World War I"

            Perhaps his simple faith had something to do with his coming home first in the transcontinental race; also certainly it had something to do with the fact that he refused to let the people from his home county [Sampson] commercialize his fame.
            To him the victory was merely an incident, a beginning, not an end. A few days after he came home from the trip he was to speak in a Massachusetts town. On the train a man was attracted by the aviator’s uniform and got to talking of his own son in the service; from that they drifted to other subjects and so they talked for the whole of a four-hour trip.
            That night after Maynard’s address the first man to speak to him was his fellow traveler.
            “Why didn’t you tell me you were the ‘Flying Parson’?” he asked.
            “I didn’t think about it,” was Maynard’s answer.

[(News and Observer) Raleigh, NC) 27 Feb 1916]

[1] See "Flying Parson," Sampson County, NC Pilot Made Aviation History: March 17, 2016
[2] Homer Rodeheaver, an evangelist, gospel song writer and publisher, worked with the famous evangelist Billy Sunday for 20 years.
[3] General Pershing ordered the establishment of servicemen’s centers in Europe. The order stated that the Y.M.C.A. would “provide for the amusement and recreation of the troops by means of its usual programme of social, physical, educational, and religious services.”