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Mike Watson: Adair County as seat of learning, in the law

The centerpiece is by Cumberland County native and famous Adair Countian, Herschel Clay Jones, which touches on the lives of Zach Wheat, Thomas E. Bramlette, Thomas T. Alexander, James Garnett, William Wallace Jones, Charles A. Hardin, William E. Russell, Parker C. Hardin, Timoleon Cravens, William Stewart, James Garnett, Jr., E.L. Dohoney, Nat Gaither and Ed Butler and even presidential politics - touching on many counties primarily in South Central Kentucky as well as statewide and nationally, including Texas.
Disclaimer: This has nothing to do with the partisan party designation for offices of judge in the upcoming primary election, but thought it might give one or two readers a moment of historical enjoyment. MW

By Mike Watson, Adair County Historian

There was a time when Adair County was considered not only the seat of great learning for south central Kentucky, but also in the law, as illustrated in the following item from Judge Herschel Clay Baker, of Columbia, but native of Cumberland County, from 1898:

Looking Back--A Contributor of the News Writes Interestingly of Prominent Men Who Were Born and Reared in Columbia, and Who Filled High Stations in Life, Other Noted Characters--

Columbia, without indulging in any vain, glorious praise of itself, has reason to be proud of its past history, and the records of its public men. Somehow, without ever being a good point for the practice of law, particularly to make money, Columbia has always been a good point to make judges. It has enjoyed a distinction in this respect, as it has furnished quite a number of men to wear the ermine in this and other districts of the State.


Judge Zach Wheat, who is remembered personally by the older citizens, besides serving as Circuit Judge, was on the Appellate bench. He was succeeded by Thomas E. Bramlette, who removed here from Clinton County. When the [Civil] War came, he enlisted a regiment and entered the service as its Colonel. Later on he was elected Governor of the State, and was known as the 'War Governor.' After his term of office expired, he located in Louisville where he died.

Following close on Judge Bramlette's term, Thos. T. Alexander, who removed here from Cumberland County about 1856 or '57, was elected Judge, and after serving one term was re-elected to a second term which ended in 1874. He then removed to Louisville where he practiced law for a few years. Failing health caused him to removed to St. Paul, Minn., where he died a few years later. He was succeeded on the bench by our townsman, Judge James Garnett, who is at present a candidate for the Democratic convention for Judge of the Court of Appeals with flattering prospects of success.

Our present incumbent, Judge W.W. Jones, [William Wallace Jones] although from Casey County, was born in Cumberland, and in large part educated here, and commenced the practice at this bar.

In addition to the foregoing Judges of this district, Charles A. Hardin and William E. Russell, who each served a term as Judge of the district embracing Lebanon, were born and reared here. The truth is, we have furnished so many Judges to the State, that it is really embarrassing to one of the legal profession here, who has not been a Judge, to go away from home, as he is certain to be called 'Judge' by every one he meets and advertised as such. Of course a fellow don't like to sail under false colors, and be called Judge when he is not a Judge; but how can he help himself?

Of the other lawyers who were in practice here when I came to Columbia as a school boy, Parker C. Hardin, who served several terms in the Senate of Kentucky, and was County Judge. Timoleon Cravens was State Elector on the Breckinridge ticket [Presidential election of 1860], and Samuel G. Suddarth besides filling the office of County Attorney for several terms, was Adjutant General of Kentucky during Gov. Bramlette's administration.

The younger lawyers who succeeded this old set were William Stewart, James Garnett, Jr., E.L. Dohoney, Nat Gaither and Ed Butler. Garnett has been in regular practice when not on the bench. Stewart, in addition to his regular practice, has been County Attorney at different times, was a soldier in the War.

Ebenezer Dohoney removed to Paris, Texas, where he built up a lucrative practice. He has also served in the Senate of that State. Nat Gaither was a member of the Legislature from this county and was Secretary of State under Gov. Magoffin. He removed to Harrodsburg and died there a few years ago. Ed Butler located at Albany, Ky., where he practiced for several years, and afterward removed to Brandenburg, Ky. While there he was a prominent candidate for the nomination for Congress in a very hotly contested race. --[Herschel Clay Baker]

And this doesn't even touch upon the careers of those who served in various capacities in the twentieth century!

Mike Watson


This story was posted on 2018-01-30 06:29:55
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