This famous Latin phrase, “Work Conquers All”, was originally a piece of propaganda used by the Roman poet Virgil (70 BC-19 BC) in his poem Georgics to curry favor with the Roman emperor Augustus (63 BC- 14 AD). Augustus wanted to encourage Roman citizens to quit their enjoyable lives of drinking wine and discussing politics to take up the hard work of farming. Peg, and maybe your spouse too, has carried on this tradition.
In the beginning were the innocent sounding words, “Jim, are you taking a vacation this summer?”
I thoughtlessly replied, “I dunno, why?”
“Oh, I just thought we could spend some time together at the Ranch, relax and catch up on some things.”
“Sounds good, I’ll check my docket.” Unfortunately it wasn’t too busy. I aimlessly proceeded into Peg’s nefarious Inferno.
Wives and husbands see “relaxing” and “catching up on things” from different perspectives, kinda like foxes and roosters might see dinner. The first two weeks of August were anticipated by me to be a bucolic period of connecting with the deer, fish, wild turkeys and even the pesky raccoons around JPeg Ranch. What could be wrong with some time spent with my feet up and a good book or a cool beverage to lull me to sleep on a lazy summer afternoon? Ask Peg!
“Since you are home with nothing to do would you mind …?” Yep, the dreaded LIST! Peg had been secretly working on it since spring. I had no idea our home was near the point of complete collapse from chores undone, by me, of course. Immediate action was called for. What wasn’t called for, or allowed, was propped up feet.
Now one need not be mentally exhausted from reading or relating a seriatim rundown of the physically exhausting chores that stood between “relax” and utter destruction of our home. Their actual completion was punishment enough. Suffice it to say that from tilling the garden, to reorganizing my stacks of half-finished projects from years past, my vacation morphed from pastoral pleasure to a yearning for a return to Court. I’ll be there Monday!
Gentle Reader, you will, of course, remember the Gavel Gamut column of December 05, 2005 where one of Posey County, Indiana’s most infamous brawlers was mentioned. One Tom Miller was fond of drink and when drinking was fond of fighting. In the years just before the Civil War old Tom would get liquored up and lick whoever had the misfortune to run into him on the streets of Mt. Vernon, Indiana. As described by John Leffel in the Western Star newspaper Miller would, “Pace the streets of Mt. Vernon with his coat off, sleeves rolled up, his shaggy breast exposed and his suspenders about his waist.” According to the editor, Tom always bellowed the same challenge, “I’m a mean man, a bad man and I orter to be whipped, I know, but whar’s the man to do it?”
Tom Miller was only one small part of our Posey County and new state of Indiana’s reputation for tumultuous living. The sobriquet, “Hoop Pool Township”, was fairly earned by Posey County brawlers who drove visiting boatmen away. And as for frontier justice in Indiana, some experts assert our Hoosier nickname came about from the proclivity of Indiana rowdies to bite off ears and spit them out onto barroom floors.
I am indebted to columnist Erik Deckers who set forth this theory of the origin of the word “Hoosier” in his article contained in the publication Here and Wow, Indianapolis! Vol.1, No. 1, 2018. At page 22 Deckers attributed this possibility to Indiana’s poet laureate James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916) of When the Frost is on the Pumpkin fame who claimed that early Indiana folks would frequently gouge out eyes or bite off body parts which would litter a barroom floor and when the next day someone would kick the removed piece of fleck they’d ask, “Whose ear?”
If I had not dealt with so many cases in court where the behavior of the combatants resembled such activity I might look askance on such a theory. However, I can see some merit to Riley’s analysis.
Well, onto another topic as discussed in last week’s column. You do remember last week’s column, right? Okay, it involved military service and concentrated on my Great Great Grandfather, John Giggy who was a stone mason and farmer from La Grange, Indiana who fought all four years (1861-1865) in Company H of the famed Iron 44thIndiana Volunteer Infantry.
Before being wounded at both Shiloh and Chickamauga and before he saw his first shot fired he and his outfit witnessed a sad spectacle in Henderson, Kentucky that helped them understand one of the main reasons they went to war. Kentucky did not secede, but it did have legal slavery until 1865. In fact, one reason Tom Lincoln, Abraham’s father, moved his family from Kentucky to Indiana was to avoid competing for work with slave labor. Slavery was part of the legal and social culture of Kentucky. The young Hoosier farm boys from northern Indiana who were used to doing their own labor had not had direct knowledge of The Peculiar Institution until they personally observed a slave auction in 1861 just across the Ohio River as they were making their way south:
“It was a strange pitiful sight that of women and little children standing upon the action block to be sold as human chattles. They came wringing their hands and with tears and sobs, lamenting their cruel fate. The soldiers stood near filled with pity and indignation but restrained by law and discipline. Slavery existed at this point in its mildest form. Here were a dozen or more large tobacco factories. The blacks were required as a daily task to strip 400 pounds under penalty of the rod. Children of ten years were given this task. Work hours extended from 4 a.m. to 8 p.m. In each room was an overseer whose presence was a threat. Some negroes were well dressed, others ragged. Attendance at church was allowed and many were Christians. They regarded the coming of the soldiers as the precursor of their liberty.”
As to the name Hoosier, Posey County’s most famous citizen, Major General Alvin P. Hovey, while in command at Shiloh came across a Union sentry on a dark night who asked for the password. Hovey was just getting his men to that position and had no idea what password was being used. When the sentry asked, “Who goes there?”, Hovey improvised what he hoped would be an acceptable password and responded, “Hoosiers”. The sentry said, “Welcome Hoosiers.” Apparently, we Hoosiers have been welcomed as such for a long time.
My mother’s three brothers and one of her three sisters served in the army in WWII. Uncle Buck flew close order air support of ground combat soldiers, one of whom could have been Uncle Bill. Uncle Bud never saw a shot fired in anger but went where he was told. Aunt Betty was an army nurse.
My two brothers and I served in the military during the Viet Nam War as did my sister Jane’s husband, Bruce. Bruce was stationed in North Carolina and was not sent to Viet Nam. My eldest brother, C.E., is a fine musician and the army decided it needed his saxophone for the U.S. Army Field Band more than they needed his rifle.
My other brother, Phil, is an excellent attorney whom the army ordered into the Judge Advocate Corps as they thought his legal advice was more important to the war effort than his fighting. And for reasons known only to the U.S. Air Force my country determined my supposed linguistic skills were more vital for gathering Intelligence than was my body for cannon fodder.
One of my numerous first cousins, Billy Mike, survived a year in combat in Viet Nam and my son, Jim, earned a Combat Infantryman’s Badge in the Gulf War of 1990-91 and another in the Iraq War in 2006. He also earned a Bronze Medal for service in each war. My son, my cousin and two of my uncles dodged enemy fire while my other uncle, my aunt, my brother-in-law, my brothers and I simply went where we were sent.
Twenty-nine of our presidents served in the military before becoming Commander-in-Chief. Some saw combat, some did not. At least two of our recent presidents actively avoided serving themselves but later, as President, sent others into combat. Abraham Lincoln always dreamed of military action and regretted only serving about one month of non-combat service during the Black Hawk War (May 1832–August 1832). Ironically, he later served as our top non-combat “soldier” during our deadliest war.
These differing military/non-military, combat/non-combat circumstances were brought sharply into focus for me last week when some of my siblings (C.E. and his wife Shirley plus my sister Jane along with my wife Peg) and some of my first cousins (Susie, Barbara Joan, Billy Mike and his wife Annette along with their son Ryan) got together in Canada for our first full blown reunion since the Viet Nam War. The hair may now have a lighter hue but absolutely nothing important inside has changed since we threw firecrackers and climbed on the huge sandstone rocks at Osage Hills State Park in Osage County, Oklahoma over half a century ago.
We each almost instantly realized what a debt we owed to our parents and grandparents for all the times they brought us together at Christmas, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, weddings and funerals. The bonds formed in an enchanted childhood not only helped us through these many intervening years although separated by time and space, we found they remain unbreakable even today.
And the strongest bonds were formed by loving relatives who supported those who were strong enough and wise enough to address with action the futility of wars fought for reasons other than national defense or humanitarian necessity.
So, thank you to our ancestors who taught us the value of loving one’s country and one’s family and to those who are keeping the flame burning brightly in spite of time and distance.
Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) was a professor of literature at Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, New York. Campbell was America’s recognized guru in the area of myth and religion. He postulated that the ultimate/unpardonable sin was to be unaware.
When Peg and I visited the just opened Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum and Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama earlier this month then participated in the Dred Scott convocation in St. Louis, Missouri last week, I was constantly made aware of Campbell’s admonition. I thought back to when I lived in an apartheid society of which I was barely conscious. When I saw the representations of lynchings and Jim Crow laws in Montgomery the stark reality of a separate and unequal daily life assaulted me. But when in St. Louis I listened to personal accounts of Black people who were on the unequal side of the equation, my own lack of alertness came into focus.
While you can anticipate the content of the displays at the EJI, when you walk through the hundreds of metal coffins inscribed with thousands of names of murdered Black people including several from Posey County, Indiana, you will naturally contemplate the evil we are capable of doing to one another just because someone may be an “other”. But when you hear directly from living persons who are still experiencing a denial of equal justice you are forced to confront your own previous lack of awareness.
The Dred Scott case was decided by the United States Supreme Court in 1857 and led directly to the Civil War four years later. It is only one of many wrong decisions of the Supreme Court but is probably the worst. Chief Justice Roger Taney (1777-1864) who sat on the Supreme Court for almost thirty years authored the 7 to 2 opinion. It held that Negroes could not be citizens of the United States and had no rights that white men were legally bound to recognize, and that Dred Scott must remain a slave.
On Monday, July 16, 2018 at Logan University in St. Louis descendants of Dred Scott (c.1799-1858), Confederate President Jefferson Davis (1808-1889) and Roger Taney along with one hundred and fifty judges, attorneys and academic scholars were brought together by Judge Judith Draper and her husband Justice George Draper in conjunction with the National Judicial College to engage in “reconciliation”.
NJC President Benes Aldana, NJC technology specialist Joseph Sawyer, Michael Roosevelt education specialist for the State of California Courts and I as an NJC faculty member presented the afternoon sessions after the descendants and audience members held an interesting and extremely positive discussion during three hours in the morning.
The relatives of Taney and Davis did not attempt to excuse slavery. They did, however, clearly and poignantly point out their ancestors had done many good things along with their egregious errors in moral and legal judgments. As Peg and I listened to them I was reminded of Mark Antony’s funeral oration for Julius Caesar:
“The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft’ interred with their bones.”
William Shakespeare, Act III, sc ii.
What the EJI and Dred Scott experiences did for me was force me to remember and dissect my experiences under the system of legal apartheid in my hometown of Pawhuska, Oklahoma. I had never given more than a passing thought as to why “Colored” boys could not enter the front door of the pool hall or come to the front part of the building. And now my home town is New Harmony, Indiana where, according to the book by William E. Wilson On the Sunny Side of a One Way Street at page 91 he wrote that when he was a boy in New Harmony:
“By the twentieth century New Harmony had lost the egalitarian faith on which it was founded a hundred years before, and Aunt Minnie’s Lizzie (Wilson’s Aunt’s Black servant) was the only Negro permitted to live in the town. She had a room in the hotel (owned by Wilson’s Aunt and Uncle) and never went out on the street, day or night. Uncle Harry and Aunt Minnie did everything possible to make Lizzie feel like one of the family, not only because she was an excellent cook but also because they loved her. Even so, I have often wondered since how Lizzie endured her ostracism in the town.”
And Wilson also writes of his father’s loss of his Congressional seat in 1925 because he refused to join the Ku Klux Klan.
Well, I am more “aware” now than I was before the visit to the EJI Museum and Memorial, the Dred Scott convocation and Mr. Wilson’s book, but realize there’s more I need to do while, I hope, there’s still time to do it.
I wish to sincerely thank the friendly and expert staff of our fine Alexandrian Public Library in Mt. Vernon, Indiana for providing me with several excellent reference works on Dred Scott and William E. Wilson’s interesting book on New Harmony.
For video of Peg’s pictures of the Convocation please go to: https://www.youtube.com/edit?video_id=qqOf6KZ7ZBw&video_referrer=watch
I was married, had a son and was broke when I started Law School in Bloomington, Indiana in the summer of 1968. Although I was working full-time on a night stock crew at a Kroger’s grocery store and was receiving the G.I. bill for my Air Force service, our family just made it. My mission was to get out of school as quickly as possible. I.U. allowed 44 of us new law students to enroll on a new 27-month plan instead of the normal three years with three summers off. Only 6 of us completed the program where we actually started in June 1968 and took the Bar Exam in the summer of 1970 before we graduated in August.
What this did for my family and me was to allow me to become a lawyer when that would not have been possible had we had to remain in Law School another year. My G.I. Bill benefits were used up by the spring 1970 semester and we could not survive on my Kroger pay.
Now I will leave it up to my past clients and those who have appeared in front of me as judge to determine if I.U. made an error in judgment in allowing me to cram three years of education into two. But as for me it was a necessity. However, it also showed me how the summertime, when most Law Schools are not in session, could be put to use.
Another long-term association I have had as judge is with the National Judicial College in Reno, Nevada. While NJC does conduct summer continuing education sessions for judges from every state and many foreign countries, these courses, due to the demands of working judges’ schedules, usually are a maximum of two weeks. In two weeks judges can have existing skills more finely honed. However, the in-depth education and training one should experience before being charged with the thousands of critical judging decisions affecting our citizens requires a greatly expanded curriculum and much more time. Unfortunately, in America today all judges get their judicial education after they become judges. Such a system of on-the-job training might work well for workers on a night stock crew, but it is anathema to receiving equal justice from new judges.
In some countries, the pool of potential judges is formed in Law Schools where those who wish to someday be a judge must complete a rigorous and specially designed regimen. That is in contrast to America where if one wishes to be a judge all that is required is that he or she graduate from a law school. And in Law School not even the law professors are likely to have a clue about what a judge’s role really entails.
What I suggest is a system of developing a pool of attorneys who have a Law School specialty of Judging much as in medicine where one must be trained as a neurologist before they operate on someone’s brain. Naturally the students who want to later be considered for election or appointment as judges should have at least all the education and training of any attorney who will appear in front of the judge, so the judicial specialty must call for additional Law School time just as a medical student who wants to specialize needs extra education and time. I suggest the three summers of a Law School education are a natural fit for a Judicial Specialty. I will more fully address these issues in future columns. Try to curb your excitement.
“The American Creed”
I believe in the United States of America
As a government
Of the people,
By the people,
For the people,
Whose just powers are derived
From the consent of the governed;
A democracy in a republic;
A sovereign Nation of many sovereign states;
A perfect Union;
One and inseparable;
Established upon those principles
Of freedom, equality, justice and humanity
For which American patriots
Sacrificed their lives and fortunes.
Therefore, I believe it is my duty
To my country to love it,
To support its Constitution,
To obey its laws,
To respect its flag,
And to defend it against all enemies.
This poem by William Tyler Page was adopted by a Resolution of the United States House of Representatives on April 03, 1918 as America was helping to end the Great War to End all Wars (WWI).
It was recited by Ann Greenfield who is Posey County, Indiana’s First Lady of Political Service during the impressive and appropriate Fourth of July program sponsored by the Friends of the New Harmony Working Men’s Institute, University of Southern Indiana/Historic New Harmony and the New Harmony Kiwanis.
Ann is of that generation where capable women believed they could best serve by supporting capable men. The demographics of history support this regrettable reality. Fortunately, at least in America, history is being rewritten and the wisdom of such women as Ann, my sister Jane (Redwine) Bartlett, my wife Peg, and many more may be what guides us through the troubled waters we appear to prefer to curse instead of carefully navigate.
Perhaps it is provident that as we face our current challenges involving technology, health care, the environment, military deployments, immigration, equal justice and more issues than can fit in one column, we have in reserve a fount of experience, knowledge, self-sacrifice and wisdom whose time to spring forth is just now arrived.
The generation of women who helped end the Viet Nam War, started us on the road to equal justice, began to demand equal opportunities for everyone while still managing to bind our wounds brings unique talent, experience, perspective and courage to today’s bitter divisions. Of course, huge numbers of women have always personally joined the fight while many others saw their place as spear carriers. But the current challenges require a general call to arms where all the available soldiers are engaged. I respectfully suggest that we encourage women in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and maybe even some elderly women, to step forward on their own. Your time has finally come and we need you; more importantly, your country is hurting and it needs you to lead on the field not cheer from the sidelines.
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