Many of you have read JUDGE LYNCH!, the historical novel Peg and I wrote about the lynchings of four Black men on the campus of the Posey County, Indiana courthouse in 1878. And several of you even participated in the making of our short movie about the murders. That was our first effort at movie making and probably yours too.
To those of you who volunteered to endure the cold, rain and tedium of my directorial debut, thank you! Please do not forget the compensation you received; wasn’t Shawnna Rigsby’s bar-b-cue good? You might be interested in some of the behind scenes manipulation I engaged in to get my friends to commit suicide, get shot, get chased by night riders on horseback and to even get lynched.
For example, early on I called our sons’s one-time boxing teammate and our good friend, Danny Thomas, and said, “Danny, I need some Black men to shoot and lynch on camera.Would you, your family and friends care to do that?” Danny did not hesitate. Then there was our neighbor, Chuck Minnette, who was minding his own business when I told him he surely must feel depressed and possibly even suicidal. Chuck thought I was kidding until we filmed his suicide scene. The scene involved Chuck firing a pistol with a blank cartridge near his head while my wife, Peg, laid on her back on the floor puffing on a cigar and blowing the smoke up toward Chuck’s face.
Chris Greathouse was called upon to have his neck broken by Danny Thomas and several “soiled doves” played their parts with such enthusiasm I will leave them unnamed. Jerry King generously offered his amazing Pioneer Village for several scenes and Jerry and his wife, Marsha, even donned their costumes of General and Mrs. Hovey. Dan Funk, whose father was a minister, played his preacher part convincingly. Dr. Bill Etherton and his wife, Judy, attended Dan’s frontier church and Dr. Bill along with Nurse Bonnie Minnette attended to “injured” patients. Through it all the only person who actually knew anything about video cameras, Rodney Fetcher, managed to get the whole nineteen minute movie filmed and, along with Peg, edited. My eldest brother, C.E. Redwine, is a professional musician and he wrote and performed a marvelous score for the film. There were numerous other budding Academy Award winners who contributed time, talent, tips and immense patience; I appreciate you all!
Now, Gentle Reader, you may have noticed that I had little to do with the finished product. But let me suggest the same is often true in other movies where those who get the acclaim may not be those who do the real work. In my defense I just wish to state, “Hey, I wrote the book!”
Anyway, our little movie does tell the horrific story of murdered African Americans by the powerful white community of Posey County, Indiana in 1878 and brings to light the long hidden tragedy. I am proud of our effort and will always treasure the experience. However, it is not JUDGE LYNCH! that is the impetuous for this week’s column but Peg’s and my attempt to research the making of a full-length movie about the infamous Osage Reign of Terror that occurred in Osage County, Oklahoma where I was born.
Author David Grann has written an excellent exposé of the murders of numerous Native Americans of the Osage tribe in Osage County, Oklahoma in the 1920’s and ’30’s. Peg and I were at our cabin in Osage County when the casting call came out for extras for the Martin Scorsese directed film that will star Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro. While growing up in Pawhuska, the county seat, I often heard whispered rumors of these crimes. Kudos to Grann, Scorsese, DiCaprio and De Niro for having the courage to lift the veil from this great evil.
In preparation for this column Peg and I did go to the Osage County Fairgrounds on Sunday, November 10, 2019 for the advertised casting call for movie extras. Our purpose was to gain information about the making of the movie that we could include in this column. We were met by several extremely polite and pleasant people who were not authorized to answer our questions but they did suggest we might want to experience the casting call process from the inside by filling out applications ourselves. We did so and had an interesting and fun time. Of course, the staff at the door, the numerous tables and chairs, the clear directional signs and the four enclaves of people photographing, taking prospective extras’ measurements and interviewing the hundreds of hopeful locals was just a little different than the process I used for getting actors for JUDGE LYNCH!. My method was pretty much, “You are my friend. I need you to lynch someone (or be lynched), shoot someone (or be shot) or stand out in the cold rain and try to fathom my directions.”
In my opinion Peg is a possible Barbara Stanwyck double and after a beer or two I can find a remarkable resemblance between myself and Robert Redford. Of course, we both have movie experience. herefore, we are excited and waiting by the phone to be discovered. Hey, it happened to Norma Jeane Mortenson didn’t it? And while you may not know it, before Gone With The Wind, Clark Gable worked as an oilfield roustabout in Barnsdall, Osage County, Oklahoma which is the nearest town to our cabin. Can you say kismet? Further, since I am an experienced fellow director, maybe Marty will want another perspective for a scene or two. Next week we may dig a little deeper into the film noir that has Osage County, Oklahoma buzzing.
You may already know Peg and I bought a log cabin in Osage County, Oklahoma. Our home in Posey County, Indiana is a converted barn with 4,000 square feet of finished space and our barn/home also has a barn. Our cabin in Oklahoma is 2,000 square feet and we had to add a barn. Four thousand square feet of stuff does not smoothly fit in 2,000 square feet of space. However, my suggestion to Peg that we simply leave everything but our toothbrushes was not kindly received. Ergo, we are in the process of triage. I have learned the hard way to not suggest which items are disposable. My role is to take down and re-hang not to judge what should be preserved.
Benjamin Franklin and his wife, Deborah, lived much of their married life separated by the Atlantic Ocean as Ben served as Minister to France while Deborah refused to accompany him. But they managed to raise three children and stay married for many years. I suspect their marital success was in large part due to staying put in one house most of their marriage. When Ben’s famous quote, “We must hang together or we will surely hang separately”, is cited most people probably assume Ben was talking about our Revolution from Great Britain. I propose he was giving marital advice. You know Ben was famous and got rich for his advice column Poor Richard’s Almanac. Why not accept that he was an early Ann Landers?
What I think Ben meant was, if you and your spouse wish to avoid all out warfare, you should never engage in moving and especially not in what should be hung and where. For example, when I was sixteen my parents moved one block to a different house. Our family had three pictures on the walls. One was a black and white 8” x 10” photograph of our immediate family and the other two were Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper (not the original) and some European’s creation of a blond-haired Jesus. All three were taken down by my mother and put back up by my father. No argument, no stress.
On the other hand, Peg and I have countless photos of us, of our three kids and their spouses, of our seven grandkids, some of whom already have spouses, and one great-grand kid. We have knickknacks from family vacations, from gifts and from school projects. Every wall in our Indiana home/barn is festooned with something. And Peg demands all of it must be hung in our much smaller Oklahoma cabin. Of course all our furniture has to be carefully placed somewhere too. Well, you see the dilemma.
We are gingerly adjusting to this new strain of “Cabin Fever”, but there is a constant simmering of strife just below the lip-biting surface. My position is usually reasoned and rational, but Peg’s is often influenced by emotion. For example, yesterday we spent over an hour negotiating if a forty-pound mirror should be saved and, if so, where would it go? Peg’s position was it is a family heirloom and my response about it not being from my side of the family was not charitably received. The mirror now hangs in its new location.
Peg and I have now made nine trips to the cabin with items crammed onto a trailer and in a car (SUV) and a pickup. We have about two more trips to go. Each trip takes about twelve hours each way and requires a day to load and another day to unload. The nitty gritty of what goes where will consume the remainder of our lives and marriage.
Now, if you Gentle Reader, wish to be a modern day Ben Franklin marriage saver, feel free to give us a hand and bring a truck!
In the first grade Doug Givens and I fought every day after school. Doug lived one block south of 12th Street and I lived one block north. Each afternoon at 3:15 p.m. Doug and I would meet at the intersection where he would turn right and I would turn left. We would flail away as we grabbed one another and held on until our white tee shirts tore away. We engaged in this behavior for about two weeks. Our war ended without a formal armistice when our mothers figured out why they were meeting at the J.C. Penny Store tee shirt counter two Saturdays in a row. I have no clue why we started fighting, but our mothers had both of our fathers make sure we knew peace was the preferred new normal. Back then fathers shaved with straight razors and straight razors were sharpened with a thick leather strop. Behavioral modification was instant and permanent.
My mind returned to those halcyon days when the cable news purveyors of our current political fiasco published the latest imbroglio between the national Democrats and Republicans. One pundit suggested that the atmosphere in Congress was so volatile physical aggression among our elected representatives was a probability.
This comment brought forth the spectre of the May 22, 1856 caning by southern Democrat Congressman Preston Brooks of northern Republican Senator Charles Sumner. You will note the antebellum date. Slavery was the issue. At least, unlike Doug and me, those guys back then knew why they were upset.
In 2019 the issues calling out the very worst in our leaders are every bit as puzzling to me as why Doug and I saw fit to render asunder each other’s tee shirt. Why are those people constantly at one another’s throats? What divides us as a nation? Is Civil War about to break out again? Does our credo about all people being equal mean squat? Am I just unable to appreciate the great debate?
Or are the infantile machinations of our highly paid federal employees much like those of two first graders? Perhaps we should require all members of our federal government to show up for work in white tee shirts or maybe red and blue ones. As for how we outside of Washington, D.C. might respond to the waste of our tax money on ad hominem silliness I suggest we do have a razor strop of our own; it is called a vote.
By the way, Doug and I got together at our 50th class reunion. We still do not have a clue why, but we sure had a good time remembering what.
After last week’s scintillating column on Constitutional Law I know you are eagerly awaiting promised round two on politics and the United States Supreme Court. Of course, America’s judiciary eschews any notion that court outcomes are sometimes a product of the political views of the judge or judges who decide the cases. At the National Judicial College where I have served as a part-time faculty member since 1995 one of the guiding principles is the effort to have completely impartial judging of all cases. That is a proper goal. However, is that goal always achieved? Let’s take a look behind the black robes of history starting with America’s most famous case, Marbury v. Madison, decided in 1803 a mere sixteen years after the end of the Constitutional Convention that occurred on September 17, 1787.
You may recall that last week we had sought guidance on understanding the U.S. Constitution from law professor Michael Klarman who spoke to the Indiana Graduate Judges Seminar in French Lick, Indiana in June 2019. In his book The Framers’ Coup, The Making of the United States Constitution, Professor Klarman gave an in-depth analysis of the political warfare that produced our Constitution. A similar phenomenon occurred when the fourth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Marshall, blatantly grabbed for the U.S. Supreme Court the immense power to declare whether a particular law was constitutional. Marshall deftly, and unethically, used the virulent hatred between those early Americans who favored a strong central government, the Federalists, and the anti-Federalists who preferred a more citizen-centered national government. John Adams was our second president and he was one of the strongest proponents of a strong central government. Adams was defeated in an election by our third president Thomas Jefferson in a bitterly fought campaign. John Marshall served as Adams’ Secretary of State and Marshall and Jefferson despised one another. Just before Adams’ term as president ran out he appointed John Marshall to be Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Marshall was succeeded as Secretary of State by James Madison who, incidentally, later became our fourth president.
Just before John Adams left office he also appointed numerous judges and justices of the peace as a sharp stick in the eye of the incoming president Thomas Jefferson. William Marbury, a wealthy businessman and vocal opponent of Jefferson, was one of Adams’ justice of the peace appointees. While Secretary of State, John Marshall had the duty of signing Marbury’s certificate of appointment and delivering it to Congress. Marshall failed to get that done and the task was left to new Secretary of State James Madison. But President Jefferson, who was angry at John Adams for the last minute appointments, ordered Madison to not deliver Marbury’s certificate. Marbury then filed a law suit in the Supreme Court seeking to have the Court order Madison to give Marbury the certificate of appointment.
If all this intrigue seems rather petty and even perhaps reminiscent of our current political climate involving nasty actions on all sides, well, the pettiness turned out to have a momentous affect on every court case in America after 1803. The squabble may have resembled a tempest in a teapot but Chief Justice John Marshall’s highly political decision in the case resulted in a federal judiciary of immense power, a power not contemplated by many of our Founders and Framers of our Constitution.
Because of his earlier direct connection to Marbury’s appointment John Marshall should have recused himself from the case and should have had no part in it. However, Marshall seized upon Thomas Jefferson’s hatred of John Adams to trade what Jefferson wanted, that is to prevent Adams’ last minute appointments, for a huge leap toward a strong centralized government where the Judicial Branch would have power over decisions of both the Legislative and Executive Branches’ decisions.
What John Marshall and two more members of the then five member Supreme Court decided was that the legislative act that purported to give jurisdiction over cases such as the one brought by Marbury violated the Constitution therefore the Supreme Court had no authority to order Madison to give Marbury his certificate. It might appear to have been a win for Jefferson over Adams, but it was the ultimate Pyrrhic victory as Marshall and all future courts used it as a nuclear weapon in the war between the Federalists and anti-Federalists. Supreme power over what the Constitution meant has resided in the Supreme Court ever since 1803.
For example, in Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) Chief Justice Roger Taney, a former slave owner, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Negro slaves had no rights that the Constitution was bound to protect. Then in George Bush v. Al Gore (2000) a bitterly divided court led by Chief Justice William Rehnquist who had been appointed by Republican President Richard Nixon to be an associate justice then by Republican President Ronald Reagan to be Chief Justice handed the presidential election to Republican George Bush.
So, as America’s judiciary proclaims it must remain independent from outside influences and look only to the law and the facts, it might appear to some cynics that the blindfold often slips. Anyway, I am certain you probably feel the same sense of relief in finishing this column that I did in finishing law school and Professor Klarman’s book. On the bright side however, the rest of your day is bound to get better.
Harvard law professor Michael Klarman was the keynote speaker at the June 2019 Indiana Graduate Judges Conference. As an attendee I received a signed copy of Klarman’s book, The Framers’Coup, The Making of the United States Constitution. Gentle Reader, to give you some perspective on the exhilarating experience of a law professor’s book, the tome’s Note and Index sections run from page 633 to 865. Of course, the substance of the book contains 632 pages of which several pages thank the law students who did the grunt work. Regardless, I do recommend the book to you as an interesting and often surprising exposition of how our Constitution survived the throes of birth. As Klarman says of our pantheon of founding heroes:
“In the book I try to tell the story of the Constitution’s origins in a way that demythifies it. The men who wrote the Constitution were extremely impressive, but they were not demigods; they had interests, prejudices, and moral blind spots. They could not foresee the future, and they made mistakes.”
This is Klarman’s raison d’etre for writing the book. His admonition is that the men, and they were all white, Anglo Saxon, Christian men, who struggled for six months in Philadelphia in 1789 to create the United States were just men, not gods. Some of them owned slaves, some did not. Some were from populous states, others were not. But they were all mere mortals with virtues and defects.
The underlying message of the book is that if those men could find a way to overcome their political and philosophical divisions, we and future Americans should also be able to. For example, in our current culture wars where President Trump alleges Ukraine helped Secretary Clinton in the 2016 election and Clinton alleges Russia helped Trump and more recently both Trump and Clinton and many others are flinging arrows in all directions alleging our leaders are “foreign assets” we should just chill. If James Madison and the Federalists and Thomas Jefferson and the anti-Federalists could reach compromises, we should be able to also.
The salient issues and the thorniest were how could our Founders apportion representation among populous and less populous states, how was slavery to be addressed (or not) and could common citizens be trusted to govern themselves.
According to Klarman, as our Framers struggled to hold the Constitutional Convention together the Federalists and the anti-Federalists, “Questioned their opponents’ motives and attacked their characters, appealed to the material interests of voters, employed dirty tricks and made backroom deals when necessary.” Sound familiar?
Okay, you probably are choosing to go sort your socks rather than to hear any more from Professor Klarman or from me. But a word of caution, Gentle Reader, if I have had to experience the joys of all the almost 900 pages of Constitutional history, you may have the same opportunity in next week’s column. We might even delve into the vicissitudes of whether the United States Supreme Court is truly independent or are its decisions as politically based as those of the other two Branches
America is a wonderful country from the amazing amalgam of cultures in cities such as Miami, New York City, San Francisco and Portland to the majesty of Yellowstone and the Mississippi River. We are truly fortunate to have the privilege to live here. As for Peg and me, we are most familiar with two counties in two states, Posey County, Indiana and Osage County, Oklahoma.
Of course, the basic element of all inhabited areas is the same, the inhabitants, and those inhabitants are more alike than unalike wherever we live. I have found this to be true from Russia and Ukraine to Palestine and Bahrain as I have taught judges from several foreign countries and from every state in America. Of course, I have also physically visited a few places around the world. It has been my great pleasure to discover practically everybody I meet is interesting. I understand why Will Rogers who grew up near Osage County, Oklahoma said he’d never met someone he didn’t like.
But just focusing on Posey County, Indiana and Osage County, Oklahoma, the two places Peg and I call home, I find much to admire in both. In Posey County the soil is so rich and the people are so industrious that enough wheat, corn and soybeans are produced to feed much of the world. And Osage County’s Tallgrass Prairie and hardworking cowhands furnish the accompanying beef. One need never go hungry if he or she spends time in either county.
I hope I have made it clear that I truly appreciate the county where I was born and the county where I have earned a living. On the other hand, just as there was a serpent in the Garden of Eden, both Posey and Osage Counties fall a little short of perfection due to the foibles of Mother Nature. I suppose life just requires that we occasionally find half a worm in an apple. Let me explain.
Neither Posey nor Osage County has unbearable weather. Each gets a couple of snows each year and each has a hot July and August along with a rainy spring and fall. Both experience tornadoes. For Posey County, Big Creek and the Ohio and Wabash Rivers occasionally flood as does Bird Creek in Osage County along with the Arkansas and Caney Rivers. But all in all the climate for both counties is fairly salubrious. In fact, the weather in both helps make them more interesting and for Indiana it gives citizens something besides basketball to talk about and for Oklahoma it expands the topics beyond football. Both states used to discuss politics but recently most rational people do not broach that topic.
However, it is not the occasional weather phenomenon that keeps paradise just out of reach for both counties. No, it is Mother Nature’s diabolical sense of humor. Let’s take up spring in Posey County first. You may know that Osage County, Oklahoma has thousands of roaming buffalo (bison). Well, just to make sure Hoosiers remember who dictates what happens in heaven, each April, May and June millions of biting/blood sucking buffalo gnats (flies) descend on Posey County much like the Biblical hordes of locusts. And like beachgoers after the movie Jaws it simply is not fun to be outside.
But Osage County has its own flies and to add to Mother Nature’s amusement She has supplied Osage County with several varieties of scorpions. Gentle Reader, should you never have been stung by a scorpion, as I have in Oklahoma, trust me, it is an experience you do not want. Peg, who is a born Yankee who spent her childhood in New York, Vermont, Massachusetts and northern Indiana, has now learned to shake out her boots in the morning to be sure some scorpion has not chosen them as a residence. And the ubiquitous sand rock of Osage County appears to be a scorpion’s version of the Garden of Eden where the scorpions play the serpent’s role.
I guess what it comes down to is both Posey County, Indiana and Osage County, Oklahoma are wonderful places to live. But don’t forget to channel Katherine Hepburn in The African Queen and wear screening over your head and carry a fly swatter in Posey and shake out your boots in The Osage nine months out of the year.