Chapter IV: I Begin the Practice of Law

An excerpt from

Hugo L. Black and Elizabeth Black, Mr. Justice and Mrs. Black (New York: Random House 1986) Copyright by Elizabeth Black, Hugo Black, Jr., Sterling Black and Josephine Black Pesaresi

Note: These three chapters are reprinted with permission of the copyright owners. Although currently out of print, used copies of the book can still be tracked down online as of September 2001 (e.g., www.amazon.com). Notwithstanding its unavailability, the copyright laws prohibit reproduction of the following, or any other portion/s of the book, in hard copy or any other form known now or in the future, without the permission of the copyright owners. Mr. Hugo L. Black, Jr., may be reached at 305-358-5700. -- Nicholas Johnson, September 10, 2001. [Nicholas Johnson was law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black, 1959-1960.]


After graduating from the University of Alabama in June 1906 I spent no time or energy in deciding where I would begin to offer my legal services to the people. The place was Ashland, Alabama, a small town where, as I recall, there were already five lawyers, not one of whom, I am sure, was earning any more than enough to afford him a skimpy living. Nevertheless, I went back there with what now seem to have been rather grandiose plans for my future. My eventual ambition was to practice law in New York. As I look back on it, I can think of no possible reason for that decision other than the fact that New York was the nation's largest city. For I had never been there. My plans for preparing myself to go to New York were too simple to be practical. I would remain in Ashland five years or less, then go to the State Legislature, broaden my acquaintance sufficiently to move to Birmingham, stay there about five years, go to Congress and from there go to New York to practice law. I realize now that the plan was impracticable if not thoroughly impossible. This is what happened to that dream:

My mother, whom I loved dearly, died of pneumonia in the early winter of 1906 several months before my graduation from law school. Pneumonia was very prevalent and the disease, as I remember, was deadly in Clay County where even as late as 1906 people had to depend for warmth on wood stoves. There were no miracle drugs to combat colds and pneumonia. I watched my precious mother gradually pass away because there was no effective way to combat the infection and control her very high temperature. Of course, I realize that nearly all mothers are precious to their children, but I consider it no exaggeration for me to say that no mother

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was ever a greater inspiration to her child than was mine to me. Looking back, I cannot recall that there was ever a time when I left home, whether for a long or a short period, that my mother did not go with me to the front steps, sometimes to the front gate, take a last look to see if my hair was combed, straighten out any part of my clothing that needed it, and then kiss me goodbye. She was one of a small number of young women of her generation in Clay County who attended one of the few higher academies of learning in Alabama at the time. She was also a woman of superior native intelligence. Rarely did she ever go to sleep without reading from at least one of her two favorite books -- the Holy Bible, and Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. Both have always been favorites of mine.

Shortly after I began the practice of law at Ashland, I went to the Pastor of the Baptist Church, told him I was sure my mother would have wanted me to join that church, and sought his advice. I did so because as an applicant for church membership I did not want to be publicly required to confess a religious faith greater than I had, nor did I intend to follow the custom of pretending that I had been a heavy sinner simply because I had sometimes played cards or danced. The preacher and I easily agreed, and I became a member of the church. Shortly thereafter I became the church clerk, a Sunday School teacher, and the Sunday School organist, playing by ear.

Of course, I had to have a place to live in Ashland. At the time my brother Lee was living in the old family home. I simply moved into his home, paying his wife Hattie six dollars per month board. Today that sum seems like nothing, but it was a fair payment in those days.

For my office I rented a two-room suite upstairs over a grocery store in a building on the southeast corner of the public square. I furnished it nicely, hung up a printed sign: "HUGO L. BLACK, Attorney and Counsellor at Law" at the street entrance to the stairway, and was ready for business. My good friend, Dr. Arthur Owens, joined me in occupancy of the office. The stairway was rickety and the floor of the two offices would shake every time a person of ordinary weight walked on it. I had considerable apprehension therefore each time Dr. Owens came up the shaky stairway and walked across our creaky floor. He weighed over two hundred pounds! I still do not understand how those old offices withstood our joint occupancy without caving in. But they were destined to meet another fate. One night, nearly a year after moving in, I was awakened about midnight by the ringing of church and school bells and the firing of shots -- Ashland's customary fire alarm. I jumped out of bed and rushed out into the street, where I could see a huge blaze at the town square. I ran towards it. At the courthouse square I saw that my office and the grocery store below had

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both burned so completely that not a single thing could be saved, not a book, not even my seven-dollar painted sign. This was quite a blow since I had what I believed to be the best law library in Ashland, paid for with money inherited from my father but on which I had not had the foresight to buy insurance! Judge E. J. Garrison, another Ashland lawyer, was kind enough to let me share his two-room quarters. They were, in fact, the only space left in town suitable for a law office. I sort of "camped out" there for the next few months until I partly carried out my old dream of going to Birmingham to practice law. More about that later.

When I went back to Ashland to practice law, I carried with me a diploma from the University of Alabama Law School which entitled me to be a lawyer, but the people of Clay County saw me not as a lawyer but as the same marble-shooting boy whom they had watched grow up in their midst. Weighing less than 120 pounds I probably still looked more like a boy to them than like a lawyer. It was therefore no surprise to me that litigants did not crowd into my law office. Anticipating this scarcity of clients, I had planned to utilize my first few years in Ashland by a concentrated study of English, history, and other subjects I had missed by taking no academic course in college. To this end, I bought several good textbooks on grammar, rhetoric, writing, and history, putting in long hours day and night studying them. As was recommended in some of those books, I began writing letters to some of my old friends, letters that must have sounded more like stilted essays than chatty comments on daily happenings. On summer visits to my sister, Daisy Black Rozelle, who lived in the Hatchett Creek Community, I frequently went into the woods along the creek bank near her home and practiced speaking alone. Although my finances did not improve during my Clay County stay as a lawyer, when I went to Birmingham to practice, I had learned far more about writing simple English and talking on my feet than I had ever known before. It now seems to me that I had planned far wiser than I knew when, in mapping out my program, I somehow stumbled upon the idea of spending my first few years as a lawyer in Clay County. They were a people of rugged, sturdy, honest, and patriotic character, and I hope that by virtue of living among them in my early formative years, and also as a part of my heritage, I was able to absorb some of these fine qualities.

Needless to say, perhaps, I had no flourishing legal business during my one year and three months in Ashland. My earliest business, naturally enough, was the collection of old accounts, the first coming from the estate of my father, who had died, seven years before, in 1899. I must say that I had good luck with many of these collections from my father's estate. Men paid debts that they knew were already barred by the statute of

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limitations. Many of those debtors told me that my father had dealt too fairly and leniently with them for them to be willing to plead a technicality of any kind to escape paying what they owed his estate. They made me very proud of my father.

Of course, every young lawyer is almost certain to be appointed to defend some indigent defendant. My appointment was to defend a murder charge that grew out of a killing that occurred at the end of a crap game at Lineville, six miles from Ashland. One of a half a dozen or more Negro players in the group ended up with all his money in the hands of the other players. This so angered him that he demanded that all the winners give his money back to him. When they refused, be took out a pistol and first fired one shot into the ceiling, threatening to empty his gun into the body of the winner of most of his money. His demand was refused, he did empty his gun, and when the firing ceased the winner was dead. This was the case of the indigent I was appointed to defend. In some localities the killing would have been treated lightly, but not in Clay County. Though young in the law, I knew that no killing in that County could be treated lightly, and I had no yearning to begin my legal record with a death sentence against my client. So I decided to make an effort to get an older, more experienced lawyer to act as co-counsel. Ed Whatley had been a rather successful lawyer at Ashland for many years and was well liked. At my suggestion, as I recall, the judge appointed him to act as co-counsel with me. Ed and I jointly concluded that a partial surrender would be the better part of valor, and it was therefore not long until we had made an agreement with the prosecutor, acquiesced in by the judge, to accept a plea of guilty with a life sentence. Later events proved our judgment was good. At that time, evidence had to be offered in Alabama, in a capital case, before a court could accept a plea of guilty, so we selected a jury. Some of the available evidence was then offered by the State, the jury was told by the trial judge about our agreement, and the jury retired, we thought, to convict the defendant of murder, with a life sentence only. In about half an hour, the jury returned with the announcement that it had not reached a verdict. Inquiry of the judge brought out the fact that the jury, of which my father's long-time friend and former business partner was foreman, wished to know if it were bound by our agreement or whether it was free to impose a death sentence upon the defendant. After some discussion, in which the foreman of the jury plainly stood out in front to impose the death sentence, the judge told them they could return such a verdict if they wished, but if they did he would immediately set it aside. Whereupon, the jury retired again, and in a very few minutes brought in the verdict agreed upon. The jury's position in that case, though adverse to my

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client, taught me to respect the integrity of jurors. They can, and I have found frequently do, stand staunchly by their oath to do justice, despite biases and friendships.

I shall mention only briefly one other case at Ashland. It, too, was a murder case, but one in which my first cousin, Emory Toland, was the victim. He was shot with a pistol as he started to mount his horse to go home after an altercation at a country dance. This occurred after I had begun to practice law in Birmingham, but his family urged me so strongly to come back and take part in the prosecution that I agreed to do so, without a fee. The family also employed Judge Martin Lackey to join in the prosecution. Although I was still a very young and inexperienced lawyer, Judge Lackey prevailed on me to examine and cross-examine the witnesses. The judge was an extremely heavy man, weighing, I would guess, three hundred and fifty pounds. Like most corpulent men, he was not highly energetic, so while I examined the witnesses be sat in an outside room where be could smoke and listen. Before making the closing argument for the State, be took me into the same outside room and said, “Now, Hugo, tell me all the evidence from beginning to end," which I did. I must say that be amazed me with his grasp of the facts, with the force and logic of his argument, and the power of his eloquence. The jury convicted and sentenced the defendant to seven years in the penitentiary, after the service of which he settled down in a southern Alabama county. Several years ago, someone, recalling my interest in the case, sent me a clipping telling about how the young man (then grown old) who had killed my cousin had himself been brutally murdered in his own home.

But even in Clay County I did get a little law business. My first case, as I remember, brought me a fee of $7.50 for representing a man who had been arrested on a charge by his neighbor of criminal trespass for walking several inches over the neighbor's land line. The value of those several inches of property was very little. Land almost anywhere in the county was valued at less than $100.00 per acre. When I was hired in the trespassing case, the feeling between the two neighbors was at fever heat -- at the profane, fighting stage. I still remember that I did not feel wholly comfortable sitting between two feuding litigants. I never knew how long I could keep them apart, as I kept remembering that Clay County people were not always satisfied to fight only with their fists. It was my good fortune, however, that the lawyer for the other litigant wanted to get out of this hornet's nest as much as I did. The result was that we reached a settlement of some kind, but I do not remember the details. Looking back on the case, I am rather inclined to believe that the settlement of the controversy between those two quarrelsome neighbors was about as satisfactory a victory as I ever achieved in my law practice.

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I had a collection case later that resulted in a success that neither I nor anyone else could have expected. There was an inhabitant of Ashland who was a modern "hippie," and who, so far as could be recalled, had never shaved his face nor paid a debt in his life. He was thought by everyone, including himself, to be execution-proof, so no one ever sued him. A five-dollar indebtedness against him was turned over to me for collection. A number of requests for payment could not even extract a promise. In response to a happy thought, however, I asked the debtor to give my client a promissory note. Having no fear about being compelled to pay, be rather cheerfully agreed to give the note, which contained a waiver of personal exemptions together with a promise to pay a reasonable attorney's fee in case suit had to be filed to collect the debt. The result was that upon his failure to pay I filed suit before Bud Dean, a rural mail carrier, who was also a Notary Public ex officio justice of the Peace. I served a judgment for the five-dollar note together with a five-dollar attorney's fee. The debtor owned no real estate and so far as anyone knew, his only personal property was a wheelbarrow not worth enough by itself to pay costs in any case. But one day when lack of legal business had permitted me to engage in a domino game on the public square, I happened by chance to see the debtor with a wheelbarrow filled with goods that he had just bought from several stores. Quick as a flash I hunted for and found the constable, who had an execution in his pocket which he levied on the wheelbarrow and its contents. The coup was successful. The goods were worth more than the five-dollar debt, the five-dollar reasonable attorney's fees, and costs of the suit. For the first time in history this unwilling citizen was made to pay a debt. My reputation as a lawyer was not greatly enhanced, but my reputation as a collector was. Although claims for collection piled in on me, this was not the type of law practice for which I yearned. So I began to consider leaving my boyhood home to go to Birmingham without going first to the Legislature from Clay County as I had originally planned.


Chapter V: I Move to Birmingham -- September 7, 1907

An excerpt from

Hugo L. Black and Elizabeth Black, Mr. Justice and Mrs. Black (New York: Random House 1986) Copyright by Elizabeth Black, Hugo Black, Jr., Sterling Black and Josephine Black Pesaresi

Note: These three chapters are reprinted with permission of the copyright owners. Although currently out of print, used copies of the book can still be tracked down online as of September 2001 (e.g., www.amazon.com). Notwithstanding its unavailability, the copyright laws prohibit reproduction of the following, or any other portion/s of the book, in hard copy or any other form known now or in the future, without the permission of the copyright owners. Mr. Hugo L. Black, Jr., may be reached at 305-358-5700. -- Nicholas Johnson, September 10, 2001. [Nicholas Johnson was law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black, 1959-1960.]


While attending the Birmingham Medical College in 1903-4, I became very well acquainted with Woodson Duke, another Clay County man from the Mellow Valley Community, nine miles south of Ashland. When I arrived in Birmingham September 7, 1907, to begin the practice of law there, I soon got in touch with Woodson, who was then working as a collector for a furniture store. He, his brother Brooks, and David J. Davis, a recent Yale law graduate from Arab, Alabama, were for twenty dollars per month each boarders at the home of Mrs. Crim on Fifth Avenue North, between 20th and 21st Streets -- almost straight across the Avenue from what is now the Tutwiler Hotel. The three occupied one rather small room with two double beds. It was no difficult task for me to get the consent of Mrs. Crim to occupy that room with the others and eat at her table for twenty dollars per month. We four boarders became warm friends from then until the death of the other three. When Woodson Duke died, many years later, he was one of the probation officers for the Federal Court, which position I had gotten for him while I was the United States Senator from Alabama. David J. Davis, the young law school graduate from Yale, became fatally ill many years later while sitting as a United States District Judge, an appointment also made upon my recommendation as United States Senator. I never had more loyal friends than those two. I recall very well that when I first recommended Woodson to be probation officer, the Attorney General sent word to me that he could not appoint Mr. Duke because he did not have a college degree. I telephoned the Attorney General and told him that I supposed, contrary to what I had

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thought, that all prisoners put on probation were college graduates and therefore officers who dealt with them must also be college graduates. He was frank enough to admit that this requirement had as little common sense to him as it appeared to have to me, and upon my assurance that I knew Woodson Duke to be one of the wisest men I knew, he was appointed. Several years later the head of the Probation Office called to tell me how grateful that office was for my having insisted on Woodson's appointment, because he had rendered invaluable service in his position.

But back to my first experiences in Birmingham. My first job was renting an office, and it soon became clear that I was no expert in that field. My selection was one room in a building which I believe was 1905 1/2 Second Avenue North. I had three neighbors upstairs, one an old-fashioned dentist, his wife, a rather well-fed beauty shop operator, and the third a budding young photographer. Had I searched the City over I could hardly have found an office where a prospective litigant was less likely to come looking for a lawyer. It was about four blocks from the Courthouse and the City Hall. What I needed more than anything else at that time were clients, and no person looking for a lawyer was likely to come to that section or to stumble up the steps to my office even if he did. A month passed and not a single person had come to my upstairs office to find a lawyer. Seeking another office, I then went to the corner of Third Avenue and 21st Street North where, across the street from the County Courthouse and jail, I saw the Lyon-Terry Building, only two stories high and with a large number of signs leading up to the second floor. Most important to me was the fact that every sign at the foot of that staircase advertised one or more lawyers. I walked up the stairs, looked at the offices from the hallway, decided this was the place for me, and went back to the office right at the head of the stairs. On it was the sign: "SHUGART and COMSTOCK, Attorneys at Law." The names meant nothing to me, although I learned later that the name Shugart was a well-known one in Birmingham. Perhaps in as little time as it has taken me to pencil down this incident I had rented desk space in the Shugart office for seven dollars per month, cash in advance. Later I learned that there were two Shugarts -- Roland and Curtis. Some time before, Roland had shot and killed a man. The father of the two Shugarts had himself been a widely-known lawyer until he, too, was accidentally shot to death, in a bar room as I recall. One of the best known stories bandied about by their enemies concerning the father had been (whether true or not, I do not know) that invariably when negotiating a fee with a client he would ask whether his services were to be "with or without witnesses." All of my dealings with these gentlemen, I must say, were most pleasant and they were as fair as they could be with

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me. This is illustrated by the first case that came into their front office, the one I rented.

A gentleman without a collar, and without a shave and obviously a farmer, walked in and asked me if I were a lawyer. I told him that I was, whereupon he wanted to hire me at once. I explained to him as best I could that I merely rented desk space from the firm whose offices these were and that I would have to take him to those lawyers. Under protest he went with me. I explained the situation to whichever lawyer [was] present, Mr. Comstock, I think. He asked the prospective litigant what the case was about and it turned out to be a Justice-of-the-Peace lawsuit at Republic, some miles from Birmingham. There was some controversy over the ownership of a sow. Straightway I was told by Mr. Comstock to go on and take the case if I wished. Naturally I did. We arranged that I was to get a fee of ten dollars, out of which I was to pay my train fare to Republic. There I was to be met by my client and hauled in a wagon to the scene of the trial at the coal company's Commissary, where the Notary Public ex officio Justice of the Peace trying the case worked. My client's story was that about two years before a small, stray, hungry-looking female shoat had wandered into his barnyard where he fed it and permitted it to remain until two weeks before the trial, when the other man in the lawsuit came by his place, claimed to recognize the then sow by a mark on her, and demanded her return. My client assured me there was no identifiable mark of any kind on the sow, and so it was that single factual issue, I thought, that had to be tried out by the Justice of the Peace. Then, too, there was another question as to the ownership of a litter of pigs that the sow had given birth to in my client's barnyard. I arrived at Republic in due time on a Saturday afternoon, went in the wagon to the Commissary, all prepared, I thought, for the trial. Upon arrival I saw a large group of good-sized men squatting country fashion on their toes on the ground. Nearly all of them, it seemed to me, had dangerous-looking guns either in their hands or lying on the ground next to them. On asking my client who were these armed men, he indicated that they were all friends of and witnesses for our adversary -- there to back up his identification of the sow. My client had no supporting witnesses whatever and I began to anticipate the sure loss of the sow. I was determined, however, to put up the best possible fight for at least some of the pigs. Giving some study to this issue in the Bar Association's law library, I had unfortunately found that, under the vague and nebulous common law doctrine practically everywhere, the owner of a sow was also recognized as the owner of her pigs. For this reason I deemed it advisable to rely on common sense and reason rather than the common law. Consequently, I took no law books with me to the trial.

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On the factual issue of ownership of the sow our adversary literally "slaughtered" us. Witness after witness made out an iron-clad case proving his ownership of the sow. This seemed to me to make it necessary above all things that the judge be persuaded to give at least half of the sow's offspring to my client, who was, after all, the unquestioned owner of the reported father of the pigs. It had somehow ceased to bother me that the common law said the pigs should go to the owner of their mother, since I had by that time persuaded myself beyond all reasonable doubt that whatever might be the general law in cases of this kind, justice, equity, and even morality demanded an equal division of the pigs in this case. And so, I pleaded with all my power that the Notary Public ex officio Justice of the Peace decide the case that way. First I told the judge that whatever side the majority of law books might take on that issue, it was his sacred duty as an acting Justice of the Peace to consider nothing but what his conscience told him to do. That the evidence tended to prove that our adversary owned the sow did not begin, I told the judge, to determine the equities of the case. I even reminded the judge that awarding the claimant all the pigs would necessarily remove them from their hog father who up to that time had, most likely with their mother, watched over them. I dropped in a few more ideas along the same line and completed my argument with an earnest plea that he do justice, though the heavens fall! Whether my fervid pleas had any effect of course I do not know and cannot say, but I do know that relying on justice and fairness, as the judge told us, he awarded the mother sow to our adversary and divided the pigs equally between the two litigants. Suffice it to say, I was satisfied. My client also was satisfied. My client's satisfaction with half the pigs was shown by the fact that two months later he came to my office again, told me that a coal mine under his home and farmland had cracked the top soil, and then signed a contract to pay me as fee half of all I could get above $500.00 either by settlement or suit. As I recall, he had paid only $500.00 for his land. In a very short time the company offered me $1,000.00 in settlement and on my client's strong urging I settled, thereby earning a fee Of $250.00 This was a tremendous fee for me, and on the strength of it I moved into another office in the same Lyon Terry Building, sharing it with another lawyer, each of us paying $15.00 monthly rent. By this time I thought I was really moving! This was not merely because of my pig case and the $250.00 fee from the soil-cracking case.

My loyal friend, Woodson Duke, had caused some people he knew to turn over to me some collections. The most interesting ones, as I recall, were debts alleged to be due to an advertising doctor who treated men and women for so called "private disease." Most of his patients had refused to

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pay on the ground that my client, the doctor, had broken his promise to guarantee a cure. I had to fight this issue out with one of the patients. After a rather bitter fight in that case, I won a judgment in the Inferior Court, finally defeated the defendant's claims of exemptions, and wound up actually collecting about $25.00 in cash.

By this time, I had become a good friend of H. B. Abernathy, the Inferior Court Judge, a cherished friendship that continued up to his death. "Ab", as his friends loved to call him, was an eccentric judge. People liked to visit his court to see and hear his latest pranks. Visitors to his court might, in some minor, trifling case, happen to see him render judgment, satisfactory to him and the parties, by the flipping of a coin. Unless my memory is faulty, I recall Ab's telling my good friend Roderick Beddow, then a young attorney who insisted on arguing a case on a very busy court afternoon, that "This case is now passed until 6:30 tomorrow morning to give lawyer Beddow fifteen minutes to advertise." Lawyer Beddow, I should add, was one of judge Ab's closest friends. With all of his fun and frolicking in the court, however, Judge Abernathy was a highly respected judge in the community.

Near the end of my first year in Birmingham, I became the representative of the Retail Credit Company of Atlanta, Ga., which company paid me 50 cents each for reports on the life and habits of life insurance applicants. This later developed in Birmingham into a business worth $100.00 or more per month to me, a substantial addition to my small income. With this business, and other small fees I picked up in the Inferior Courts, I was no longer worried about making a living. I was, as I thought then, well on my way to success as a Birmingham lawyer.


Chapter VI: Building Up a Practice in Birmingham

An excerpt from

Hugo L. Black and Elizabeth Black, Mr. Justice and Mrs. Black (New York: Random House 1986) Copyright by Elizabeth Black, Hugo Black, Jr., Sterling Black and Josephine Black Pesaresi

Note: These three chapters are reprinted with permission of the copyright owners. Although currently out of print, used copies of the book can still be tracked down online as of September 2001 (e.g., www.amazon.com). Notwithstanding its unavailability, the copyright laws prohibit reproduction of the following, or any other portion/s of the book, in hard copy or any other form known now or in the future, without the permission of the copyright owners. Mr. Hugo L. Black, Jr., may be reached at 305-358-5700. -- Nicholas Johnson, September 10, 2001. [Nicholas Johnson was law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black, 1959-1960.]


Probably without appreciation of the difficulties of the task I had planned for myself, I had gone to Birmingham September 7, 1907, determined to build up a law practice by my own efforts. This I knew would be difficult because I was going to that City almost a complete stranger. True, I had attended medical college there for more than six months, but during that period most of my time had been spent in my room, at my eating place, or the medical college -- all within a few blocks of one another. My acquaintances in Birmingham, with very few exceptions, were limited to the few doctor instructors I had met at the College and students who lived in other cities in Alabama, most of whom expected to return to their hometown after graduation. I had attended the nearby Southside Baptist Church on Sundays but not enough to form many friendships there. The life of practical seclusion I knew as a medical student was thus in sharp contrast to the kind of life I would have to lead to establish my own successful law practice. I did not, even at that early date, or later, wish to take a subordinate place in a law firm. Neither did I have an entree into any law firm in Birmingham had I wished to work for one. While by no means skilled in building a practice, I was of the opinion that the only ethical way was to meet as many people and make as many friends as possible. This I proceeded to do immediately after arriving in Birmingham.

From my earliest recollections I had for some unaccountable reason wanted to join the Masons. So far as I then knew I had no Masonic ancestors, but, quite coincidentally, several days ago [in 1970] I received from a stranger (who turned out to be a distant relative) a photograph of

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my maternal great-grandfather's, Hugh Toland's, tombstone at Old Tylersville, Laurens County, South Carolina, on which was a Masonic emblem. In order to become a Mason at the earliest possible moment, and by special arrangement with Ashland Masonic Lodge No. 356, my application for membership went in before I was twenty-one years of age and while I still had my law office in Ashland. On reaching my twenty first birthday I was initiated into the first or the Entered Apprentice Masonic degree. I had therefore been a Mason some months when I moved to Birmingham September 7, 1907. The night before going to Birmingham, that is, September 6, by special dispensation of the Grand Lodge Knights of Pythias, I took the three ranks in that fraternity. I was glad to join that fraternity particularly because both my doctor brother and my father were members. I had thought of joining the Odd Fellows, too, before moving, but decided to postpone that until after I went to Birmingham. After settling in Birmingham, I immediately began to visit various Masonic and Knights of Pythias meetings with a view to joining one of the local Lodges. I finally decided that question by transferring my membership to Birmingham Temple Masonic Lodge No. 636 and Jefferson Valley Lodge No. 11, Knights of Pythias. I have never regretted those transfers and am a life member of both organizations. Some of the closest friendships in my life were formed among the brethren in these two fraternities, and, to a lesser extent, in the Odd Fellows.

The first night I attended a Jefferson Valley Lodge meeting I met a man who was destined to play a large part in my life and career. He was Herman M. Beck of the Beck Candy & Grocery Company. At the time he was Grand Vice-Chancellor of the Knights of Pythias and slated to become State Grand Chancellor within the next few months. The job, he thought, would be too much for him to handle alone, and it was only a short time after we met that he suggested I become his secretary to help in the new statewide job he was to get. He proposed to pay me the full salary he was to draw, which, as I recall, was $100.00 per month. This, he said, would help me over the lean years of my law practice and at the same time make it possible for him to act as Grand Chancellor without sacrificing too much time from his wholesale mercantile business. Our work together was carried out as planned. During the year I worked with him we became almost as close as father and son, a relationship that continued until his death. I never knew a better or more honest man. In 1918, when I was ordered to go to Europe with my Field Artillery Regiment, I named Mr. Beck to serve, without bond, as Executor of what might be my small estate with absolute confidence that his responsibilities would be met the same as they would have been by my mother or father.

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Just another little story about Mr. Beck, and then I shall pass on to other matters. During my year with him, Brother J. Mitt Dannelly, a Methodist Minister and Presiding Elder, was Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge Knights of Pythias of Alabama. He travelled all over the State with Mr. Beck and me. I once suggested to him that Mr. Beck, being a Jew, did not believe in the Christian faith, and that consequently many devout Protestants thought he could never get to Heaven. Without a moment's hesitation Brother Dannelly answered: "I would not want to go to a Heaven that would not let Herman Beck in." That was my feeling, too.

The first Sunday after reaching Birmingham I went to the First Baptist Church and the Baraca Sunday School Class of that church --  a class of men taught by Miss Lula Bradford. She was also a teacher in the Birmingham Public School System. Miss Bradford was one of those dear, good women whose mere presence is enough to inspire a person to try to live a better life. I thoroughly enjoyed going to her class. It was only a short time until I was elected class president. Later I was made Superintendent of the Sunday School. I did not hold that position very long, however, because Miss Lula decided, quite mistakenly I always thought, that the men of the Baraca Class needed a male teacher, and that I was the man they needed. I yielded, began teaching about 1910 and continued to be teacher until I was elected to the United States Senate in 1926. Herbert Grooms, now a Federal District judge, then became the teacher, and he still is. Although it is no easy task to talk week after week over a period of years to the same group of men, numbering in the hundreds, it was a most rewarding experience for me.

When I moved from Shugart and Comstock's office to a room across the hall in the same Lyon-Terry Building, I rented from Bonner Miller and shared his single-room office with him. Bonner was from a prominent family in Wilcox County, Alabama. One member of the family was later Governor of the State. It was not long after I moved into Bonner's office that Barney Whatley joined us. Barney was an old boyhood friend from Ashland who had moved with his family to Wylam, a Birmingham suburb, where his first job was timekeeper for the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company. That Company either then or not too long thereafter became a subsidiary of the United States Steel Company. Shortly after I went to Birmingham, Barney borrowed some law books from me and began to study law. His TCI job enabled him to learn bookkeeping in a very short time and it was not long until he secured a place as bookkeeper at Prowell Hardware Company, which was located in the heart of the business section of Birmingham. At that time he moved from Wylam to East Lake, also a suburb of Birmingham, closer to his work. Much of his

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law study was done on the street car going to and from East Lake. When he felt himself ready to take the examination then required to practice law in Alabama, he did so, passed with flying colors, and was admitted to the Bar as a full-fledged lawyer. About 1908 I took him in as my partner under the firm name of Black and Whatley.

In addition to having an excellent mind, Barney was one of the best mixers I have ever known. His acquaintance with so many people made him invaluable in assisting me in making Retail Credit Reports on applicants for life insurance. We soon began to earn enough to consider moving, and when the new Farley Building went up on 20th Street and Third Avenue in 1909, only a block from the Courthouse, we rented offices on the second floor. We were about the first, if not the first, tenants in the building. Our partnership began a steady and most gratifying growth and ended only when Barney unfortunately developed tuberculosis. His doctors advised him that the only safe thing for him to do for his health would be to go to Colorado and enter a tuberculosis hospital. This he did, made a full recovery, and later entered the law offices of Judge James J. Banks, a former Birmingham lawyer and judge then practicing law in Denver.

One morning Barney, while reading a news item in judge Banks' Denver Law office, learned that the "entire bar association" had died in Breckenridge, Colorado -- the county seat of Summit County. He straightway went to Breckenridge, then hardly more than a ghost mining town near the top of the Rocky Mountains. When Barney arrived he soon discovered that the whole town was desperate because the Colorado and Southern Railroad was threatening to abandon the one railroad that connected Breckenridge with the outside world in the snowy winter months. He was invited and agreed to represent the town to prevent the railroad's abandonment, handling the case successfully before the newly created State Railroad Commission and the state courts. The Supreme Court of the United States dismissed the railroad's appeal. A short time later, probably due in large part to his success in preventing the abandonment of the railroad, Barney was overwhelmingly elected State District Attorney, moved his office to Leadville, Colorado, and later practiced law with great success at Denver, until his retirement some years ago. When Barney had to leave our firm he sold his interest to David J. Davis, one of the three persons with whom I lived when first coming to Birmingham. The firm then became Black and Davis, with the office first in the Farley Building and later in the First National Bank Building.

It can be seen from what I have said that starting from the first day after I moved to Birmingham I began to meet more and more people there. These people regarded me as a lawyer, and as I had anticipated, brought

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more and more clients to my firm. By 1911 I had small cases in all the courts in Birmingham, most of which, however, were in inferior courts within the jurisdiction of a Justice of the Peace. But some were in the Circuit Court. It was a Circuit Court case I tried before Circuit Judge A. 0. Lane that, much to my surprise, brought about my selection to serve as Police Court judge in Birmingham. It happened this way:

Bonner Miller, a fine, rather shy man, with whom I had an office, did not like to appear in court. Consequently, he wanted someone else to try all his cases for him. At that time a number of counties leased out their county prisoners under a convict lease system which later, as President of the Alabama Anti-Convict Lease Association, I helped get the State Legislature to abolish. Wilcox County, Bonner's native county, leased its convicts to the Sloss Sheffield Steel and Iron Company of Birmingham. Because of a bad system of records, Willie Morton, a colored prisoner from Wilcox, had been held over some time beyond his term of imprisonment. That case came to Bonner and he asked me to try it. I gladly agreed to do so. The case was set before judge A. 0. Lane, who was then about fifty years of age. I had met him several times because he, too, was a member of Jefferson Valley Lodge No. 11 of the Knights of Pythias. The Steel Company sent to represent it in court Mr. William I. Grubb, a leading lawyer in the biggest firm of corporation lawyers in Birmingham. At that time Alabama still chiefly used the system of common law pleading, complaints, answers, replications, rebutters, surebutters, etc. Many cases in court in those days were lost without the jury's ever having heard any evidence because so many lawyers did not know how to plead. Mr. Grubb, later Federal Judge Grubb, was an expert common law pleader, however, and carried me along on the pleading process for about a day and a half. My knowledge of pleading was purely theoretical, since this was my first jury case in Birmingham. But in that case, as always, I had thoroughly studied and considered what kind of pleading could be used to raise the issues in it. My complaint charged false imprisonment, the defense plea to which, in the absence of a prior judgment or settlement, was almost certain to be "not guilty," the equivalent of a general denial. Judge Grubb continued to file so-called special pleas against me through all of the first day and half of the second. Finally, judge Lane smilingly told Judge Grubb: "Billy, it seems plain you cannot plead this young man out of court, so I suggest you simply join issue and go to trial now." Judge Grubb told Judge Lane he seemed to be right. He stopped trying to trap me with immaterial pleas; we both put on our evidence; the jury returned a verdict in my client's favor for $137.50, plus costs, as I recall; and the judgment was paid. Thus ended my first civil jury trial in Jefferson County.

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The course of my life was much affected by the Willie Morton trial in at least two ways. In the first place Judge Grubb became my staunch friend, and about two years later, after he had become a United States District judge and I had become a candidate for County Prosecuting Attorney, he gave me for publication a written endorsement for the job, avouching my capacity to fill the position I sought. The publication of this statement by the then revered Judge Grubb answered to the complete satisfaction of the voters of the County the charge that I was too young and inexperienced to be the County Solicitor.

Judge Lane's approval of my conduct of the Willie Morton case came earlier and with even more emphasis. The aldermanic government of the City of Birmingham had become so unsatisfactory to the people that the State Legislature abolished it and substituted three Commissioners for the old Mayor and Board of Aldermen. The Governor, anxious for the success of the new form of government, picked out three men, two of whom had played little, if any, part in the old city government, and both of the two deemed by all to be exceptionally well qualified to fill the new positions. Judge Lane was one of them. Shortly after he accepted the place, he sent for me to come to his office, and when I arrived made me a proposition that dumbfounded me. He was to have the city administration of justice under his jurisdiction. There were at that time, as I recall, five City Recorders (Police Court Judges) all drawing salaries from the City Treasury. He suggested that he appoint me to fill all five places. I protested, telling him that I wanted to continue my law practice, which I could not do while doing the work of five men at the same time. Then he told me something that astonished me all the more. He said he wanted me to begin my Recorder's work early enough to finish it before 9:30 A.M., the time the state courts begin their work. Thus, he argued, I could be the City Recorder and continue my law practice at the same time. To help me in this tight program Judge Lane told me he intended to issue an order prohibiting the Recorder from continuing to bear preliminary felony trials for the state courts. I asked for a day or two to consider the matter and went back to him the next day telling him I did not want the position but wanted to suggest my old friend David J. Davis, whom I knew would like to be a judge. Judge Lane promptly told me that he knew and admired "Dave" but did not believe he could do the job, emphasizing that the Commission's first order, which he intended this to be, must by all means be successful, and indicating his belief that I was the only person he knew that could carry out his stepped-up program. He explained to me that he would not ask me to take the position if he thought it would interfere with my career as a lawyer, and that if I would take it he would promise to

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release me at the very moment he thought I had remained Recorder long enough to receive all the advantage from it I could. His arguments persuaded me. I accepted the position in 1911, at age twenty-five, kept it about a year and a half at which time Judge Lane finally agreed that the wisest thing for me to do at that time would be to resign and devote my full time and attention to my law practice. I resigned on October 22, 1912, five years after my arrival in Birmingham from Clay County.

I have never regretted serving as City Recorder. I could easily write a volume about my experience in that judicial position, but that would delay these memoirs too long. I learned much about life in that position. I hope and believe that I administered justice fairly and tolerantly. And, besides, I got to know Judge Lane better, his humaneness, his soft, generous, kindly character. He was so full of sympathy for the weak and suffering that it was easy to persuade him to pardon prisoners if they or their relatives could but get to him to tell their stories. This characteristic brought down on his head much public criticism. But he was the kind of man people not merely liked but loved. With his white hair, white moustache, white shirt and white bow tie, he was the example par excellence of a Southern gentleman, in the best meaning of that term. His unselfish public service inspired me to go and try to do likewise.