JUDGE HEUSTIS BARNETT ABERNETHY
Biography and Genealogy
Wilcox and Jefferson County, Alabama
Judge Heustis Barnett Abernethy was born December 11, 1872, at Yellow Bluff, Wilcox County; the son of Dr. Jones C. Abernethy and Caroline O. (Mobley) Abernethy; grandson on the paternal side of an Abernethy who was a minister in the Methodist Episcopal church, went from the Tennessee Conference to Alabama in 1823, preached to the Indians in Mississippi and Alabama, was the last surviving member of the original Methodist Conference organized at Tuscaloosa, and a planter, He was also a grandson of Col. Barnett H. Mobley, who was a colonel in the U. S. Army during the Indian war in Florida previous to the Civil war; great-grandson of Henry Abernethy who was a native of Dundee, Scotland, came to America and settled in Virginia, later removing to Pulaski, Tennessee of which town he was official for several years.
Judge Abernethy’s great-great-grandfather Abernathy was also a native of Dundee, Scotland and came to America at the time his son Henry (b. 1775) came to Brunswick, Virginia, and was a slave holding landowner. All connections of the Abernethy family since their coming to America have been representatives of the Methodist church, and its men have been professional, engaging in the practice of medicine, law, or entering the service of the ministry.
Dr. Jones Cadwallader Abernethy, the father of the subject of the sketch, was born September 6, 1835, in old Spring Hill, Marengo County; was graduated M. D. from the University of Louisiana, now Tulane, in 1860; served in the Civil war; was elected surgeon of the Thirty-second Alabama regiment in 1862; was transferred to the Forty-third Georgia regiment, and was with this latter command at the time of Johnston’s surrender at Greensboro, North Carolina; fought in every engagement of the army of Tennessee from Murfreesboro to end of war; practiced medicine in Birmingham from 1883-1915; was president of the Jefferson County Medical Association; commander of Camp Hardee of which he was one of the founders; elected president of the Association of Confederate Surgeons. He married Caroline O. Mobley of Wilcox County in 1859; children:
They had the following children:
- Jones C. Abernethy Jr. (b. Oct. 12, 1865 AL – Oct 17, 1940), who was interested in and operating oil wells at or near Dallas, Texas, He married Cora Elizabeth Hewes/Hughes
- Heustis Barnett Abernethy, the subject of this sketch;
- Mrs. Marie Antoinette (Abernethy) Northington, who was the wife of Charles Northington of Tuscaloosa;
- Tom S. Abernethy, operator, and owner of oil wells in Kentucky;
- Mrs. Ellen Laudan. (Abernethy) Parks, wife of Henry Parks, a merchant of Sylvester, Georgia;
- William H. Abernethy, who was superintendent of the electric plant owned and operated by the city of Birmingham;
Dr. Jones C. Abernathy died Feb. 28,1915.
Heustis Barnett Abernethy was educated in the public schools of Birmingham from which high school he was graduated in 1886; attended college at Auburn for two terms, 18871888, and then took a year’s course at Howard college, Birmingham; ran a truck farm near Birmingham for two years; studied law in the office of William J. Cahalan and R. L. Thornton, attorneys-at-law, in Birmingham; was admitted to practice in 1894, and continued in this profession until 1900; then elected justice of the peace, which office he held until 1903 or 1904; was elected judge of the inferior court of Birmingham and held that office until 1908, when he was elected as one of the judges of the Birmingham Court of Common Pleas; in 1516, was appointed one of the judges of the Municipal Court of Birmingham, which office he filled until 1919, when the legislature created the Jefferson County Court of Misdemeanors, and he was appointed judge of this court.
He was a Democrat and was twice elected chairman of the City Democratic Executive Committee, of which body he was a member for a period of fourteen years, being partly responsible for the change from the aldermanic to a commission form of government in Birmingham. Judge Abernethy was instrumental in having embodied in the last constitution of Alabama a provision wherein the legislature could provide for the abolishment of justices of the peace in all cities over 1,500 inhabitants and provided for the establishment of inferior courts in lieu of justices of the peace, thereby abolishing the old fee system of paying for their services. The first of these courts in Alabama was established in 1903 in Birmingham, and the bill creating this court was drawn by Mr. Abernethy.
He attempted to cure those addicted to the use of narcotics by sentencing them to work on the county farm, for from six to twelve months, contending that absolute isolation from their former companions and habits, pure air, sunshine, and moderate physical exercise will and has cured many victims of the drug habit.
He was a student of the negro character, and in the trial of criminal cases looks more to the equity involved than to the technical side of the question at issue. Besides his connection with the Democratic party, he was a Knight Templar, Shriner, Odd Fellow, a member of the Birmingham Civic Association, of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and of the Methodist Episcopal church, South.
Judge Abernethy married: September 20, 1912, at Birmingham to Ninette E. Wood, daughter of Hernando De Soto Wood and Corinne Pierce (Girard) Wood of Huntsville, the former who was city auditor of Birmingham for a number of years prior to his death and was a descendant of Samuel Wood of Mecklenburg, the latter who was a descendant of the Girards who were followers of Napoleon, and upon their exile, came to America, and on her mother’s side she is a descendant of Simon Chaudron, who five generations removed, wrote many French books and later was mentioned as one of the substantial citizens and one of the founders of Demopolis.
Judge Abernethy died in Birmingham, Alabama, Feb. 1944.
- History of Alabama and dictionary of Alabama biography, Volume 3 By Thomas McAdory Owen, Marie Bankhead Owen
- Findagrave.com # 35392126 # 38765007
This biography is included in the Book Biographies of Notable and Not-so-Notable Alabama Pioneers Vol. III