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Pioneer Talladega, Its Minutes and Memories Chapter 22– Sketches of attorneys in later years


By Jehu Wellington Vandiver


In the decade following the Civil war there grew up a number of bright young lawyers, sons of those who had battled for the lost cause. These attorneys studied and practiced Corporation law, Municipal law and Commercial law; their methods and court room customs differing widely from their older brethren of the bar. Among these young lawyers appear the names of Frank Bowdon, Sid Bowie, W. B. Castleberry, James C. Newman, William Newman, Geo. E. Brewer, Joseph B. Graham, Ed. Dryer, J, B, Sanford, J. C. Oakes, Ed. Cameron, W. B. Harrison, Hugh L, McElderry, Frank L. Vance, Graves Embry, M. N. Manning, W. T, Edwards, J. K. Dixon, Erastus J. Parsons, J. Frank Webb, J. C, Burt, A. Hall, Otis Nickles, Chester Bingham, M. H. Sims, J. J. Pierce, W. G. McMillan, John D. McNeel, Alex M. Carber. But before the task of saying a few words of these living lawyers, it is well to here insert a line as to one of the elder brethren wlio has joined the majority.

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ASHLEY C. WOOD built a small, neat law office in Fayetteville, which building, with one other, is the only reminder now observable of the prosperous town of Fayetteville, Talladega county, Alabama, the building of the L. & N. railroad causing the town to move nearer its tracks. Ashley Wood was a portly, smoothfaced, genial mannered citizen, with much of the oldtime South Carolina gentleman in his manner. He had considerable landed estate, and for this reason, as for a constitutional aversion to continued labor, he was not successful in the practice of law. Indeed it is but seldom that a lawyer living remote from the court house succeeds in building up a practice. After the war, Wood allied himself with the Republican party, and that party being in the minority of white voters in this county, and there being much bitterness in political feeling, caused him to be personally unpopular. He represented the county in the legislature in 1876.

W. B. CASTLEBERRY was born June 16, 1869, being the son of a lawyer, D. T. Castleberry. The court rolls show that W. B. Castleberry was admitted in 1889. He was a member of the state senate from this county in 1903. In 1910 he was city attorney. He married in 1902, Miss Alice W. Eley.

EDWARD CAMERON came to Alabama from Georgia and located in Childersburg, and was at one time mayor of that town. He studied law in Ashley C. Wood’s office at Fayetteville. He was licensed in 1883, and he represented the county in the legislature about 1898-99. He removed to Birmingham and died there.

JOHN COLUMBUS OAKES was red-headed, violently and emphatically red-headed, but was scarcely as peppery as the average man with hair of that color. Oakes arrived here during the golden days of Mayor Skaggs’ administration and he was quite a protege of that official. After practicing, mostly in magistrate’s courts, for three or more years, Mr. Oakes went to Florida; thence to Cuba; served in the Spanish-American war; spent three years in the Philippines, and in 1903 was living in Gladys, Texas.

W. BEN HARRISON was born in August, 1881, graduated at Auburn, admitted to practice law November 16, 1900. Was at first a law partner with Cecil Browne, Esq., was City attorney 1907-8. Married Miss Bertha Arden, of Savannah, December 1905.

JAMES NEWMAN and WILLIAM NEWMAN, brothers, were Clarke county, Alabama, citizens who removed to Talladega about 1890. James Newman selected Nashville for his future home, while William Newman accepted a department position in Washington, D. C. The latter man was for quite a while clerk of the probate court under Hon. J. E. Camp.

JAMES B. SANFORD was born in Talladega county about 1876 He was the son of a widowed mother and his early struggles for an education, and for advancement were strenuous indeed. He located at Sylacauga, about 1897, the year of his admission to the bar. He married Miss Ledbetter. He represented Talladega county in the legislature 1906-1910.

J. J. PIERCE came to Talladega in 1901. He was born at Robinson Springs in Elmore county, Alabama, in 1868. Admitted to the bar in 1900. He has been referee in bankruptcy, and clerk of the circuit court of Talladega county.

F. L. VANCE is a western born man, Rockport, Indiana, being his birthplace. He was licensed in Indiana in 1889. He removed to Talladega in 1893. He was married to Miss Harrell, who died in 1909.

GRAVES EMBRY was born at Lincoln, Talladega county, in 1870. He was licensed to practice law in 1888 or 1890. He was married in 1898 to Miss Mamie Brown, of Tallapoosa. Mr. Embry is one of the few lawyers who, as yet, has not filled an office.

M. N. MANNING is a native of Clay county, Alabama. Born about 1870. Admitted to practice of law about 1891. Was judge of the county court of Clay for a number of years. Removed to Talladega county abut 1899. Is superintendent of the Methodist Sunday school.

MARION H. SIMS comes of a pioneer family of Talladega. He was bom December, 1874, and graduated in law at the State university in. 1901. He was elected county solicitor in 1904, and re-elected in 1910, He is unmarried.

W. T. EDWARDS practiced law in Sylacauga for several years, then removed to Talladega where he remained for some time and eventually located in Birmingham. He was economical and thrifty, and a very zealous member of the Methodist church.

ERASTUS J. PARSONS, present United States District Attorney, is a grandson of former Governor Lewis E. Parsons, being a son of Lewis Parsons, Jr,. and Miss Kelly, of Coosa county, Alabama. Mr. Parsons was for a year or more in the law office of Knox, Dixon and Burr, of Talladega.

BORDEN H. BURR graduated in law at the State university. Shortly afterward he entered the law office of Knox, Bowie and Dixon. He was elected solicitor of the circuit but before the close of his term resigned to accept a partnership with a Birmingham firm. He first married Miss Camp. His second wife was Miss Forman, of St. Clair.

WILLAIM C. McMILLAN is the present referee in bankruptcy. He served about ten years as city clerk. He graduated at Auburn, Ala. He married Miss Miller, the daughter of Hon. G. K. Miller, city judge.

FRANK WEBB, as he was familiarly called, but who was admitted to the bars as Joel F. Webb, resided in Coosa county before coming to Talladega. He married Miss Juliet Powe, in 1909, and removed to Birmingham about 1906. He was a graduate of Auburn.

JABEZ CURRY BURT is the grandson of J. L. M. Curry. He married Miss Miller, a daughter of Hon. G. K. Miller, city judge. In 1910 he was a candidate for solicitor of the circuit. Born in Talladega county, admitted about 1905. He is a young man of great energy, and pleasant address.

ALEX M. CAREER was a. native of Sumpter county, and a graduate of the State university. He located in Talladega in 1890. When the city court was established, Colonel Garber was elected solicitor of the county by the legislature, and held that office twelve years or more, and until he was elected attorney general. He is a laborious lawyer, and an enthusiastic member of the K. of P., of which order he was at one time the head.

JOHN D. McNEEL was licensed in South Carolina. He married Miss Goodwyn, of Montgomery. He was principal of the city schools of Talladega for three years in 1902-06, and was appointed clerk of the city court. In 1908 or 1909, he was appointed private secretary to Governor Comer.

It will be seen from the preceding thumbnail sketches that seventy-seven lawyers have made history and laws for Talladega county from 1834 down to the present time. Probably no other profession has had a part in the making of a country equal to the stamp which the brains and gifts of the names mentioned indelibly impressed upon this.

Space has not permitted the eulogies which some of them deserved but a simple presentation of the data preceding is made in order that these names should not fade from memory, and in order that it may be seen at a glance who, since the foundation of the state, had made up that celebrated body of men known far and wide as “The Talladega Bar.”

The John Brown insurrection of 1859, was the torch to the train of powder that kindled the flame of Civil war. Old John Brown, of Ossatawotamie, Kansas, deliberately devised a scheme for a slave war, and revolution throughout the South. With a party of twenty-one fanatics, like himself, he seized the United States arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, and held it for nearly two days. Thirteen of his men were killed, two escaped, and Brown with six others, were hung by the state of Virginia. Buchanans administration was drawing to a close when in April, 1860, the Democratic convention assembled in Charleston, and split the party on the question of slavery, the Southern delegates withdrawing from the convention. The Northern delegates, at a later date, in Baltimore, nominated Stephen A. Douglas for president.

The Southern delegates, meeting in Richmond, nominated John C. Breckinridge, of Kentucky, as their standard-bearer. The “Know-nothing” party chose John Bell, of Tennessee, as their candidate for the presidency. At Chicago, the Republicans nominated Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois, for president, as representing the “Free Soil” and “Abolitionists” parties, this being the first time that the term “republican” was applied to a national party. Four political standards were thus raised, and excitement swept the country like a tornado. Nearly all of the Northern states voted for Lincoln. For the most part, the Southern states voted for Breckinridge, although the states of Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, cast their electoral votes for Bell. Thus, after controlling the destinies of the Republic for sixty years, the National Democratic party went down to defeat, and was swept from the field. Our leaders had declared beforehand, that the election of Lincoln, by the vote’s of the Northern states, would be just cause for a dissolution of the Union, and the times were full of threats, passion animosity and rashness.


Transcribed from – The Alabama Historical Quarterly, Vol. 16, No. 01, Spring Issue 1954


After the Revolutionary War, free bounty land was offered by the federal government to citizens and soldiers for their service.This book is the 2nd Volume in a series of books which includes genealogical and biographical information on some Revolutionary Soldiers who were in early Alabama and/or collected military pensions for their service. Some of their descendants still remain on the bounty land they received. The soldiers in this volume include: JACOB HOLLAND, CHARLES M. HOLLAND, THOMAS HOLLAND, COL. JOSEPH HUGHES, CHARLES HOOKS, DIXON HALL, BOLLING HALL, WALTER JACKSON, WILLIAM HEARNE, THOMAS HAMILTON, GEN. JOHN ARCHER ELMORE, REVEREND ROBERT CUNNINGHAM, JAMES COLLIER, THOMAS BRADFORD, REUBEN BLANKENSHIP, HENRY BLANKENSHIP, DANIEL BLANKENSHIP with a special story about the patriotism of CHARLES HOOKS sister…MARY HOOKS SLOCUMB.


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