Bits of Stone for Sunday January 1, 2012
First Blount case in U.S. Supreme Court in 1933
The almost unnoticed everyday events of today become interesting bits of history a few generations down the road. Some are not practical to follow up and many are less significant. Others are recorded on a more permanent basis.
Marcus Fitzsimmons of The Daily Times news staff found an interesting tidbit in a former issue while doing some research on another topic at the Blount County Public Library. He was thoughtful and brought me a copy of the story.
Blount County’s newspaper of record since 1883, The Times’ Oct. 12, 1933, issue told of what was apparently the first Blount County case to go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The story states that “J.P. Trotter, guardian of Joseph Leake,” a World War I veteran, was granted a review by the high court of a ruling by the Tennessee Supreme Court holding that Blount County could force payment of taxes assessed for 1929 on land owned by the veteran in Blount County.
Trotter purchased the land, with court approval, out of money he received for the veteran from the Veterans Bureau. He contended that under the World War Veterans Act of 1924 the property was exempt from taxation.
Leake had become mentally incompetent by reason of his service in World War I.
The chancery court of Blount County took that view but was reversed by the Tennessee Supreme Court, leading to the appeal to the U.S. high court.
The story stated that for certain it was the first time in 50 years and as far as was known the first time in history that a Blount case had reached the high court.
R.R. Kramer was scheduled to appear in behalf of Trotter and Sam Johnson in behalf of Blount County. Both practiced law in Blount County and the adjoining areas.
Unfortunately, the outcome of the case was not in publications in the immediate future. Based on today’s long time lag on U.S. Supreme Court decisions the verdict likely would have been several months later.
Taking a wild guess at finding the answer, I called attorney David Black who was recently selected by fellow attorneys as one of the Knoxville area’s top 25 Best Lawyers of the Year. He and his wife, attorney Marty Lowe Black, have offices in the former residence of the R.R. Kramers.
David promptly found the case results. Justice Benjamin Nathan Cardozo delivered the opinion of the court. It ruled in favor of the county and the state, holding that veterans’ tax exemption benefits extended only until pension checks reached the guardian, not on any thing for which it was spent.
Perhaps the most unusual thing regarding the case was the speed with which the verdict was rendered in those “slow, pre-electronic” days of 1933. Instead of the usual months of delay as is the custom now, the verdict was reached in less than one month, about 20 days!
Christmas in China has some American flavor
Twice recently we have referred to newfound Blount friends David and Ann Wilson of Volunteers for China, a nonprofit Christian project which offers to place short-term volunteers in China. The goal is to share the love of Christ with Chinese people by loving and helping them improve their living conditions.
It is fascinating to me to hear directly from China on a timely basis from Blount Countians who have just been there and visited with the Chinese people on a regular basis. So, when I received their Christmas greeting I asked permission to share with readers some of the details.
Ann is the one who made the most unusual photograph in the new “Smokies Snapshots” Volume 1 of a mother bear carrying her young cub, with the nap of its neck in her mouth, across the Loop Road in Cades Cove. (Readers will be advised when the second printing arrives.)
She wrote that the preparations for Christmas in Beijing are much the same as in Tennessee. Many American firms have stores there and businesses promote the buying of gifts, partying and adoption of a mentality which misses the real point of the season. One of Ann’s Chinese friends noted the USA has a “Christmas culture,” adding that “Chinese just want to make money.”
The Chinese Christian churches were practicing for musicals, which are very meaningful for the sharing of the gospel. They all include a reading of the real story of God loving us, telling the true story of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
The very large Chongwenmen Christian Church of Beijing held four presentations of their Christmas concert open to the public. An earlier fifth private presentation was held for the church family. For the other services church members were asked not to attend except for ushers and others directly involved. This leaves more seats for nonbelievers who stood in line for hours to get in to hear the free concert of beautiful music.
The same happening occurred at thousands of other Christian churches throughout China though not on such a grand scale. The much smaller Lu Jia Zhuang Christian Church on the north side of Changzhi, 10 hours by night bus from Beijing, only seats 800 but it did the same.
As the world gets smaller, communication wise, it is more essential to know what is happening in other areas of the world. A year ago we were in direct contact with a Blount Countian working at the South Pole.
Words can be traced to names of individuals
More often than we realize, new words or expressions originate from the names of individuals.
For example Cobb salad is named for Bob Cobb, owner of the Brown Derby restaurant in Los Angeles, Calif. He invented it in 1926 before many of our readers were born.
Maverick, often used to refer to a person who doesn’t follow the mainstream behavior, apparently originated from San Antonio, Texas, mayor Samuel A. Maverick in the mid-1800s. When he bought a herd of cattle in 1847, he allowed the steers to roam on his ranch unbranded. From then on, unbranded cattle and eventually independent-minded humans became known as mavericks.
The term derrick as used today for the name of any equipment used to hang anything was once only the name of a gallows used to hang people. Thomas Derrick was an unpopular Brit who was the executioner at London’s Tyburn gallows, hanging hundreds of convicts before being convicted of rape and condemned to die. The Earl of Essex pardoned him, only to be executed in 1601 for treason by Derrick.
Britain’s Charles Cunningham Boycott was an English estate manager who refused to lower rents for poor Irish tenant farmers, inspiring a rent strike and the first boycott.
Dean Stone is editor of The Daily Times.