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Sidney Johnston Catts

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sidney Johnston Catts
Sidney Johnston Catts in 1916 (cropped).jpg
22nd Governor of Florida
In office
January 2, 1917 – January 4, 1921
Preceded byPark Trammell
Succeeded byCary A. Hardee
Personal details
Born(1863-07-31)July 31, 1863
Pleasant Hill, Alabama, U.S.
DiedMarch 9, 1936(1936-03-09) (aged 72)
DeFuniak Springs, Florida, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Other political
affiliations
Prohibition
Spouse(s)Alice May Campbell
Children4
MotherAdeline Rebecca Smyly
FatherSamuel W. Catts
RelativesWilliam D. Bloxham (first cousin)[1]
Campaign poster from the 1916 gubernatorial election.
Campaign poster from the 1916 gubernatorial election.

Sidney Johnston Catts (July 31, 1863 – March 9, 1936) was an American politician and anti-Catholic activist who served as the governor of Florida as a member of the Prohibition Party. After leaving office he became involved in criminal procedures due to his activities as governor and for business activities after leaving office. He was later acquitted, although he went bankrupt in the process.

Early life

Sidney Johnston Catts was born on his father's plantation in Pleasant Hill, Alabama on July 31, 1863, to Adeline Rebecca Smyly and Samuel W. Catts, a Confederate captain, and was named after Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston. In 1866, his nurse accidentally stabbed one of his eyes with a pair of scissors while cutting pictures causing him to lose sight in it.[2][3]

He earned a law degree from Cumberland School of Law at Cumberland University in 1882. In 1885, he was ordained as a pastor and worked in Alabama until 1910, when he moved to Florida. He later became an insurance salesman and then a teacher.[4] In November 1886, he married Alice May Campbell, a relative of Lord Colin Campbell.[5]

Career

U.S. House of Representatives campaigns

In March 1904, Catts announced that he would seek the Democratic nomination against James Thomas Heflin to represent Alabama's 5th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives.[6][7] During the campaign Catts gave $250 to another politician to canvass a county, but that politician later placed a bet using the money that Heflin would win. Heflin defeated Catts in the primary and following his defeat Catts endorsed Heflin.[8][9]

On April 7, 1930, he announced that he would seek the Democratic nomination in Florida's 3rd congressional district, but was defeated by incumbent Representative Tom Yon in the Democratic primary.[10][11][12]

Governor

In 1914, Catts announced that he would run for the Democratic nomination for governor of Florida.[13] He won the party's nomination before a recount was ordered and he came in second. He then received the nomination of the Prohibition Party on October 10, and then won the general election with 43% of the vote. As governor, his proposals for reform were stopped by the Florida legislature.[14]

Catts was inaugurated as governor on January 2, 1917. In his inauguration speech he stated:

Your triumph is no less in this good hour in beautiful Florida, for you have withstood the onslaughts of the county and state political rings, the corporations, the railroads, the fierce opposition of the press and organization of the negro voters of this state against you and the power of the Roman Catholic hierarchy against you. Yet over all of these the common people of Florida, the everyday cracker people have triumphed.[15]

At the onset of World War I as Florida teemed with a never-before-seen wave of Anti-German sentiment, Catts attempted to exploit this to further his own anti-Catholic and racist agendas. The governor publicly theorized that the monks of Saint Leo Abbey near Tampa were planning to arm Florida's black community for a popular revolt in favor of Kaiser Wilhelm II, after which Pope Benedict XV would take over Florida and move the Holy See to nearby San Antonio and close all of the Protestant churches. This actually caused a fair number of German settlers to move to friendlier parts of the country. The abbot of St. Leo, Right Rev. Charles Mohr, OSB, published several dignified responses to these conspiracy theories. In support of the St. Leo monks, many Pasco County Protestants made it a point to appear in public with local Catholics. Because of the backlash, Catts was forced to tone down his rhetoric when in the area.[16][17]

In April 1917, he admitted that he sent an insulting letter to Attorney General Thomas Watt Gregory asking for Black Campbell, his brother-in-law who was a federal prisoner due to stealing $1,000 while serving as a bookkeeper in an Alabama bank, to be given a pardon.[18]

Catts publicly labeled black residents as part of "an inferior race," and refused to criticize two lynchings in 1919. He was quoted in the press as saying that "only the vagrant, vagabond, worthless negro is lynched".[19] When the NAACP complained about these lynchings, Catts wrote denouncing the organization and blacks generally, declaring that "Your Race is always harping on the disgrace it brings to the state by a concourse of white people taking revenge for the dishonoring of a white woman, when if you would . . . [teach] your people not to kill our white officers and disgrace our white women, you would keep down a thousand times greater disgrace."[20]

Later life

Catts was ineligible to run for reelection in 1920, and he ran for the Democratic nomination for senate, but lost by a large margin to incumbent Democratic Senator Duncan U. Fletcher.

On April 14, 1921, the Florida Senate voted to approve a resolution that would order a legislative investigation into Catts' pardons and appointments due to rumors about him accepting bribes in exchange for them and the state house voted to approve it four days later.[21][22] On May 5 he was indicted by the Bradford county grand jury for accepting a $700 bribe to pardon J. J. Coleman, who was given life imprisonment in 1918 for the murder of a deputy sheriff, but resisted arrest for five days before surrendering.[23][24] However, on May 19 a federal warrant against him was issued for the involuntary servitude of two black people forced to work on his plantation and was arrested two days later and stated that "my enemies won't let me alone" when arrested.[25][26] While on bond awaiting trial Catts spoke at an Independence Day celebration in Macon, Georgia despite protests from members of the board of aldermen who stated that it was improper to have somebody that was indicted for criminal charges speak.[27] On August 16, 1921 he stated that he was confident that he would be acquitted on all charges.[28] In November his initial indictment was recharged and two other indictments were also issued.[29][30] On May 16, 1922 his defense's motion to dismiss the indictments against Catts' bribery charges was accepted by the judge.[31] On July 21 he filed a petition of voluntary bankruptcy as he had $44,000 in liabilities and less than $2,000 in assets.[32] On November 20 he was acquitted by an all white jury for the involuntary servitude and bribery charges and the federal charges against him were later dropped.[33][34]

Shortly after he left office he became involved in a company with F. L. Jester and in September 1921, he was called before a superior court for questioning for his involvement in a fraudulent business.[35]

Catts ran for the Democratic nomination for governor in 1924 and 1928, but lost both times. During the 1928 presidential election he was one of the Democrats who supported Republican Herbert Hoover over Democratic Al Smith, who was Catholic.

On April 9, 1929, Catts was indicted by a federal grand jury in Jacksonville for aiding and abetting in counterfeiting money with multiple other people in a plan to distribute $1,000,000 in counterfeited money.[36][37] His first trial in October resulted in a mistrial and was acquitted at his second trial.[38]

On March 9, 1936, Catts died at his home in DeFuniak Springs, Florida. In 1979 the house he lived in from 1924 to 1936 was nominated as a historic place and was accepted.[39][40]

Electoral history

Sidney Johnston Catts electoral history
1916 Florida gubernatorial election
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Prohibition Sidney Johnston Catts 39,546 47.71% +45.52%
Democratic William V. Knott 27,946 36.61% -43.81%
Republican George W. Allen 10,333 12.47% +7.01%
Socialist C.C. Allen 2,470 2.98% -4.17%
Independent Noel A. Mitchell 193 0.23% -4.17%
Total votes '82,885' '100.00%'
1920 Florida Senate Democratic primary
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Duncan U. Fletcher (incumbent) 62,304 71.36%
Democratic Sidney Johnston Catts 25,007 28.64%
Total votes '87,311' '100.00%'
1924 Florida gubernatorial Democratic primary
Party Candidate Round 1 Round 2
Votes % Transfer Votes %
Democratic John W. Martin 55,715 37.98% + 17,339 73,054 59.71%
Democratic Sidney Johnson Catts 43,230 29.47% + 6,067 49,297 40.29%
Democratic Frank E. Jennings 37,962 25.88% - 37,962 Eliminated
Democratic Worth W. Trammell 8,381 5.71% - 8,381 Eliminated
Democratic Charles H. Spencer 1,408 0.96% - 1,408 Eliminated
Total votes 132,250 100.0%

References

  1. ^ "Know Your Governors". The Tampa Times. 20 July 1932. p. 9. Archived from the original on 31 December 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  2. ^ "Sidney J. Catts, Governor-Elect". Tallahassee Democrat. 2 January 1917. p. 3. Archived from the original on 31 December 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  3. ^ "Sidney Johnston Catts". The Palm Beach Post. 28 March 1917. p. 2. Archived from the original on 31 December 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  4. ^ "Former Governor Of Florida Dies". The Montgomery Advertiser. 10 March 1936. p. 3. Archived from the original on 31 December 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  5. ^ "Was Elected in 1917 On Prohibition Ticket, Served Until 1912". Tallahassee Democrat. 9 March 1936. p. 1. Archived from the original on 31 December 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  6. ^ "Mr. Catts Announces". The Montgomery Advertiser. March 27, 1904. p. 20. Archived from the original on July 18, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  7. ^ "The History of Florida:  Past & Present".
  8. ^ "THE GUNSLINGING GOVERNOR". South Florida Sun Sentinel. September 29, 1996. Archived from the original on July 18, 2020.
  9. ^ "Catts Addresses Voters". The Orlando Sentinel. October 29, 1904. p. 9. Archived from the original on July 18, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  10. ^ "Sidney J. Catts Announces For Congress Post". Pensacola News Journal. April 8, 1930. p. 1. Archived from the original on January 28, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  11. ^ "Catts Will Run For Congress". Tallahassee Democrat. March 9, 1929. p. 1. Archived from the original on January 28, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  12. ^ "Catts Snowed Under By Big Yon Majority". The Orlando Sentinel. June 5, 1930. p. 1. Archived from the original on January 28, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  13. ^ "Sidney J. Catts Gels In Race For Governor". Orlando Evening Star. 27 October 1914. p. 1. Archived from the original on 31 December 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  14. ^ "Sidney J. Catts: The Road to Power". JSTOR 30140376.
  15. ^ Krishnaiyer, Kartik (February 20, 2017). "A BRIEF HISTORY OF POLITICAL RACISM IN FLORIDA". The Florida Squeeze. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
  16. ^ "History of San Antonio, Pasco County, Florida". www.fivay.org.
  17. ^ Horgan, James J. (1990). Pioneer College: The Centennial History of Saint Leo College, Saint Leo Abbey, and Holy Name Priory. Saint Leo, FL. Saint Leo College Press. ISBN 978-0-945759-01-0
  18. ^ "Campbell's Theft". The Tampa Times. 24 April 1917. p. 4. Archived from the original on 31 December 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  19. ^ "Race riots at Millen, Ga". Buffalo Morning Express and Illustrated Buffalo Express. April 24, 1919. p. 9.
  20. ^ Colburn and Scher, Florida's Gubernatorial Politics, 222.
  21. ^ "Rumors of Sale Of Jobs, Pardons And Favors Be Traced". The Tampa Tribune. 15 April 1921. p. 1. Archived from the original on 31 December 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  22. ^ "Bill Passed In House To Probe Gov. Catts". Tampa Bay Times. 19 April 1921. p. 1. Archived from the original on 31 December 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  23. ^ "Catts Indicted; Took $700 Bribe to Pardon Murderer, Starke Grand Jury Claims". The Tampa Times. 6 May 1921. p. 1. Archived from the original on 31 December 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  24. ^ "Ex-Governor Is Reported On His Way To Bradford". Palatka Daily News. 11 May 1921. p. 1. Archived from the original on 31 December 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  25. ^ "New Warrants Out For Catts". The Palm Beach Post. 20 May 1921. p. 1. Archived from the original on 31 December 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  26. ^ "Catts When Arrested Says "My Enemies Won't Let Me Alone"". Tallahassee Democrat. 21 May 1921. p. 1. Archived from the original on 31 December 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  27. ^ "Catts To Speak In Macon July 4". Tallahassee Democrat. 21 May 1921. p. 1. Archived from the original on 31 December 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  28. ^ "Catts Is Confident He'll Be Acquitted". The Tampa Times. 19 August 1921. p. 1. Archived from the original on 31 December 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  29. ^ "Catts Is Indicted A Second Time On Charge of Peonage". The Tampa Times. 12 November 1921. p. 1. Archived from the original on 31 December 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  30. ^ "More Indictments Returned Against Sidney J. Catts". The Tampa Times. 14 November 1921. p. 1. Archived from the original on 31 December 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  31. ^ "Catts Indictment On Bribery Charge Was Quashed By The Court". Palatka Daily News. 16 May 1922. p. 1. Archived from the original on 31 December 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  32. ^ "Bankruptcy For Sidney J. Catts". The Orlando Sentinel. 22 July 1922. p. 1. Archived from the original on 31 December 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  33. ^ "Sidney J. Catts Acquitted Of Peonage Charge By Federal Court". Orlando Evening Star. 21 November 1922. p. 7. Archived from the original on 31 December 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  34. ^ "Sidney Catts Is No Longer Under Charge In Federal Court". News-Press. 21 November 1922. p. 1. Archived from the original on 31 December 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  35. ^ "Sidney Gets Nabbed Again". Tampa Bay Times. 21 August 1921. p. 1. Archived from the original on 31 December 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  36. ^ "Ex-Governor Accused Of Aiding Diaz". The Tampa Tribune. April 10, 1929. p. 1. Archived from the original on January 28, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  37. ^ "Ex-Governor Indicted". Tallahassee Democrat. April 18, 1929. p. 1. Archived from the original on January 28, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  38. ^ "Jurors Drawn For U.S. Court Criminal Term". The Tampa Tribune. February 3, 1930. p. 5. Archived from the original on January 28, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  39. ^ "Catts House Nominated" (PDF).
  40. ^ "National Register Of Historic Places Walton County Florida". Archived from the original on July 14, 2019.

Further reading

  • Flynt, Wayne. Cracker Messiah: Governor Sidney J. Catts of Florida. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State U. Pr., 1977. 359 pp.

External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
J. W. Bingham
Prohibition nominee for Governor of Florida
1916
Succeeded by
None
Political offices
Preceded by
Park Trammell
Governor of Florida
January 2, 1917 – January 4, 1921
Succeeded by
Cary A. Hardee
This page was last edited on 19 September 2020, at 02:52
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