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The farmer and mechanic. [volume] (Raleigh, N.C.) 18??-19??, September 14, 1915, Image 9

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Last Federal Judge of the State of North Carolina
and First Judge of the Eastern District
By Hon. Francis D. Winston, and read by him on the occasion of
;r , presentation Monday night. September 6, by sons and daughters of
judge. Brooks, of a portrait of their father to the U. S. Court at Raleigh
a n d
r. it
'i'hf .'T.s and daughters of lion.
George W. Brooks, last federal Judge
f(,r the State of North Carolina and
i:rt j idfro of the eastern district, re
O.jtst that your Honor receive, for a
pMce 'n the. walla of thus court-room.
it, turned eowardlv from
slavery and was an
was educat-
this portrait of their honored father.
l is the work of one of the foremost
portrr.it painters of America.
They do me the very high honor of
rt trusting the presentation to me, and
for this honor I thank them. Our
fathers were friends of a life time,
b:u2 much in common of early
struggle, and of final success, and
were closely allied in legislative and
convention labors. Their children are
The artist has, with master strokes,
pla-ced on his canvass the face and
form of Judge Brooks, and as one
studies the portrait, the marked char
acteristics of the man are discovered,
order, decision of character, neatness,
reserve, fixedness of purpose, deter
mination, poise.
It is appropriate, and custom war
rants, that I should accompany this
request with a. sketch of his life, and
a tribute to his worth. I can speak
b;:t little from personal acquaintance.
I first saw Judge Brooks when he was
.1 member of the convention of 1865.
I appeared in his court but once, at
the last term held by him, and then
only for a formal entry of a consent
One who studies the life of another
uith whom his personal contact was
limited, must find his material in the
conversation of those who knew his
subject well, from traditions and from
what hits been published of him and
Ly him. Judge Brooks never spoke,
nor wrote, for publication. Those
who w-er actors with him have
mainly followed him. No lawyer is
living who over saw him at the bar.
If these sources of information are
scant, wo are fortunate in knowing
xhe pivotal points of his life and from
l hem we can see clearly the moving
causes of his conduct- The spot of
around on which a man is born, the
character and location of the school
he attends in youth; the environment
t his professional preparation, de
cidedly mark his habits and char
acter, and shape and control his con
duct. If these surroundings are uti
iisual, then their Impress is the more
certain and the more controlling.
In thee respects we have a striking
Illustration in the life of Judge
'ti rooks.
His hve of liberty was intense. He
"was bom in that atmosphere.
The colonial record of organized
Rovornment in North Carolina is of
a general assembly by the people of
Ihe colony near the home of Captain
Mecklefleld, which is now supposed
to have tn-en located near the present
ate of Nixonton, is Pasquotank
In his Grandfather's Tales." the
late CoL Richard lienbury Creecy
makes (lie following narrative in sup
tort of the tradition:
"Gen. Duncan McDonald, of Eden
ton, was my kinsman by marriage, a
good man, fond of children, indulgent
and libefal with them. He was a military-
man by training and position,
and his official business often called
hirn to distant places in his military
district. On one of these occasions he
was called to Elizabeth City to review
the militia of Pasquotank county. I
was to accompany' him. On the day
appointed we equipped ourselves with
a double rig and a nic stepping horse
and started on our day's journey. The
general was kind, chatty and com
ranionable. Towards evening we
crossed Hall's Creek bridge, in Pas
quotank county, half a mile from
Hecklefield farm, near Nixonton. On
rising the hill at Hall's Creek, the
general stripped the horse and said
to me:
" 'The first General Assembly of
North Carolina met under that tree
at the same time pointing to a large
oak tree on the left-hand side of the
road that towered above ths oaks
that surrounded it. Oen. McDonald
was a man of extensive information,
of liberal culture, and particularly
fond of antiquarian and historical
On the 11th day of June, 1910, at
Hall's Creek churcli, a memorial
tone Was set up with appropriate
ceremony, commemorative of the
pot pointed out by Gen. McDonald,
n which that assembly was held.
The inscription on the eton reads:
"Here was held the first Albemarle
Assembly, February 6. 1665, erected
hy the Sir Walter Raleigh Chapter,
daughters of the Revolution, June
11. 1S10."
Within a mile of this spot In a
Main country home, on the 16th day
of March, 1821, wai born George
Washington Brooks. How much the
historic tradition that enveloped the
Place of his birth entered Into his life,
s a matter for conjecture. It is a
fact that fifty years afterwards, he
Issued the great writ of English lib
erty when those who sacred duty it
was to issue
the task.
He opposed
advocate for peace. He
ed in those nrincir.iey
The Quaker element in our popula
tion was prominent in the early
settlement of Eastern North Carolina"
m the colonial period, in the revolu
tion and subsequently thereto up to
the half of the nineteenth century,
when negro slavery and the threats
of the war had much to do with the
emigration of our North Carolina
Quakers to Indiana and Illinois. Bel
videre, in Perquimans countv. still
remains representative of that "sturdy
people who made their distinctive im
press upon the character of that sec
tion. "The old time Quakers were a
sturdy, stalwart people conserva
tive, plain, direct in purpose and in
speech, averse to worldly vanities,
poised, prudent, undaunted by op
position, shrewd in trade, and thrifty
in buisiness." At Belvidere the
yuaners maintained a first-class
love as
f ri-r.'N
char.g. .
1 wi:!s
-v f.
f lib-
r ?
of his pre-
I r i i k s.
arid who
:h i-h;tr-
school conducted along the lines of
Under this
master. Cori:e W TV
entered as a student of the law
relation was the m. t o
confldential. He rea, h
failure of Mr. Kinney's h.-akh
Lnuer th.s association and
was natural thai a eon-un
for the union should take
of the young student, such '
neither local considerations,
example and beseeching .
near and dear to him rouh
It was a h've that in.cr-a
maturity of body and mind!"
We may well trace his it
erty to the place of his birth
oi ireeuum and oe.iro to rl
of his schooling and his
union to the atmosphere
fessional training.
His father was William C
born in the county of Gates,
was later a merchant of hi
acter in Elizabeth Citv. Th
was Catherine Davis, of
ount.., ueseeiioeu irom orave
patriotic revolutionary ancestry.
The boyhood of George W. 1 '.rooks
on his father's farm was marked bv
industry and intelligence in his tasK,
by obedience to his superiors and by
a love for reading. He was the fore
most student of his day at Belvidere
Academy. On leaving the ofiiee of
Mr. Kinney, he entered the law of
fice of John B. Ehringhaus and was
Mcensed by tlie Supreme Court to
practice in the county courts in 18 4f..
In 184 6 he received his superior court
ncepse. ne located in the county
seat of his native countv. He married
June 20, 18 50. Margaret Ann Gotten.
of Gates county. Their children were
William Costen Brooks, deceased. Dr.
George Costen Brooks, of Suffolk, Va..
James Costen Brooks, an attornev. of
Elizabeth City, Sallie Costen Brooks.
who married Harry W. West, of
Courtland, Va , and Maggie Costen
Brooks who married George W. Cobb.
ity. His devotion to
seen in his giving her
to each of their
n c v r a 1 1 :
fell it;!. i)
heart of th'
er-d their
' ro-.'irht t
:. Hm
a rr."re
ii?nent th
n; nt.
stii ran,
heard eijaaii-
erSIv John "
of : i:.. .-is;
r. .iL.-ht in i i
in tlie m !; r
! - re W i'.:
r-':i ti ,ie-t o
A I i eVe.s r
t!..lt Ae
. 1 e
- : t
U Ik
to th
deh -V
' :!-
1 1
s ! O Y 1
? 1
. I ,
. r !;.!: :
His utt.
' a r n t
he tn;. i n ta i r;e!
s. dej recatt d
aruuo! its f..t
a con t N
ruy. lie u
IS e l'ele e r
vetnid.;;e ro'ih
u opinions n .
ninait of tint
i Ve a I U ., s
tlllie. a
"1 o - 1 t S
l Ur.
- hi
! 4 .
!t :
a !a
. 1 1 r
is t i '
Hi -
Quaker life and characteristics. Here
young BrooKs spent two years at
Aiay we. not trace to the training
of these years in that surrounding his
conservatism, his directness, his bal
ance, his prudence, his aversion to
all forms of slavery whether of mind
or of body?
His devotion to the union was the
all absorbing sentiment of his being.
He opposed secession with all the in
tensity of his nature. He read law
with a New Englander.
ADout tne year iszu mere came
from Norwich, Conn., to Norfolk, Va
on his way to Mobile, Ala,, Charles
R. Kinney, a young man about
twenty-six years of age, destined, in
after years, to fill a place in the in
fluence, affections and bitter antago
nism of the Albemarle bar. There
happened in Norfolk at the same
time, Miles Gregory, a wealthy farm
er from Camden county, who was
stopping at the same hotel with the
young stranger and who in a chance
conversation found that he was seek
ing employment. The conversation
resulted in his making an engagement
with Mr. Kinney to go to Camden
county and teach the children of Mr.
Gregorv in his family. He went out
to Camden by boat through the Dis
mal Swamp canal, and took charge
of the Grecorv children as a member
of the household. While so engaged
he became acquainted with John H.
Bailev, a member of the Pasquotank
bar and afterwards judge of the
superior court. Mr. Bailey sympa
thized with the strutting, and soon
IUU11U UUt LHVT V om-iiiit-ni yjt- uui'o
Kinney; a poor man, ardent, ambi
tious, educated, with refined and noble
instincts, and everv inch a man. The
result of this friendship was the en
trance of vouns; Kinney as a student
tn the. law office of Mr. Bailey. He
made proficiency in his studies and
wsls admitted to the bar. He located
in Elizabeth City, and by his proves
slonal attainments. his superipi
natural gifts, and his impulsive and
chivalrous nature, he became con
spicuous with friend and foe. To
his friends he was sympathetic, faith
ful, loving, making himself part and
parcel of their joys and sorrows; to
his foes he was dauntless, unyielding,
firm, and a bold as a tiger with
fresh blood upon his teeth. He was
Imbued with the New Engiand theory
of our American g-overnment. and
was a firm adherent of the Webster
school of construing our constitution.
of Elizabeth (
his wife is best
maiden name
Mr. iioidks ..tis diligent arid atten
tive to the small business that comes
to the young lawyer. He was most
exemplary in his nabits at a time
wnen some dissipation was the rule
with his professional brethren. He
was faithful to his client's cause.
Diligence, attention, sobriety, faith
fulness, then. ts ever, put him to
the front and in a few years lie had
profitable practice. Unlike most of
the lawyers of his day he did not
ride the full circuit- He found work
more profitable and life more con
genial in his office and in his home.
His pleadings were clear and concise.
His method of trial direct and con
versational. He made clear state
ments to judge and jury, rather than
heated orations. He had a discrimi
nating judgment, that was seldom at
fault. His mind was of the judicial
cast. He thoroughly weighed and
examined every question in golden
scales. He had courage of his convic
tions and an opinion once deliberate
ly formed reached the verge of ob
stinacy, yet in times of stress and trial
to his friends and to his community
he was the "strong staff" on which
they leaned for guidance and support.
Physically and morally he shrank
from no responsibility. He was thor
oughly brave and of inflexible inte
grity. He was a conspicuous repre
sentative of that type of men, now
so rare, who are lntiexioie to in
and obstinately just." In him that
noble quality was unquestioned and
unquestionable. With him the love
of the Union was a passion, an ab
sorbing sentiment, which gave color
to every act of his public life- it
triumphed over party. It triumphed
over policy. It brought him into
close relation with those who differed
with him in all else. It estrangeed
him from those bound to him by the
most sacred ties of friendship who
agreed with him in all else save that.
In 1852 he was elected a member
of the House of Representatives from
Pasquotank county. His service was
honorable and was approved by his
people. He never again sought po
litical preferment. He was a mem
ber of the Methodist Episcopal
church and a Master Mason.
George W. Brooks was not always
in accord with the popular sentiment
in the community in which he lived
nor with the friends with whom he
was intimatee; but no man ever ques
tioned the honesty, or sincerity of his
convictions. It was this deep im
pression of his absolute honesty that
enabled him sometimes to maintain
his opinion in the face of a storm of
popular sentiment that would have
swept most other men before it. In
an able editorial announcing the
death of Judge Brooks, his intimate
friend. Col. R. B. Creecy, wrote in
his paper, the Economist:
"At the outbreak of the late civil
war between the States this commu
nity and section were greatly divided
upon the questions at issue and upon
the policy of a resort to violent meas
ures. The antagonism oi tne oio
parties was still active and in the
presence of imminent danger the lead
ers stood apart. In this condition
OI tilings nevs cuaue to mr io,4l
through the Baltimore papers that
a conflict had occurred in the streets
of Baltimore between a Massachu
setts regiment and the citizens in
which blood had been shed on both
sides. It fired the public mind and
a public meeting was arranged for
the next day in the court house. It
was made the occa-sion to harmonize
conflicting opinions. Leading repre
sentative men of eve-ry phase of opin
ion were invited to be present and
address the assemblage. We have
and calmly
le .o
intt r:
sie. !:-;;
d op . ! i K ,n
arms and
so U:;e;-;ul
d his MHt
patiently. ;
in that as
in utter;;.:
with the .
conduct at that tune. aith
opinions i e t
At the close of ti;,. war
of North Carolina held a
:u convention ior t M pur
justing the State to th
Union. The States were
one and indissoluble,
and fr iend -. the peoph
county, instinctively
:r !!i;-;-ship in the
IS'".;-,, which convened
tolu'r L'nd. Amomr
were fw who had origin
fu -i ssion and none w ho
mit'ly associated with t'
pariy. Most of the me
o!d -Willi's, Who Willi" o
:fssion r.:id mhmittrd t
the ma'or-'y a-, expre.'...
cession "onv t.thm e-'
th-iri v. ' i number of .'. .
v.': ?r: : of the p-:.
fore a a,', .nrinc the w a
oi in - vroer; r.t.na;:'
'' ') c ."a t e v..".' rauer to -to
its i or ma I relation u .
eral government. This
peared as the session las
The prime struggle
was in dealing with th
May, 161. That mat
else progressed with
The two constitutional
sharply arrayed. The
a i
i v.
1 !l
1 to
oi d
p i S e
to .
hi r
called, him
eonver.T a :
in Bah
t S
t j e
." r
t hat
i na to
ill frit-
ir.anee '.!:-
ally adopted declared "that the oidin
ance of the convention of th S.ate
of North Carolina ratified on the
21st day of November. ITS'4. hioh
adopted the constitution of the bnite.i
States, and also all acts and parts of
acts of the General Assembly r-,t:fy-ing
and adopting nmoiplim nts to the
said constitution are now and at all
Jimes since the adoption and ratifica
tion thereof, have been in full force
and effect, notwithstanding the ordin
ance of the L'Oth day of May. 1S61.
declaring that the same "be repealed,
rescinded and abrogated," and the
said supposed ordinance, is now and
hath been at all times null and void."
The vote on its final adoption was 54
in the atirmative and 20 in the nega
tive. Of course Brooks voted with
the majority. The teaching and con
viction of his life found clear and de
finite expression in that vote. Ha
voted as did every other member, for
the ordinance abolishing slavery'- 1
do not find that he took part in the
debates on either of these ordinances.
He spoke with force and feeling fa
voring the ordinance repudiating the
State debt incurred in aid of the war
measures- On April 2 3. 1361. Hen.
Asa Biggs, the United States District
Judge for the. State of North Caro
lina, had resigned to President Lin
coln and surrendered his comminlon.
His resignation was couched In nolnt
ed and dramatic language. North
Carolina was the first of the ?ecedir.jr
States to re-establish it e relatlcna
with the Federal government, and the
first of those Statese In which thy
Federal courts were opened. Presi
dent Johnson tendered the appoint
ment to the vacant judge-hip to Tlon
Robert P.. Dick. He was not
able to take the oath of oftro
required by law as provided ti
the Act of Congress of March 2, 1S62.
President Johns-. n then appointed
Hon. Geortre W. Brooks to the va
cancy. His nomination was quickly
confirmed and he was commissioned
January 22. 1 S 0 6. He waa the a.
Federal -fudge for the whole State,
It is coincidence that later, the Stat
was divided into the present district
and both he and Judge Dick were ar
the same time United States DiHtrlct
Judges. His entrance upon the duties
of the bench was during a period oi
unrest and of abnormal conditions.
"U'o V,ui.l inst etnereed from, a t
War and found the court system
the Union greatly enlarged. N
principles had been invoked to et-
! Vi1.
O i.
it and new
increasing power extremely
ular. The name Federal"
then i r good repute among
court as well as the law wa.
favor with the people. But it
served for Judge i;r. M:-- to
r-r..-.T- 1 li c e. nrt in the ' '(
fellow citizens and
'iia.ii -
u r : ;
w '. s
the '
m a V. e
A t
r o
name dear to Xf popular n'-un .
native Stat-. Tn the administt
of the criminal law he was ever j
seeking at all times to uphold and
force it. but never permittir.tr it to
made an instrument of oppress;
and r.evtr allowing the court to
converted into machinery to ad', a
IJ .
. wn
-n -h
(Continued on Paue Twenty.)
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