A Matter of Justice
Judge William G. Langford and Attorney and Dr. Eleutheros A. Clark
Discuss 1892 Court Reform Proposals
Professor Clark Colahan (left) and Judge Donald Schacht portray Dr. E.A. Clark and Judge William G. Langford
Walla Walla County Superior Court Judge Donald Schacht and Retired Whitman College Professor of Spanish Clark Colahan portry Judge Langford and Dr. Clark in a Living History performance.
Professor Colahan is the Great Great Grandson of Dr. E. A. Clark, for whom he was named.
William G. Langford
William G. Langford was the last Territorial Justice of the Washington Territorial Supreme Court to serve in Walla Walla County, which comprised the first judicial district of Washington Territory.
Justice Langford was appointed as Territorial Justice by President Grover Cleveland on December 3, 1885, to replace his friend, the retiring Justice Samuel C. Wingard.
Born in Ohio in 1835, Langford crossed the Great Plain to Oregon and began his study of the law under J.S.D. Shattuck of Portland, considered an excellent attorney in his day. Langford continued his studies in the office of Judge P.A. Markham.
After serving in the Indian wars of the 1850s he began practicing law in Vancouver, Washington Territory, where he remained until 1862. The next year, he was appointed prosecuting attorney for the first judicial district (Walla Walla County) and subsequently moved to Walla Walla, then only in its first year as an incorporated city.
In 1864, Langford served in the Territorial Legislative Council, but soon moved on to Washington, D.C., Mississippi, and San Francisco, practicing law in each location. He returned briefly to Washington Territory before moving again to Lewiston, Idaho, and finally back to Walla Walla. He served as Walla Walla’s City Attorney until his appointment at age 50 the Federal bench.
Justice Langford was a staunch Democrat and at the time of his appointment, enjoyed the full support of the Democratic Party and most of his fellow lawyers. The Territorial Judiciary was not a non-partisan position; appointments generally followed the party line of each successive presidential administration, with Justices serving at the pleasure of the President.
Justice Langford was a highly respected lawyer in his day, with wide legal experience. He was able to practice law in Oregon, Washington Territory, California and elsewhere. He was seen by both his colleagues and the citizenry as honorable, capable, possessing a deep knowledge of the law, and was esteemed in bi-partisan support.
When recommendations were solicited by President Cleveland for Justice Winegard’s successor, Langford’s name was the only one put forth. Langford served on the Territorial Supreme Court from December 1885 until Washington achieved statehood in 1889. At that time, he moved to Spokane and was elected to the Spokane County Superior Court bench, where he served until his death at age 58 in 1893.
As a Justice, Langford was a strict constructionist on interpretation of the law. He was considered to be an aggressive advocate for his clients and a formidable legal opponent. His cases were painstakingly prepared and he presented all relevant issues to the judge or jury. Langford believed the court should decide cases on the merits rather than procedural niceties or a desire to avoid controversy.
As an orator, Langford’s speeches tended toward the philosophical, yet he would address all issues presented. At times he seemed purposeful to the point of tedium in his lawyerly presentations and judicial deliberations. Above all, he was seen as good natured, with good humor and an incisive wit. While disinclined to insult others, he remembered those aspersions directed toward him and, when necessary, was capable of strong, biting language. Even his critics noted him as a fair judge of the law, as well as a good lawyer familiar with the law.
Eleutheros Americus Clark was raised by his grandfather, William Clark, a judge in Eden County, Ohio. E.A., as he was known among his peers (though called 'Old Crooked Jaw’ by his family), went to California during the gold rush, helped found the Republican Party of Lincoln in San Jose, then homesteaded for a decade on San Simeon Creek in San Luis Obispo County. Following that, he returned to San Jose, where in addition to practicing medicine, law, and real estate he served as Superintendent of Public Schools and Post Master.
E. A. Clark
Image courtesy of Clark Colahan
Always in favor of thoughtful reform in any socialOn Sunday, October 24, Judge Langford meets attorney and medical doctor E.A. Clark, who is making a fictional trip through Walla Walla in 1892. Both Clark and Langford practiced law in the San Francisco area and may have been aware of one another.
Clark advocated justice-seeking, forward-looking changes in the way law was practiced at that time in the American West. He often aired his ideas as an editorial writer for a major newspaper, the San Jose Mercury, and in articles in the prestigious San Francisco intellectual journal, The Overland Monthly and Out West Magazine, whose contributors included Mark Twain and other well-known writers. In 1892, Dr. Clark had recently published a substantial article entitled "The Administration of Law," arguing how the legal profession needed to be improved.
In this performance, Dr. Clark visits Walla Walla and is looked up by Judge Langford, whose curiosity has been piqued by the article in Overland Monthly and reports by other local lawyers of Clark's unconventional views published in the Mercury.
The two men converse, comparing the law as it is practiced in San Jose and Walla Walla, with emphasis on common abuses by members of the bar and what should be done about them. The late nineteenth century in the West was a time and place where lawyers, witnesses and judges were physically attacked, sometimes fatally, when the circumstances became aggravating enough.
E.A. was raised by his grandfather, William Clark, a judge in Eden County, Ohio. EA went to California during the gold rush, helped found the Republican Party of Lincoln in San Jose, then homesteaded for a decade on San Simeon Creek in San Luis Obispo County. Following that, he returned to San Jose, where in addition to practicing medicine, law, and real estate he served as Superintendent of Public Schools and Post Master.
References to Walla Walla were not uncommon in the San Jose Mercury throughout the period, but nothing indicates that E.A. ever passed through this area. He did keep in touch with Oregon happenings, though. Being a strong supporter of women's suffrage, he arranged for Abigail Scott Duniway, who along with Susan B. Anthony visited Walla Walla to campaign for women’s voting rights, to lecture in San Jose.
The Museum is located in Fort Walla Walla Park along Myra Road in Walla Walla. Museum hours are 10 am - 5 pm daily, April 1 through October 31; hours are 10 am - 4 pm daily November 1 through December 23 and weekdays 10 am - 4 pm, January 2 through March 31. Admission is free to members, children under 6, and through a reciprocal agreement Tamástslikt Cultural Institute's Inwai Circle cardholders and enrolled members of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation; $3 for children ages 6-12; $6 for seniors (62+) and students; and $7 for adults. Your admission cost can be applied to a membership, which includes free admission to all Living History performances, priced beginning at $27.
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