TexasEscapes.comTexas Escapes Online Magazine: Travel and History
Columns: History, Humor, Topical and Opinion
Over 1800 Texas Towns & Ghost Towns
NEW : : TEXAS TOWNS : : GHOST TOWNS : : TEXAS HOTELS : : FEATURES : : COLUMNS : : ARCHITECTURE : : IMAGES : : SITE MAP : : SEARCH SITE
HOME
SEARCH SITE
ARCHIVES
RESERVATIONS
Texas Hotels
Hotels
Cars
Air
Cruises
 
 Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical

COURTROOM STORYTELLERS

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman
Because they've seen the best and worst of humanity, lawyers are among our best storytellers.

When Joe Tonahill of Jasper passed away a few years ago,
East Texas not only lost a great attorney, but a skilled yarn-spinner. Many of his stories were in the courtrooms where he achieved his fame.

Years ago Tonahill was trying a railroad crossing case in which a train struck a car. The principal witness was an elderly man with a wooden leg. Tonahill asked him:"Well, did you see the wreck when the train ran over the car and killed my client's son?"

The witness replied: "Yeah, I came out of the house when it happened."

Tonahill continued: "Well, tell us about it."

The man said: "Well, I got an old blue tick hound and he lays on the front porch and listens for the train. It can be a mile away and he feels the vibrations, and he knows its coming. If the train blows a whistle and it rings a bell, my dog will answer it. On that day, it didn't and my old dog sure was disappointed."

With that, the defense attorney jumped to his feet and objected: "Judge, we're having to listen to hearsay from a dog."


Tonahill was trying another railroad crossing case and was questioning the train's elderly engineer.

He asked him: "Do you think the reason my client didn't see the engine was that the railroad had failed to cut the brush on the right-of-way and it blinded you?"

The engineer thought a minute and replied: "Either that or these damned cataracts I got."

Tonahill also told the story about a laywer named Spivey who had won a case and the jurors had been dismissed. As the jurors filed out of the courtroom, one remained in his seat. The judge reminded him the case had been settled.

The juror replied: "I can't leave, judge. I'm Mr. Spivey's juror."


In another case, Tonahill was defending the accused in a Newton County murder case. The man had killed another by slicing him in the jugular vein. Before the trial, the man was being prepared by Tonahill.

"Now, Ernest," he began, "we're getting ready to go to trial and I want to ask you again. When you were in this fight, you accidentally cut this guy with your knife. Is that right?"

Ernest replied, OOh, no, lawyer, that was no accident. I've killed too many hogs. When I heard that big thing (the jugular viein) go errrcccch, I knew I had him."

Tonhill replied, "Now, Ernest, if you tell it that way, you'll ride ol' sparky."

Ernest thought a minute and replied: "Lawyer, let me tell you about that accident."


Years before Tonahill rose to promience, J.J. Collins of Lufkin was one of the best courtroom attorneys in Texas. He, too, was a remarkable storyteller.

In a Lufkin courthouse, Collins was prosecuting a murder case in which a man named Hosea was killed. In a dramatic case, the defendant's lawyer walked to the courtroom window, looked toward the heavens, and called out in a somber voice: "Oh, Hosea."

The courtroom became very quiet and the lawyer said, "No answer." He repeated the scene twice and the atmosphere became increasingly dramatic. At that point, Collins addressed his fellow lawyer: "Counselor, you'll have to holler a little louder. Hosea can't hear you down there."
All Things Historical > September 1, 2003 column
A syndicated column in over 40 East Texas newspapers
This column is provided by the East Texas Historical Association as a public service.
(Bob Bowman of Lufkin is the author of 40 books about East Texas. He can be reached at bob-bowman.com)

More Texas Personalities
Related Topics:

Texas
East Texas
Texas Towns
Texas Ghost Towns


The Forgotten Towns of East Texas, Volume I
By Bob and Doris Bowman
66 stories about forgotten town in 45 counties
Order Here
 
HOME | TEXAS ESCAPES ONLINE MAGAZINE | TEXAS HOTELS
TEXAS TOWN LIST | TEXAS GHOST TOWNS | TEXAS COUNTIES

Texas Hill Country | East Texas | Central Texas North | Central Texas South | West Texas | Texas Panhandle | South Texas | Texas Gulf Coast
TRIPS | STATES PARKS | RIVERS | LAKES | DRIVES | MAPS

TEXAS FEATURES
Ghosts | People | Historic Trees | Cemeteries | Small Town Sagas | WWII | History | Black History | Rooms with a Past | Music | Animals | Books
COLUMNS : History, Humor, Topical and Opinion

TEXAS ARCHITECTURE | IMAGES
Courthouses | Jails | Churches | Gas Stations | Schoolhouses | Bridges | Theaters | Monuments/Statues | Depots | Water Towers | Post Offices | Grain Elevators | Lodges | Museums | Stores | Banks | Gargoyles | Cornerstones | Pitted Dates | Drive-by Architecture | Old Neon | Murals | Signs | Ghost Signs | Then and Now
Vintage Photos

TRAVEL RESERVATIONS | HOTELS | USA | MEXICO

Privacy Statement | Disclaimer | Recommend Us | Contributors | Staff | Contact TE
Website Content Copyright 1998-2008. Texas Escapes - Blueprints For Travel, LLC. All Rights Reserved
This page last modified: April 10, 2010