The Vagabond – Turkeytown Charlie goes to Washington

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By Danny Crownover

Turkeytown native Char-les Edward Stewart retired as clerk of the United States District Court in Washington, D. C., on September 30, 1947 after having held the office for more than 11 years.

Stewart was educated in the public schools of Etowah County and Attalla and later the University of Kentucky.

Stewart was the son of Dr. Oscar Wilkinson Stewart, a noted pioneer physician of Etowah County who owned a plantation in Turkeytown that was later owned and operated by the Leek family and later by Dr. Ralls.

Before moving to Washington, Stewart was engaged in the iron mining business in Attalla with his brother Sam. Stewart finished his law studies and was admitted to the bar after he was appointed as assistant attorney general. Stewart had two sisters, Mrs. Mattie S. Coates of Gadsden and Mrs. D.H. Coates of Fort Worth, Texas. A widower, Stewart had one son, Colonel J.A. Stewart of the U.S. Army.

While he was custodian of the bankrupt steel plant, Stewart studied law and began writing humorous stories under the pen name of Bill Vines.

His articles attracted widespread attention, being printed exclusively in The Birmingham Age-Herald and The Mobile Press-Register.

Stewart’s articles attracted such a wide circle of readers that it was decided by the two papers to send him to Washington, D.C., as their special correspondent. Stewart was assigned to the White House in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson appointed him administrative assistant to the United States Attorney General.

It was well known in Washington that Stewart was an ardent Democrat, but in addition to serving under the Democrat Wilson, Stewart also severed under both Calvin Coolidge and Warren G. Harding, both Republicans.

In 1936, Hoover appointed Stewart as Clerk of the U.S. District Court, which at the time paid as much as a cabinet officer’s salary.

Stewart kept his job by filling it as it should be filled and by retaining the confidence and the esteem of his superiors. He was sent on many confidential missions after World War I, and, in both this country and abroad, his ability was recognized by judges, presidents and others who came in official contact with him.

Stewart is buried at Forrest Cemetery in Gadsden.

Contact The Vagabond at dkcrown@bellsouth.net.

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