Page images

The case of Crockett v. Doriot, 85 Virginia, held that where a married woman gave her note for merchandise, and after the execution thereof acquired lands, the lands were not liable for the payment of the note.

By an act approved March 7, 1900, the Legislature destroyed whatever force these decisions may have had, by placing the wife on the same plane with the husband in reference to her estate.

General Walker's success in defending criminals was phenomenal. He defended many a man charged with the greatest crime known to the law, and his boast was that he had never had a client hung. He came near breaking his excellent record in this respect in the case of the Commonwealth v. Robert L. Tilley, which was tried in Carroll county. Tilley, a strong, active young man, was indicted for the murder of his paramour, Louisa Haynes. The circumstances were very suspicious, and the feeling against the accused was intense. General Walker was retained to defend him. With all the ardor of his soul he believed the evidence was not sufficient to convict his client. Upon the trial, however, Tilley was found guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced to be hanged. On a writ of error the case went to the Supreme Court, where it was affirmed by a court of three judges. See Tilley's Case, 89 Virginia. General Walker obtained a rehearing, and when the case came on to be heard before the full bench, the judgment of the lower court was reversed, and the case sent back for a new trial. So it will thus be observed that Tilley, by the Virginia Reports, has been hung and has not been hung, a distinction enjoyed, perhaps, by no other man. He owed his escape to the great ability and zeal of his faithful couusel.

In the latter part of the year 1893, the courthouse at Newbern, the county seat of Pulaski county, was destroyed by fire. At once, there arose the cry from certain sections of the county, remove the courthouse to Pulaski, because of its better location. Feeling ran high between the contending factions. The friends of removal secured an act from the Legislature authorizing a vote. This vote resulted favorably to Pulaski. The friends of Newbern appealed to the courts. The legal battle was a long and bitter one. General Walker, in conjunction with Judge A. A. Phlegar, appeared for Pulaski. They won their case in the Supreme Court, and the courthouse was removed to Pulaski. See Ingles v. Straus, 91 Va.

There are but few Virginians living who will soon forget the unfortunate real estate "boom" of 1891. After its collapse, cases against the corporations sprang up all over the State. The case of the Max Meadows Land & Improvement Co. v. Brady, 92 Virginia, was one of the first of such cases to reach the Supreme Court General Walker was counsel in this case against the company. In an opinion by Judge Keith, unusually strong and clear in its reasoning, the doctrine was established that the numerous high flown advertisements issued by such companies were expressions of opinion, and not representations of fact. This case put to sleep forever a large proportion of the boom cases throughout the Commonwealth.

The case of Spence & Neff v. Norfolk and Western Railroad Co., 92 Virginia, in which General Walker appeared as counsel, decided an important principle. The suit was by consignors to recover of the railroad company the value of certain produce shipped by them and which was damaged in transitu. The defense was, that the consignors had parted with all their interest in the goods and, therefore, could not maintain their suit. The Supreme Court held that a consignor who has made a special contract with the carrier to carry the goods, whether he has any interest in them or not, or who has any interest or property in the goods, general or special, may maintain an action against the carrier for their loss or damage if not delivered in a reasonable time.

One of the most interesting legal combats in which General Walker was ever engaged was that of the Commonwealth v. H. G. Wadley, president of the late Wytheville Insurance and Banking Company. In 1893, on the motion of a creditor, a receiver was appointed for the company by the United States


Circuit Court, and the cause very soon referred to a commissioner. In the progress of the account before the commissioner it was developed that a large amount of the moneys and assets of the company had been abstracted by the president. Accordingly, the grand jury for Wythe county, on the 16th of May, 1897, found an indictment against Wadley for the alleged embezzlement. Very soon thereafter Judge Goff, of the United States Circuit Court, on the bill of Wadley, granted an injunction restraining the Commonwealth's Attorney for Wythe county and others, from prosecuting the indictment. In an able article on the subject to be found in 1 Virginia Law Register, 79, General Walker vigorously combated the right of a Federal judge to enjoin a prosecution in a State court, and he lived long enough to see his views fully vindicated by the Supreme Court of the United States, where the decision of Judge Goff was reversed. See 172 U.S., 1419.

. Not one-tenth of the cases in which General Walker appeared as counsel before the highest court of his State have been referred to in this article. Such a task would be impossible. Frequently when the court met in its annual session, at Wytheville, he would appear in as many as twenty or more cases during the term, and he always argued them with masterful ability. He also appeared as counsel in Hall's Case, in Montgomery county; in Feagle's Case, Pulaski county; in White's Case, Washington county, all noted criminal cases, and in many others that never found their way to the Supreme Court.

General Walker was a great lawyer. He had few equals, and no superior at the Virginia Bar. He easily ranked as a practitioner with such contemporaries as William J. Robertson, Waller R. Staples and Edward C. Burks.

“He waived his scepter o'er his kind

By nature's first great charter, mind.”'

As honest with his clients as a Roman judge, le realized in the language of Bacon, that "the greatest trust between man and man is the trust of giving counsel.” With an energy that knew no bounds, with a capacity for work that knew no limit, with ability of the highest order, he overcame all obstacles, and often snatched victory from defeat.

General Walker was nominated soon after the close of the war for Lieutenant-Governor, was twice elected to the Legislature, was several times a prominent candidate for Governor, was elected to the Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth Congresses, and four times received the unanimous nomination of his party for this high office.

Commanding and martial in his bearing, he possessed a striking and charming personality, and justly had a host of friends all over the “Old Dominion.” His nature was intense, and if he had enemies, which every man of strong convictions will have, all animosity seemed to have been buried with him on the day he was quietly laid to rest in the cemetery. His funeral was the largest ever seen in Wytheville, his friends and neighbors from far and near uniting in paying respect to the memory of a just, a fearless and a noble man.

“Oh, fall’n at length, that tower of strength,

Which stood four square to all the winds that blew."

Wytheville, Va.


« PreviousContinue »