David S. Terry

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David S. Terry
David S. Terry.jpg
4th Chief Justice of California
In office
September 18, 1857 – September 12, 1859
Preceded byHugh Murray
Succeeded byStephen J. Field
Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court
In office
November 15, 1855 – September 17, 1857
Appointed byDirect election
Preceded byCharles Henry Bryan
Succeeded byWarner Cope
Personal details
Born(1823-03-08)March 8, 1823
Russellville, Kentucky, United States
DiedAugust 14, 1889(1889-08-14) (aged 66)
Lathrop, California, United States
Cause of deathGunshot wound
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)
Cornelia Runnels
(m. 1852; death 1884)

(m. 1886)
RelationsBenjamin Franklin Terry (brother)
ProfessionAttorney, politician
Military service
AllegianceUnited States United States of America
 Confederate States of America
Branch/serviceCavalryBC.png United States Cavalry
 Confederate States Army
RankConfederate States of America Colonel.png Colonel
UnitTexas 8th Texas Cavalry
Commands37th Texas Cavalry
Battles/warsMexican–American War
U.S. Civil War

David Smith Terry (1823–1889) was a Californian jurist and Democratic politician, who was the fourth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of California,[1][2][3] and an author of the Constitution of 1879. He also won a duel with U.S. Senator David C. Broderick in Broderick's second duel in 1859. Terry died on August 14, 1889, when he was shot by Deputy US Marshal David Neagle after he attacked Associate Supreme Court Justice Stephen J. Field.

Early life[edit]

Terry was born in Todd County, Kentucky.[4][5] In 1831, his family moved and settled in Brazoria County, Texas, until Terry himself moved to California in 1849.[6] There, he read law, joined the bar and was active in Democratic Party politics.[7]

Represents Widow Sanchez[edit]

In 1855, he took up the cause of the "Widow Sanchez".[8] Maria Encarnacion Ortega de Sanchez, the widow of a wealthy rancher, was being cheated by local authorities, including the Sheriff, William Roach, who took her fortune under the guise of guardianship. After kidnapping Roach with the help of a local gunslinger named Anastacio Garcia, they held Roach in a jail cell in Stockton until he agreed to release the widow's gold. But Roach had bribed a guard to ride to Monterey and urge Roach's family to hide the gold. The treasure was hidden somewhere in Carmel Valley by Roach's brother-in-law, Jerry MacMahon. MacMahon was killed in a barroom brawl before he could reveal the location of the money.

Public office[edit]

In August 1855, he was nominated by the American State Party, or Know Nothings, for the short term remaining on the seat held by Alexander Wells, and won the election.[9][10][11] From November 15, 1855, to September 12, 1859, he was a California State Supreme Court Justice, serving as the 4th Chief Justice of California from September 18, 1857.[12]

In 1856, the State of California declared San Francisco to be in a state of insurrection.[13] Judge Terry traveled from Sacramento to San Francisco to negotiate, where he was kidnapped by armed gunmen.[14] Terry was a big man, known for his physical strength and for his skill with the Bowie knife he routinely carried in a sheath under his coat.[15] He stabbed Sterling A. Hopkins, a member of the San Francisco Committee of Vigilance, who survived. Terry was tried and convicted by the Committee of Vigilance, but released, "the usual punishments in their power to inflict, not being applicable, in the present instance."[16][17]

On January 8, 1858, Chief Justice Terry administered the oath of office at the inauguration of Governor John B. Weller.[18]

Kills U.S. Senator David Broderick[edit]

On June 25, 1859, the California Democratic Party state convention nominated Warner Cope for Supreme Court over Terry.[19][20] Although Terry was a close friend of Democratic U.S. Senator from California David Broderick, Terry accused Broderick, a Free Soil advocate, of having engineered Terry's loss for nomination for re-election in the 1859 state elections.[21][22]

Terry made inflammatory comments at a state convention in Sacramento, which offended Broderick.[23]

On September 13, 1859, Terry and Broderick, having agreed to a duel, met just outside San Francisco city limits.[24] Terry won the coin toss to select weapons and chose pistols.[25][26] Broderick's discharged early, leaving him open for Terry's shot.[24] At first Terry thought that he had only wounded Broderick, but the senator died three days later.[27][28] The day before the duel, Terry had resigned as Chief Justice on September 12, 1859.[12]

In June 1860, Terry was acquitted of murder.[29][30][31][32] In November 1862, he campaigned for the Breckenridge Democratic Party. But by March 1863 he left the state for Texas.[33][34][35] He fought during the American Civil War, serving in the 8th Texas Cavalry Regiment of the Confederate States Army. The unit was raised by his brother Benjamin Franklin Terry and was also known as Terry's Texas Rangers. Terry later became Colonel of the 37th Texas Cavalry Regiment and was wounded at the Battle of Chickamauga.[36] In November 1865, after the war was over, he moved to a ranch at Guadalajara, near Mazatlan, Mexico.[37][38]

In 1869, Terry came back to Nevada,[39] and by 1870 returned to Stockton and engaged in private practice.[40][41][42][43][44] From March 1878 to March 1879, he was a delegate from San Joaquin County, California, to the state Constitutional Convention.[45][46][47] Terry was chair of the Committee on Legislative Department, and his proposed language on bank directors' liability to depositors was adopted.[48][49]

In August 1879, the Democratic Party nominated Terry for California Attorney General.[50][51] The nomination triggered criticism of his record of dueling with Broderick and fighting for the Confederacy.[52][53] Terry lost the election to Republican Augustus L. Hart.[54]

Weds Althea Hill[edit]

Sarah Althea Hill

In the 1880s, Terry became entangled in a volatile public scandal. Thirty year old Sarah Althea Hill had been the mistress of 60 year old silver millionaire and former U.S. Senator William Sharon. When he ended the relationship and took up with another woman, she sued for divorce, claiming adultery.[55]

Sharon countersued, claiming that the marriage contract she provided was a forgery, and that they had never married. Hill wanted a share of Sharon's wealth.[55] The court ruled that the marriage contract was a forgery. Terry appealed the ruling to the United States Supreme Court.[56] After Sharon died on November 13, 1885, Althea married Terry on January 7, 1886 in Stockton. She produced a will that she said she found in Sharon's desk which gave her all of his assets.[57] United States Supreme Court Justice Stephen J. Field, a former friend of Broderick's, heard the case in 1888 as the senior justice of the Federal circuit court in California.[58]

Associate Supreme Court Justice Stephen Field

On September 3, 1888, Field delivered the final Circuit Court opinion. He ruled that the will was a forgery. Sarah Althea Hill suddenly stood up, screamed obscenities at the judge, and fumbled in her handbag for her revolver. When Marshal John Franks and others attempted to escort her from the courtroom, attorney Terry rose to defend his wife and drew his Bowie knife.[59][60] He hit Franks, knocking out a tooth, and the marshals drew their handguns. Spectators subdued Terry and led him out of the courtroom, where he pulled his Bowie knife and threatened all around him. David Neagle was among the Marshals present and put his pistol in Terry's face. Both Terrys were subdued and placed under arrest. Justice Field had them returned to the courtroom and sentenced both to jail for contempt of court. David Terry got six months in jail, and Sarah Terry got one month.[61][62][63]

While being transported to jail and while serving their sentences, Terry and his wife repeatedly threatened Judge Field. The Terrys suffered several more setbacks. Both David and Althea were indicted by a federal grand jury on criminal charges arising out of their behavior in the courtroom before Justice Field. In May 1889, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the order that invalidated Althea Terry's marriage contract with Senator Sharon. Then, in July, with only one of the four judges who had earlier ruled in their favor, the California Supreme Court reversed itself. It ruled that because Althea Terry and Sharon had kept their alleged marriage a secret, they were never legally married. While in jail or shortly afterward, pregnant Althea suffered a miscarriage.[64][62]

Killed attacking judge[edit]

A year later, on August 14, 1889, David Terry and Field were on the same train headed to San Francisco when it stopped at the train station in Lathrop for breakfast.[65] Terry slapped Field in the face.[66] Field's bodyguard, Deputy United States Marshal David B. Neagle, fearing that Terry was reaching for the Bowie knife he was known to carry in his breast pocket, shot and killed Terry.[67] Neagle was arrested by San Joaquin County Sheriff Tom Cunningham on a charge of murder.[68] The United States attorney general secured the release of Neagle on a writ of habeas corpus. The issue was resolved by In re Neagle, 135 U.S. 1 (1890), a United States Supreme Court decision that determined that the United States Attorney General had authority to appoint U.S. Marshals as bodyguards to Supreme Court Justices, and that Federal law superseded state law.

David S. Terry is buried at Stockton Rural Cemetery in Stockton.

Wife declared insane[edit]

The widow Sarah Terry gradually went insane. She wandered the streets of San Francisco aimlessly, ignoring her appearance. She constantly talked to "spirits," especially that of her husband. She was diagnosed with “dementia praecox,” an early term for schizophrenia. On March 2, 1892, she was found insane and committed at age 33 to the California Asylum at Stockton, where she lived for 45 years until her death.[69][70][71][72][73] She is buried in the same grave as her husband. Terry's first wife, Cornelia Runnels, who died in December 1884, is also buried next to him.

In popular media[edit]

In 1963, Brad Dexter was cast as Justice Terry, with Carroll O'Connor as Senator Broderick, in "A Gun Is Not a Gentleman" on the syndicated television anthology series, Death Valley Days, hosted by Stanley Andrews. Though past allies as Democrats, Terry, a defender of slavery, challenged the anti-slavery Broderick to a duel.[74]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ Journal: Appendix. Reports - Volume 8. California Legislature. 1887. p. 10. Retrieved January 14, 2016. David S. Terry David Smith Terry Chief Justice of California.
  3. ^ Lawson, Kristan; Rufus, Anneli (2013). California Babylon. St. Martin's Press. p. 196. ISBN 978-1466854147. Archived from the original on June 24, 2016. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
  4. ^ Shuck, Oscar Tully (1889). Bench and Bar in California: History, Anecdotes, Reminiscences. Occident Printing. p. 281. Archived from the original on April 6, 2016. Retrieved January 14, 2016. David S. Terry David Smith Terry Chief Justice of California.
  5. ^ "ABA Journal". ABA Journal. Vol. 43 no. 5. May 1957. p. 416. Archived from the original on May 11, 2016. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
  6. ^ Fullmore, Zachary Taylor (1915). "The History and Geography of Texas as Told in County Names". E. L. Steck Press. p. 259. Archived from the original on May 6, 2016. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
  7. ^ "San Joaquin Intelligence". Daily Alta California. 3 (60). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 1 March 1852. p. 7. Archived from the original on 25 September 2017. Retrieved September 25, 2017. David S. Terry, Esq., volunteered his services as assistant counsel.
  8. ^ Boessenecker, John (2012). Bandido: The Life and Times of Tiburcio Vasquez. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 58–60. ISBN 978-0806183169. Retrieved September 26, 2017.
  9. ^ "The Fortnight's News, The State". Daily Alta California. 6 (163). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 30 June 1855. p. 1. Archived from the original on 26 September 2017. Retrieved September 25, 2017.
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  11. ^ "American Mass Meeting". Daily Alta California. 6 (219). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 5 September 1855. p. 2. Archived from the original on 25 September 2017. Retrieved September 25, 2017.
  12. ^ a b Johnson, J. Edward (1963). History of the California Supreme Court: The Justices 1850-1900, vol 1 (PDF). San Francisco, CA: Bender Moss Co. pp. 52–61. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 27, 2016. Retrieved August 14, 2017.
  13. ^ "Excitement in San Francisco". Marysville Daily Herald (212). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 3 June 1856. p. 2. Archived from the original on 26 September 2017. Retrieved September 25, 2017.
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  21. ^ "News of the Morning". Sacramento Daily Union. 17 (2575). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 28 June 1859. p. 2. Archived from the original on 28 September 2017. Retrieved September 28, 2017. The remark made by Mr. Broderick about Judge Terry probably originated in some exceedingly personal and bitter remarks made by the latter before the Lecompton State Convention, in reference to the former individual and the members of the party with which he is connected.
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  59. ^ In Re Neagle
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  66. ^ McPherson, James M. (2015). The War That Forged a Nation : Why the Civil War Still Matters. Oxford University Press. p. 31. ISBN 978-0199375776.
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  68. ^ Burrill, Donald R. (2011). Servants of the Law: Judicial Politics on the California Frontier 1849-89 : an Interpretive Exploration of the Field-Terry Controversy. University Press of America. pp. 260–263. ISBN 978-0761848912. Retrieved September 26, 2017.
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  74. ^ "A Gun Is Not a Gentleman" on Death Valley Days". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved February 28, 2019.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Hugh C. Murray
Chief Justice of California
1857–1859
Succeeded by
Stephen J. Field
Preceded by
Charles Henry Bryan
Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court
1855–1857
Succeeded by
Warner Cope