Edward W. Carmack

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Edward Carmack
Edward Ward Carmack.jpg
Secretary of the Senate Democratic Caucus
In office
March 6, 1903 – March 3, 1907
LeaderArthur Pue Gorman
Joseph Clay Stiles Blackburn
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byRobert Latham Owen
United States Senator
from Tennessee
In office
March 4, 1901 – March 3, 1907
Preceded byThomas B. Turley
Succeeded byRobert Taylor
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 10th district
In office
March 4, 1897 – March 3, 1901
Preceded byJosiah Patterson
Succeeded byMalcolm R. Patterson
Personal details
Edward Ward Carmack

(1858-11-05)November 5, 1858
Castalian Springs, Tennessee, U.S.
DiedNovember 9, 1908(1908-11-09) (aged 50)
Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic

Edward Ward Carmack (November 5, 1858 – November 9, 1908) was an attorney, newspaperman, and political figure who served as a U.S. Senator from Tennessee from 1901 to 1907.

Following his political service, and after an unsuccessful run for Governor of Tennessee, he became editor of the one-year-old Nashville Tennessean. He was shot to death on November 9, 1908 over a feud precipitated by Duncan Brown Cooper for his editorial comments in the paper.

Early life[edit]

Carmack was born in Sumner County, Tennessee. He attended The Webb School, then at Culleoka, Tennessee. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1878 and began practicing in Columbia, Tennessee. He served as Columbia city attorney in 1881, and was elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1884.

Carmack joined the staff of the Nashville Democrat in 1889, later becoming editor-in-chief of the Nashville American when the two papers merged. He later (1892) served as editor of the Memphis Commercial, now The Commercial Appeal.

Relationship with Ida B. Wells[edit]

Throughout his career, Carmack was known to use his newspapers to attack rivals. During Carmack's tenure with the Appeal, his editorials began an interesting dialogue with another famous Tennessee journalist, Ida B. Wells. Wells, known as the "Mother of the Civil Rights Movement", was also not one to withhold her opinions and spoke out about the plight of African Americans in the post-Reconstruction era in the South. Memphis in the 1890s was a hotbed of racial tension, and lynching crimes were commonplace. Wells launched an anti-lynching campaign in her newspaper, Free Speech.

Free Speech received national attention in 1892 for its coverage of the so-called Curve Riot in Memphis. The Curve Riot was not in fact a riot, it was an attack on the People's Grocery Store by a group of undercover white police serving a warrant on the black-owned business. Will Barret, the store's white competitor, had convinced a local court that the People's Grocery was a nuisance. The court ordered the owners arrested. Fearing an attack, supporters of the People's Grocery armed themselves to defend the store. In the ensuing melee, three deputies were wounded. Crying "race riot," other armed whites joined the police and captured over thirty African Americans, including three of the store's owners: Tom Moss, Calvin McDowell, and Will Stewart.

A mob later seized the three from the jail and lynched them. Wells wrote passionately of the atrocity and advised her readers to abandon Memphis and move to the western territories. Many followed her advice. Carmack demanded retaliation against "the black wench" for her denunciation of the lynchings. As a result, the offices of Free Speech were demolished. Fortunately, Wells was out of town when the attack occurred. She did not return to the South for another thirty years.[1]

Political career[edit]

Carmack was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1896, and served two terms in that body, March 4, 1897 – March 3, 1901. He was then elected to the U.S. Senate by the Tennessee General Assembly, serving one term in that body, March 4, 1901 – March 3, 1907. Carmack served on the Lodge Committee investigating war crimes in the Philippine-American War.

Carmack failed to secure reelection to a second Senate term, being succeeded by former governor of Tennessee Robert Love Taylor, and returned to the practice of law. He then contended for the 1908 Democratic nomination for governor, running against the incumbent, Malcolm Patterson. Carmack ran as a Prohibitionist, while Patterson had the support of the "wet" lobby. Narrowly defeated by Patterson, Carmack returned to journalism, becoming the editor of the Nashville Tennessean, then a prohibitionist daily. [2]

Death and legacy[edit]

On November 9, 1908, he attempted to shoot his publishing and political rival, Duncan Brown Cooper, over something he had written in his newspaper about the man that had prompted a feud between them.[3] Instead, Carmack wounded Cooper's son, Robin, who returned fire, the shot killing Carmack.

Carmack's remains were returned to Columbia, and he was buried in its Rose Hill Cemetery.

Perhaps in large measure because of the spectacular and violent nature of his death, Carmack was memorialized by the Tennessee state legislature. They commissioned a large bronze statue of Carmack, which was erected on the grounds of the Tennessee State Capitol building and stood there until May 2020. [4] The bronze statue was designed by Nancy Cox-McCormack in 1924 (dedicated in 1927), and engraved with several quotes from Carmack on its surroundings and pedestal.[5]

A statue of Carmack used to stand in front of the Tennessee State Capitol, Nashville, Tennessee

Because of Carmack's support for lynching, the statue has long caused tension in Nashville. A commission suggested replacing Carmack's statue with Davy Crockett. The statue was torn down by George Floyd protesters on May 30, 2020.[6]

For many years the public library on Hartsville Pike (Hwy 25E) in Gallatin, Tennessee, was named in his honor. When a new public library was opened in 2008 in downtown Gallatin, local authorities decided against naming it for him. There still remains a street in Columbia, Tennessee, named in his honor.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Memphis Free Speech". 2017-10-08. Retrieved 2008-11-18.
  2. ^ https://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/entries/edward-ward-carmack/
  3. ^ "Woman Tells How Carmack Was Slain". The New York Times. 1909-02-17. p. 1. Retrieved 10 March 2017.
  4. ^ https://twitter.com/natalie_allison/status/1266896064143077382
  5. ^ "Edward Ward Carmack Statue - Nashville, Tennessee". Waymarking. Retrieved 10 March 2017.
  6. ^ "Nashville's City Hall set ablaze amid George Floyd protest". Atlanta Journal Constitution. 2020-05-31. p. 1. Retrieved 31 May 2020.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Josiah Patterson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 10th congressional district

Succeeded by
Malcolm R. Patterson
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Thomas B. Turley
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Tennessee
Served alongside: William B. Bate, James B. Frazier
Succeeded by
Robert Taylor
Party political offices
New office Secretary of the Senate Democratic Caucus
Succeeded by
Robert Latham Owen