Clayton Fowler and umbrella

[page 43, line 13]

JUDGE VANCE: Let me tell Ken Blassingame I’m going to call him next, but while he’s coming up here —

JUDGE ELLIS: Judge McCollum tried to upstage Tessmer, so you have to wait a minute.


JUDGE VANCE: This lawyer Tom Howard talked of was a dapper kind of fellow . Looked like a banker. He was one of the first lawyers to talk to Jack Ruby. If he had represented him, Jack wouldn’t have gotten even more than five years murder without malice, I promise you. I was standing in Dean Galldin’s court one day — and Dean Galldin was a D.A. back in the 20’s, and he was a — I think a mean old man. That’s the way I used to talk about him. And Tom Howard came in at the back of the courtroom. About the time he got to the rail, Dean Galldin — Judge Galldin said, “Well, Tom, have you got a case here today?” He said, “No, Judge. I just came by to pay what little respect I have to the court” and walked right on through the court into the clerk’s office.

Ken, come on up. While Ken is coming up here, he and I and Ross Teeter were prosecutors together in Judge King’s court one time. And I got an emergency call from the clerk to come down, that Judge King wanted to talk to me. Ken was down there trying a case with Bill Quartermire. I went up to the side of the bench and the judge said, “Let me tell you something. If you ever let these two lawyers come down here and try another case, I’m going to throw all three of you in jail.” I said, “Wait a minute, Judge.” And I was the chief prosecutor in court. I said, “Wait a minute, Judge. I don’t have any control over who represents the defendant.” He said, “I don’t want to hear it.” He said, “I’m going to tell you; I’m going to throw all three of you in jail.” And the reason was because Ken was about to get into a fight with this guy right out there in front of the jury panel. Go ahead, Ken.

MR. BLASSINGAME: Judge, ladies and gentlemen, that was a fiasco. I think Quartermire probably made about 40 statements, and I’d object. And the judge would sustain it. And so finally I told Quartermire, I said, “If you don’t shut your damn mouth, I’m going to throw you out of the courtroom. I’m tired of listening to you.” And that’s what the brouha was over.

I, like Mike McCollum, kind of broke in. I started on Monday morning, and Tuesday morning they let me have Charles Tessmer on a previously tried DWI where he exited where there was no bridge off of Central Expressway. And we got a hung jury and I got congratulated by everybody in the office. And I said, “Well, what happened?” And they said, “Hey, man, that’s been hung once, and with Tessmer that’s good. Twice, you did something.”

Tessmer was talking about the case that the guy didn’t have a thumb. Well, there was one of the witnesses asked him if he had talked to Mr. Tessmer, and he said, “Well, I don’t know Mr. Tessmer, but I talked to the man with the orange hair.” And he had talked to Charles at that time.

I’m not sure that many of you know the great Clayton Fowler, but he was an institution. In World War II he ran a plane off a carrier, lost a leg. He always stirred the baked beans at the criminal bar picnic, and he always stated that his foot itched, the one he did not have. Clayton was quite a guy, a practical joker. I can remember him going into the courtroom in a robbery case that Joe K. Henley was trying, took an umbrella and had it marked and set it there, and the jury hung up. And finally, when they interviewed the jury, they wanted to know why they hung, and they wanted to know what the umbrella was for. Clayton had pulled some real practical jokes. I think Judge Ellis is going to tell you about some of them.

JUDGE ELLIS: You just told mine.

MR. BLASSINGAME: That one was yours?

JUDGE ELLIS: That was mine.

MR. BLASSINGAME: Oh, I’m sorry. I’ll give you another one.

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