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|Source: NMHS Newsletter Aug 2000
Interview with Eldon Wright, Lawyer.
From the files of the Historical
Alan White - Has the Wright family been in
this community from the beginning?
Wright - Yes, I was born in this town and
I'll probably die here. I was the only one that
has been a lawyer. I'm the third professional
generation. My grandfather was a Church of the
Brethren minister. He was up here at what was
then called the Walnut Street Church.
AW - What was his name?
Wright - Albert. He had a twin brother, name
of John. And they both had little beards, so
long. My grandfather was well, just to show you
in those days he got $600 a year for being the
minister at both the Walnut Street Church and
out there at the West Manchester. He had to
maintain a horse and buggy and had to entertain
all the visiting preachers and all that.
AW - Over what period of time was he minister
Wright - Well, he died about 70 some so I
can't tell you how long he had been a minister
or in this church here in this routine between
here and West Manchester.
AW - Were they in the habit of sharing
pastoral duties among various members of the
church like they do at the German Baptist Church
sometimes? Or did they maintain fixed ministers?
Wright - I think he was a regular minister
and he got paid the $600 compared to about
$30,000 of our ministers now. So he got too
little and now I think they get too much. That's
my opinion. In fact, he couldn't make it on
that; he had to clerk in stores. This Gressos
Store that was there where Maynards is now (East
of Chicago) he clerked in that one and in its
predecessors Helm and Snorf.. and about the time
he died he went over to Oppenheims and was a
clerk over there.
AW - What did his twin brother do?
Wright - He was a minister too, but he wasn't
a minister here at this church. I think maybe he
had one of the outlying churches. It seemed to
me that he had one maybe around Servia.
Wright - The Wright family sprang from a
place southeast of
There was a big house back on the hill, long
since gone now. There was a large family of
brothers and sisters.. 8 or 10 maybe. They
scattered to all corners of the country.
AW - Was your grandfather one of that family
Wright - Yes. He was one of those that came
from out there. Several of them went out west.
One went to Arizona and one to California, as I
AW - So your father was also a resident of
Wright - Oh Yes. He was the only child of my
grandfather, Albert Wright, and he married a
Baker, so we're related to some of these Bakers
living around here now. My father was a school
teacher first. Taught in some of the little
schools around here in these one-room
schoolhouses. And somewhere along the line he
decided he wanted to become a dentist. So he
abandoned the profession of teaching and went to
Indianapolis and took dentistry.
AW - Then he came back here?
Wright Yes, He came back here to practice.
The plaque that I have down in the office says
he practiced 47 years. Now I'm not sure that is
right. I got the information from somebody but
he was,,, it was right up about in that area.
AW - Did he have his office in the building
that you occupy now?
Wright - No. He had his office first, when I
was a kid, in what would be now it was at that
time the Lawrence National Bank. That was
located at the spot did you ever notice the
plaque that says on this spot Thomas R. Marshall
was born? Well, it was that place. The bank was
located there and he was in the upstairs of
that. He later moved across the hall and he was
above Oppenheims. Always had upstairs offices.
Downstairs office in those days were rather rare
for practitioners, medicine, and dentistry and so
on. You about had to have an upstairs office. He
practiced there until he died and that was 1952.
AW - Did you train to become an attorney from
Wright - No, I took a little whirl at the
newspaper business. .. I went to college up
here. graduated up here in 1934... I had the
idea that I wanted to be in the newspaper
business but I wanted a small one like the News
Journal or even smaller. There were a lot of
them in those days. Now the field is quite
shrunken. In other words, I can remember
used to be a little newspaper up here at Silver
Lake, down here at Roann, Lagro, Lafontaine.
They all had little newspapers. They're all gone
AW - Probably doubled as job printing shops.
Wright - Yeh. I worked down here for two of
them here. I worked in the News Journal and I
worked at one on the south side called the
Herald that's now defunct and of course there's
no print shop in there now. .... The history of
that was this. When I was just a little kid
there was a fellow name of Hopkins ran that and
it was called the Journal. It was a pretty
well-established paper for the time and place,
but then he later sold to a fellow who ran the
North Manchester News and then that's where we
get the name today The News Journal.
AW - Did this happen under Billings?
Wright - Yes, that's right. Billings was the
one that bought it. They called him Josh. I used
to work for him for four or five years.
AW - Sometimes a journalist has an excellent
view of the local happenings.
Wright - Well, he ran the paper until he died
and he died about 1950. He had a brother-in-law,
AW - I didn't realize he was related to
Billings. ... Harry's legacy is having indexed
he has a very interesting index at the library
that, I think it's arranged by dates, where he's
indexed by date important events in N.
Manchester history which makes a very handy
tool. So you were a newspaper man for a while?
Wright - Yes, I even owned one. It wasn't
very long. It was down in Maryland, on the
eastern shore. Used to locate newspapers that
were for sale through the publisher's auxiliary.
...I think I located it through that and went
down and bought it. After a couple of months I
became somewhat disillusioned about it because I
couldn't see any long-time future. It was a very
historic area but the chances of growth were
rather minimal, if any at all. So I disposed of
it and came back and while I was down there I
contacted some lawyers and I decided I wanted to
go into law. It didn't seem to be as
over-crowded as it is now. So after about a year
or two, I went to Valparaiso University,
graduated there in 1939. In those days you got a
LL.B but it was later converted to a JD degree
which about all of them get now. You spend
as much time as a Ph.D. or any of these others.
AW - Did you have to do any internship or
reading of law with another attorney?
Wright - No, I did not. I did some with a man
who was here at that time named Raymond Brooks,
But it wasn't a necessity. AW - I get the
impression that in Thomas Marshall's day, to
become an attorney, rather than going to school,
you just simply signed on...
Wright - Yes, you signed on as you were about
to say, or the saying then was you read law in a
lawyer's office. And then there was another
thing, too, up until about 1934 or 5, there was
a provision in the constitution that said
anybody could practice law. It was the Indiana
State Constitution. But then through the
interpretation of law, they said that wasn't
good anymore. So then after that you had to go
to law school. I got in on the tail end of that.
I signed up to take the bar exam. I could have
have taken it anytime before I went to law
school, but I thought, well if I'm going to
become a lawyer and do it right, I might as well
go to law school. The Depression was on in those
days and I figured I wanted to be a lawyer
around here. So I had a choice of the Indiana
Law School, and Valparaiso which is 90 miles and
you've got Notre Dame up here, so I went to
Valparaiso. In those days they had approximately
450 students and a law school of about 30, as
compared to a law school which they have now of
about 300 or something of that kind. It was a
fully-recognized law school by the American Bar
Association. American Association of Law Schools
recognized it, so I went there for three years
and graduated in 1939.