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 NORTH MANCHESTER HISTORICAL SOCIETY
 North Manchester, Indiana

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Source: NMHS Newsletter Aug 2000

Interview with Eldon Wright, Lawyer.

January, 1985

From the files of the Historical Society.

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 of this?

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

 
   
 


Servia. 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 in Servia?

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 recall.

AW - So your father was also a resident of this area?

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 the beginning?

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

 
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there 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 now.

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, Harry Leffel.

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

 
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about 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.