From: Della Wager Wells. The First Hundred Years: A Centennial History of King & Spalding. Atlanta, GA: King & Spalding. 1985. 19-41 (Chapter Two).

Calhoun, King & Spalding: The Railroad Years

While Pat Calhoun was a partner in the firm for only a brief seven years, his brilliance, idealism, and sound business sense may have done as much to ensure the firm's prominence and enduring reputation as the early work of Alex King and Jack Spalding. Calhoun was a fiery, ambitious and colorful character, a curious blend of the most scholarly in Judge King, the most pragmatic in Jack Spalding, and the most idealistic in his own illustrious ancestor, John C. Calhoun.

Calhoun, like both King and Spalding, was deprived of formal education by the effects of the Civil War. He was able to spend slightly over two years studying in high schools in Pendleton, South Carolina, and Norwood, Virginia, but began studying on his own at the age of fifteen. He too gained discipline, ambition, and motivation through his self-tutelage, and he carried an interest in books and a love of study throughout his life. He read law under John M. Brummel, Colonel L. E. Shummate, and his maternal grandfather, General Duff Green, and was admitted to the bar in Dalton, Georgia, in 1875, after about a year's study, at the age of nineteen. He practiced first in St. Louis, Missouri, with John G. Chandler as a copyist in return for a closet-sized space consuming, he spent the long empty hours between clients studying various points of law, and the extensive knowledge that Calhoun assimilated during those first few years fueled his business and political activities for the rest of his life.

Calhoun soon moved on from his first practice, returning to Georgia in 1878 to enter into a partnership in Atlanta with Colonel Robert A. Alston. The partnership lasted until Alston's untimely death in an encounter with Edward Cox, which was characterized, according to the biases of the particular chronicler, as either a duel or a premeditated murder.1 After serving as the special counsel for the prosecution in Cox's trial for homicide, Calhoun entered into partnership with Howard Van Epps, the first Solicitor of the City Court of Atlanta, in 1880. Alex King then became a partner in 1882, and the firm continued as Van Epps, Calhoun & King until January 1, 1885, when King formed a partnership with Jack Spalding, separating form Van Epps & Calhoun. Then, after many successful business gains and various twists of fate, on January 1, 1887, Calhoun ended up in partnership with Alex King and Jack Spalding.

It was Calhoun's profound interest in railroads and single-minded sense of purpose that caused the already ideally matched partnership of King & Spalding to coalesce into a formidable force during the railroad consolidations of the late 1880's . King and Spalding were an already brilliant team, but Calhoun was their catalyst and rainmaker. As Croom Partridge said in his manuscript biography of Alex King, "The stage was set. Calhoun was in close touch with Southern Railroad affairs; King was most favorably known as a scholarly lawyer, and Spalding, a successful lawyer, was without peer as a practical businessman."2 The partnership of Calhoun, King & Spalding was prepared to embark on a fast train ride to national notice.

Pat Calhoun was born March 21, 1856, at Fort Hill, Pendleton District, South Carolina, three months after King and seven months after Spalding were born. The youngest of the five sons of Andrew P. and Margaret Green Calhoun, Pat Calhoun had a place in a noble roster of southern aristocrats. His maternal grandfather, General Duff Green, was a highly celebrated Georgia citizen, and his paternal grandfather, John C. Calhoun, was a strong influence in United States and South Carolina politics in the first of the nineteenth century.

John C. Calhoun was the Secretary of War for both terms of James Monroe's administration and Vice President during both John Quincy Adam's administration and the greater part of Andrew Jackson's presidency. In 1832, Calhoun resigned from his post as Vice President, and was immediately elected as Senator in his home state of South Carolina, where he turned his attention to working for the benefit of the state.

Among John C. Calhoun's most passionate interests was the American system of railroads, a fascination that now appears prophetic in light of Calhoun, King & Spalding's later work. Also by interesting coincidence, John Calhoun shared that interest with a fellow South Carolinian, Judge Mitchell King, Alex King's grandfather, Judge Mitchell King was then involved in a group that proposed to link the navigable waters of the West with the southern ports by way of the French Broad River Valley,3 and in 1839, Judge King was elected president of the company of stockholders formed to further that interest. While the company was hampered by the South Carolina legislature and did not achieve its goal, John C. Calhoun's and Mitchell King's proposal of a consolidated rail system had gained widespread support and had furnished Pat Calhoun and Alex King with a rich patrimony of dreams and ambitions.

In 1845, John C. Calhoun addressed a railroad convention in Memphis, Tennessee, calling for the linking of Southern ports with the Northern resources of the upper Mississippi Valley to bring about social, political, and economic gain in the South. He went on to make and incredible prediction: a great Northwest and Southeast system would be built up with Atlanta, Georgia, as its strategic point. Later, the Civil War placed the ownership of the railroads, except the Central Railroad, in the hands of the North, and they became essentially a Northeast-Southwest system, making the fulfillment of Calhoun's prediction doubtful.4

Thirty-four years after John Calhoun's speech to the railroad convention. Pat Calhoun fervently echoed his grandfather, urging a large convention of businessmen to work towards the construction of "an iron Mississippi" to end the North ports' domination of ocean-bound trade. The younger Calhoun agreed whole-heartedly with the elder; the South had long suffered great losses. as its railroad system lacked the sophistication necessary to control trade and become a powerful and respected region of economic growth.

King, Spalding, and Calhoun first worked cooperatively in 1885, when they were brought together by one of the most puzzling and far-reaching receivership cases in the era of railroad consolidation. With Howard Van Epps, Calhoun's partner E. A. Angier, and Hoke Smith, they filed a bill of foreclosure in Fulton County Superior Court against the East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia Railroad Company on behalf of Angier, et al., as the interest on the railroad's bonded indebtedness was in default. At the time that the bill was filed, a bill had already been filed in the United States Circuit Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, with Major Henry Fink named as the federal receiver in the foreclosure of the $22,000,000 bond issue. The railroad had always been considered a Tennessee corporation, and had as a matter of course removed its litigation to the federal courts on that basis. King, Spalding, and Calhoun believed that the railroad's recent accession of the assets and franchises of the Cincinnati & Georgia Railroad made the road a domestic corporation, and they undertook to prove and defend Georgia's sovereignty by keeping the receivership in the state courts.

Disregarding the bill already filed in the federal court, the group of Georgia advocates filed a petition for the appointment of a receiver for the road in the Superior Court of Fulton County. King argued brilliantly on the topic of receivership, and Judge J.B. Estes of Gainesville sanctioned the bill, as Fulton Superior Court judge William R. Hammond was out of state. The Honorable Rufus B. Dorsey and E.P. Alexander were appointed as receivers for the East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia Railroad.

Representatives of the state's interest, the Dorsey group, set out to take control of the road from the federal receivers. As each court was adamant that its own receiver hold and operate the properties and stock involved, the two factions locked horns, and the ensuing events despite the seriousness of their legal and constitutional implications, bordered on comedy.

On the afternoon of April 14, 1887, Calhoun, King, and Judge Dorsey arrived at the railroad office with the order of receivership and intent to take over control of the road. There they found Deputy U.S. Marshal Ira Campbell manning the railroad office and U.S. Marshal John E. Bryant and Chief Deputy Mitchell guarding the reign of the federal receiver, Major Fink. Calhoun demanded that Major Fink turn over the receivership, and advised him to do it peacefully, as his group would assume possession anyway. In a puzzling move, Calhoun then suggested that Major Fink go ahead and deliver possession of the road to Judge Dorsey, but file a strong protest against doing so, and he unaccountably offered up King to write that protest on behalf of the federal receiver. Major Fink agreed to the bargain, Alex King wrote though a number of undaunted U.S. marshals persisted in loitering about the office and yards. Fearing that the state and federal representatives might come to blows, Chief of Police Connally then dispatched almost the entire Atlanta police force to the railroad yards to preserve order.

Just as Judge Dorsey had settled into his chair, Judge Hammond, the Fulton County Superior Court judge who had been out of town when Judge Estes sanctioned Dorsey's receivership, turned the tables. He decided that Estes' order was "premature" and revoked it. April 23 was set for a second hearing.5

The Atlanta Constitution had a heyday with these events, reporting daily the latest happenings in what they termed the "now you see it and now you don't receivership." The two parties slyly evaded each others' demands, and at one point, the Constitution reported the allegation that Major Fink, the federal receiver, had employed the clever strategy of running most of the railroad's rolling stock out of Georgia and into Tennessee, to be out the way of a possible Georgia receiver. As the proponents of the Georgia receivership were staging an all-out effort to bring control of the state lines back into the state, this latest ploy was not taken lightly. Major Fink hotly denied the accusation, and Alex King staunchly reiterated it and attested to its veracity.

In the meantime, Deputy Marshal Campbell, a federal representative, was, in the Constitution's words, "holding the fort" at the railroad's office. The Constitution went on to report that Campbell was well protected whenever the case came up in court. On April 23, the day of the hearing, Deputy Marshal Campbell was surrounded by twelve special deputies to protect him and the railroad properties against the antagonistic state authorities, whom they no doubt feared were not quite civilized.

In the hearing, Judge Henry B. Tompkins defended the rights of the Central Trust Company of New York, on whose behalf the federal court had appointed Major Fink receiver. King followed Tompkins to champion Georgia's cause, but did not question Tompkins' able argument on the point that there were additional legitimate claims to the railroad besides those on Angier. The Constitution reported:


He made his argument mainly on the point that the Tennessee Court could not appoint a receiver for property beyond its territory, and that when Fink crossed the Georgia line, his receivership fell from him like a cloak. He said Fink's receivership in Georgia was a ghost; an airy nothing which the counsel had attempted to invest with flesh and blood power.

King's keen perception of the law and his great verbal power convinced Judge Hammond, who decided that Judge Dorsey should be returned to control. Major Fink, however, was immovable and declined to relinquish his seat of power. Dorsey declared that it was not his intent to take the road by stealth or force, and Fink may have counted on that pledge, as he retained his seat. Surprisingly enough, however, the Georgia citizens did not appear to want to defend Dorsey in this issue of their state's sovereignty; they simply cried out loudly against the inconvenience of the twenty-five deputy marshals that still guarded Fink in the railroad office and the absence of the rolling stock, which had been rushed in Tennessee as charged. They were patently uninterested in the political ideals behind the issue of the Georgia receivership. Finally, after the lawyers, the citizens, the newspapers, and the courts had disputed the point for nearly five months, the parties agreed on a settlement, ending the memorable case that was more like a boisterous square dance than the usual mannered legal minuet.

The Angier case bears particular significance to the partnership of Calhoun, King & Spalding, as it was the widespread notice and controversial nature of the case that catapulted the three young lawyers together into the center of the railroad fray. For a time, Calhoun, King & Spalding consolidated railroads, represented railroads in various legal matters, and even owned railroads. Their practice was almost entirely consumed by transportation lines from 1887 through 1894-the time that Calhoun was a partner. Said Jack Spalding in his early firm history, "the firm of Calhoun, King & Spalding was in the center of this fight and during the period of 1887 up until the early 90's, [we] represented railroad companies and steamship lines, aggregating something like 10,000 miles." An article appearing in the Atlanta Constitution on March 23, 1890, praised the partnership. "The firm of Calhoun, King & Spalding ranks among the strongest in the South, the several members of the firm occupying positions of much prominence in the legal profession of Georgia."

During this period of time, the firm worked actively in suits involving the corporate powers, leases, and contracts with the various railroad lines and also successfully defended many railroads in various damage suits.6 One particular case that Spalding noted in his memoirs involved a gentleman who objected to buying a separate railroad ticket for his wife on religious grounds, as the Bible clearly says that husband and wife are one.7

Some of the most extensive work done by the firm for any individual railroad was Jack Spalding's almost single-handed building and consolidation of the L&N Railroad from Knoxville, Tennessee, into Atlanta. There was a considerable amount of controversy over its development on the eastern side of Atlanta because of a public fear of undue interference with non-railroad traffic. The building of the Washington Street Viaduct, largely a result of Jack Spalding's efforts, was the ultimate resolution of the conflict. At the time the L&N was trying to complete its line from Cartersville to Atlanta, the state then presented another obstacle, demanding such a high rent for the lease of the right-of-way. King & Spalding immediately began buying up the land between Cartersville and Atlanta, but by the time they had almost completed the project, the state finally came through with the lease.8

After the panic of 1893, many of the railroads went into receivership, and King & Spalding then began a forty-year involvement in railroad receiverships, becoming connected over the years with more than thirty cases of this nature. They at different times represented defendant corporations, bank foreclosures, receivers, committees of bondholders and committees of stockholders.9 Both partners participated in these foreclosures, but most often King made the argument and prepared the briefs.10 Calhoun was the leader in the railroad projects, although he was not actually involved in the trial of the cases.11 Each one of the partners, however, made arguments, wrote articles, and campaigned for public and private support of the consolidations then in progress. Their arguments and speeches were works of considerable authority and persuasion. All three were described at various times by judges, historians, and colleagues as being unusually thorough and having remarkable legal ability. Although none of the three had much formal education, they tutored themselves in history and literature and then read law on their own, honing both their intellects and their capacities for perseverance in the face of opposition. With sharpened legal skills and the independence of long-imposed self discipline, the three men fought capably and imaginatively for Atlanta's survival and eventual triumph over subjugation to the North imposed by the Civil War. A realignment of the railroads' ownership was vital to their goal, as Northern ownership of the railroads was one means whereby the North had originally secured control over the South.

Calhoun, King, & Spalding, determined to bring prosperity to the South, had every confidence in the ability of a unified rail system to accomplish that end. Prior to 1887, the Central Railroad and Banking Company was controlled by a group of men, including the three lawyers, who acted as a syndicate in directing the company's affairs. Treading new ground, the group made its first move towards the realization of its dream of consolidation when it obtained a corporate charter for a holding company. The Georgia Company, as the holding company was called, then issued its own stock in exchange for shares in the Central Railroad and Banking Co., transferring ownership of the railroad to the holding company. A number of the men owning stock in the Georgia Company also were interested in the Richmond & West Point Terminal Company, an organization that had almost been divided in a painful internal dispute over control the year before. Calhoun had spent the better part of 1886 in New York City meeting with some stockholders of the Terminal Company, advising them in their disagreements. Calhoun had been successful in a temporary reconciliation of the warring factions in the company, but the disharmony that remained was eventually to the benefit of the Georgia Company's cause of consolidation.

Calhoun returned to Atlanta in 1887 with vital railroad contacts and became a partner with King & Spalding, and with his two partners, brought about the legal transformation of the syndicate that was operating the Central Railroad and Banking Company into a corporation. At this time, the original rift in the management of the Terminal Company reopened, and knowing that continued disagreement would bring about the destruction of the company, one faction offered either to sell its stock in the Georgia Company or to buy the stock of the adversary group. The second group agreed to sell, and the first group gained control of the Terminal Company. As the faction that took the reins was the faction that also owned stock in the Georgia Company, a consolidation was finally achieved. The Terminal Company, which already owned the Richmond & Danville Railroad and the East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia Railroad, gained control of the Central Railroad of Georgia as a result of the acquisition of the Georgia Company.12 Thus, the dream that began with John C. Calhoun and Mitchell King in the 1830s was finally realized fifty-seven years later at the hands of their grandsons, Pat Calhoun and Alex King, and their grandson's partner, Jack Spalding. The consolidation of the three Southeastern railroads had been accomplished through stock ownership . Calhoun wrote King in his exuberance:


It is capable of demonstration that what we have done is the best thing that could have happened for Georgia and that if we are let alone we will help make an era of greater prosperity in the South than has ever existed.13

Calhoun, King & Spalding was a dynamic partnership that proceeded with all the force of a railroad train. It began slowly with emphatic chugs and then picked up speed, until it rattled down the track at a furious pace, giving off steam and frequently blowing its piercing whistle. There was a special urgency that characterized all the endeavors of the partners, a feeling that theirs was the responsibility of rebuilding and rejuvenating the South to its former dignity and economic health. Their work in the Angier case was essentially an attempt to reestablish the authority of the Georgia courts, and their goal of a unification of the railroad systems was based on a design to build Savannah and Brunswick into major ports, redirecting ocean-bound trade through Georgia. Said Calhoun in a letter to King:


I feel confident that I can carry all my views. It may take time, and of course I shall have to go step by step, but if I can, I shall of those who are identified with me, but we do more to develop the South than the most sanguine man would now imagine.14

Unfortunately, the men's exhilaration at their only somewhat self-serving altruism was relatively shortlived. Calhoun had earlier expressed the fear that there would be opposition to the project in the form of ambition local politicians who were striving to solidify their own personal reputations while ignoring the interests of the state. Calhoun's prophecy was borne out, as the consolidation, now called the Terminal Company, was torn by hostile legislation aimed at destroying and discouraging any further effort in that direction.

In his early firm history, Jack Spalding notes that the Olive Bill, introduced in 1888, and the Berner Bill, introduced in 1890, were followed by other similarly antagonistic Populist legislation. The Olive Bill proposed to make it illegal for any individual, corporation, partnership, or railroad company to hold shares of stock in any railroad had the effect, or was intended to have the effect, of lessening competition or creating a monopoly. The bill did not stop with mere general prohibitions but took aim and fired directly at the consolidation which Calhoun, King & Spalding had finally effected. The bill condemned consolidations and sought "to declare all such contracts or and to provide a penalty for a violation of the same." The bill went one step further in its persecution of the syndicate to order that the stock of all the shareholders who favored the consolidation be confiscated.15 It is difficult now to imagine such inimical opposition to Calhoun, King & Spalding's good intentions, but the South, long the domination of the plantation system and small business, was still stinging from the impact of the Civil War and the indignities and injustices of Reconstruction, and Southerners violently distrusted anything that smacked of outside control, particular Northern control. The Farmer's Alliance was in power in Georgia then, and there was organized and active opposition to corporate interests in general and railroads in particular. Calhoun's year in New York negotiating with shareholders in the Terminal Company in 1886 had firmly identified him with a group of Northern financiers who formed the nucleus of both the Terminal Company and the Georgia Company. While a part of each organization was made up of Atlantans and other Southerners, the flavor of "Yankee Money" remained to those Southerners predisposed to taste it-even after the consolidation had taken place and the authority of the company was in the hands of the Southern representatives of the railroads, When the Terminal Company absorbed the Georgia Company, uniting the Richmond & Danville Railroad, the East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia Railroad, and the Central Railroad of Georgia, the Atlanta faction, led by John C. Calhoun (Pat Calhoun's brother), John H. Inman, and James Swann, assumed control of the corporation, but the general hostility towards monopoly remained, and the resultant unfavorable legislation took its toll. Corporations and consolidations were essentially Northern phenomena, and the Georgia legislature was suspicious that they were yet another attempt to subjugate the South and the South's own small companies to Northern rule.

In the heat of the controversy before the legislative committees concerning the railroad consolidation, Calhoun, undoubtedly King & Spalding's most colorful figure, had occasion to live and create the firm's most cavalier legend. The setting was the Georgia House of Representatives, the principals were pat Calhoun and John Williamson, and the chorus was the Railroad Committee. The play, to say the least, was fast moving and gripping. By 1889, the Olive Bill had engendered more than a few dissenting opinions, but Pat Calhoun and John Williamson became involved in a disagreement that involved a charge of falsehood-a question of a man's honor.

Like Calhoun, Williamson was a railroad man, president and chief stockholder of Chattanooga, Rome & Columbus Railroad. He had worked himself up through the roads since his teens, serving as a brakeman, flagman, and conductor for the L&N Railroad. When Williamson and Calhoun appeared before the Railroad Committee, Williamson supported the Olive Bill, designed to keep the small and independent railroads small and independent. Calhoun, of course, opposed that proposition.16 Williamson asserted to the committee that his road "was and would remain and independent line," and Calhoun made the statement that if it had not been for his own exclusion of Williamson's road from the consolidation, the road, would have long since been absorbed by a larger railroad company.17 He then made his original statement even more potentially dangerous by adding, "the gentleman [Williamson] knows that the first project he had in the building of this road was to unload it on the Central. That would have been done had I not stood in the way."18 Williamson declared that claim decidedly and completely false, and the volatile Calhoun bristled. The charge of falsehood resulted in Calhoun issuing a challenge to duel, which Williamson accepted. Calhoun must have taken this insult to his honor very seriously, as he had early learned the grisly and irreversible effects of dueling first-hand. In 1879, Calhoun's partner, Col. Robert A. Alston, was killed by Edward Cox in a duel that degenerated into a gunfight. Calhoun served as counsel for the prosecution in Cox's trial for homicide. As duels were illegal and thought to be beyond the limits of civilized and productive social behavior in 1889, the Governor of Georgia, John B. Gordon, expressed alarm when he heard of the disagreement, and alerted Governor Seay of Alabama by telegram to be on the lookout for the prospective duelists. Governor Seay, intent on preventing the duel, then telegraphed every county in the state, trying to alert officials to the impending conflict.19 While Calhoun's revered grandfather, statesman John C. Calhoun, is reported to have been one of the few Southern leaders who had never fought a duel, there is evidence that his more mercurial maternal grandfather, General Duff Green, had fought in several.20 Pat, in any case, was known to rely on neither convention nor history.

The duel was arranged to occur in Cedar Bluff, Alabama, Saturday, August 10, 1889, at 5 O' clock. Calhoun and Williamson planned to meet on the Rome & Decatur Railroad, but Governor Gordon's concern made the rendez-vous a challenge and the results hilarious. Calhoun and his second. Captain Henry Jackson, departed form Atlanta by train to Anniston, Alabama, where they planned to catch another train for Cedar Bluff. This was made difficult, however, as Governor Seay had notified the officials to watch for the antagonists in all likely places, and Calhoun and Jackson were being tailed by a pack of zealous lawmen, interested observers, and dedicated news-men. The Atlanta Journal's editor had given strict orders that his reporters not lose sight of the Williamson party until something conclusive had transpired. Interest in the duel was high, and Atlanta Constitution reporter E.W. Barrett complained that "the Calhoun-Williamson duel was the one thing discussed in the hotel corridors, private parlors, and upon the streets yesterday from dawn to dark. Minute details of the fight were in great demand."21

Jackson and Calhoun had planned to leave Anniston on the 11:00 train, but Jackson spotted the police chief waiting for them at the depot and ordered the buggy to drive ahead through the woods six miles to catch the train at the next stop. By this time, it was pouring rain, and the detour through the woods was messy and treacherous. Meanwhile, Williamson and his second, friend and fellow railroad director, Jack King, were making their way to Cedar Bluff from the other direction. They changed trains at Kingston, Georgia, where Williamson's private car was waiting for them, attached directly to the engine, with six or eight freight cars separating it from the regular passenger coach. E.W. Barrett and Ed Bruffey, two Constitution reporters, guessed correctly that this was a ruse to shake off police, and they walked through the freight trains and were on the platforms of Williamson's car as the freight trains and the passenger car were suddenly unhitched, just as the reporters suspected would happen. The engine and Williamson's car then raced away with Williamson himself driving, leaving the other cars behind. The reporter's smugness was temporary, however, as they were discovered on the platform and put off the train. Not to be dissuaded, they commissioned another engine and car to follow Williamson. They soon found him stranded, without and engineer who knew the road, and the superintendent of the road would not allow anyone unacquainted with the line to drive over it.22 The two reporters then offered Williamson their engineer in exchange for being allowed to go along, and the entire party proceeded together to the duel site. There, Williamson practiced shooting at a blaze pine tree until the Floyd County Sheriff and deputy arrived. The ensuing events are quoted from Southern Railroad's magazine, Ties, of August 1967:


Williamson and King sprinted the woods while the rest parleyed with the local law. When the engine returned, the Powder Smoke Special got underway, picked up the fugitives and rolled into Cedar Bluff about 4 O' clock in the afternoon. Here began a comic opera chase straight from a Mack Sennett comedy. "Here comes the sheriff." The cry sent everyone scrambling for the two engines and the private car. One engine and car got away but immediately met the regular train from Anniston and had to backtrack to Cedar Bluff and into the hands of the sheriff.

Calhoun and Jackson, who were on the regular train, mistook the special for a trainload of officers bent on stopping the duel and started for the woods. A deputy sheriff stopped them, but, being convinced that neither was the "Mr. Williamson" he was looking for, let them go. While the sheriff's posse searched the train, Jackson locked himself in the caboose and Calhoun hid under a pile of mile sacks in the postal section of the passenger coach.

When the regular and special trains drew side by side, Calhoun and Jackson got aboard the private car while Williamson and his second leaped aboard the departing regular train to confuse the posse.

Finally, the wandering would-be duelists met Raynes Station, Alabama. Just as the two seconds were arranging the formalities, four [law] men riding mules and brandishing shotguns came into sight. Everyone broke for the train and the engine roared away at full throttle despite threats from the deputies. Three miles away they halted again and the seconds started to confer.

"Looking out. Everybody on the train." This time a dozen men with shotguns were trotting down the track. Another rush for the train and a run of four of five miles toward Rome put the group near the Georgia state line.23

Finally free of the law, Calhoun and Williamson prepared to fight their duel. Although less committed men would have quite lost interest by this time, those two adversaries were adamant. The pearl-handled Smith & Wesson hammerless revolvers that Williamson's second, Mr. King, provided were entirely unfamiliar to both Jackson and Calhoun, and there was some difficulty among the assembled party in figuring how to open the pistols to verify that they were both correctly loaded. Ed Bruffey, the reporter from the Constitution, volunteered, promptly blowing off the end of his little finger. Jackson, Calhoun's second, objected to the use of pistols that Calhoun had not had an opportunity to shoot before, but Calhoun agreed to use them, provided that he be allowed a practice session.

Calhoun was permitted to try the pistol, and the duel began, albeit fraught with various irregularities and errors committed by Williamson's second.24 King misspoke frequently, saying that the combatants would fire at thirty yards when the meant thirty feet, and omitting the obligatory count to three before giving the duelists the order to fire.25 Jackson, Calhoun's second, corrected most of King's errors, but an air of uncertainty surrounded the duel even so, as King's mistake in counting violated the conditions that he had laid out publicly to the principals and the spectators and privately to Calhoun's second.

At the order to fire, Williamson immediately fired all his shots as rapidly as he could pull the trigger and missed his opponent completely. Calhoun fired once, also missing, and lowered his pistol to his side and waited.

When Williamson had fired his last bullet, Calhoun then began to negotiate with him, threatening him with his remaining four shots, while Williamson bellowed for more ammunition. Jackson had foreseen this outcome, arguing with King that King's deviation from standard duel procedure could cause the death of one or both of the duelists. Jackson insisted that it was customary to give a command to cease firing after each shot. Jackson objected to King's plan of allowing the men to fire all of their shots at once, as it would enable "either principal to fire as rapidly or as slowly as he pleases...and cuts off the possibility of an amicable adjustment after each fire."26

Jackson's fear was realized, but not to Calhoun's disadvantage. Calhoun, four bullets remaining, demanded an unconditional retraction from Williamson, but Williamson hesitated, seemingly undaunted by Calhoun's right to shoot him. The two principals argued for many minutes, Calhoun demanding and Williamson evading, the conditions of the retraction, each trying to save face. Finally, after conferring with his second, Calhoun gave in to Williamson's insistence in order to avoid having to kill him. He said, holding his pistol in the air, "in my remarks before the railroad committee the intention of reflecting upon Mr. Williamson personally did not enter my mind. With the understanding that you [Williamson] retract your remarks after my statement, I fire my remaining shots in the air."27 Williamson then withdrew his remarks. Calhoun crossed the field and shook hands with Williamson, and the two parties separated. The Constitution report on the matter credited the failing light with the day's happy outcome, saying "had it not been for the darkness, both men would have been killed, for both were good shots."28 The only bloodshed in the whole encounter was Ed Bruffey's little finger, and the Constitution commended itself for this piece of heroics on Bruffey's part, commenting that "we always do our best to make things lively and interesting."29 This, probably Calhoun's most gripping encounter, is recorded as one of the last honor duels in Georgia, and possibly the South.

Calhoun, King, and Spalding usually argued their convictions in a more conventional manner. The partners all rose to the defense of the railroad consolidation that had been at issue in the duel, with Calhoun, King & Spalding each appearing at different times before the legislative committees that supported the Olive and Berner Bill. In these arguments, Calhoun always tried to minimize the controversial issue of consolidation and to maximize the aspects of economic benefit to the South: "This combination of roads, or rather, as we should always term it, this alliance between the roads, will be productive of the most positive good to the state. It will not destroy, but promote legitimate competition."

Calhoun went on, with characteristic conviction, to enumerate Georgia's strengths:


Take the center of the triangle made by Cincinnati, Cairo, and Chicago. The center of the triangle will be, in 1890, very near the center of the population of the Union. From it the short line to the sea runs through Georgia or Carolina soil. Every foot you advance further west, that fact becomes more and more marked. When you reach Kansas City not only is the shortest line to the sea through Georgia, but if you take the prorating distance of our steamship company, which is 250 miles, with all railroads with which we connect, we have absolutely the shortest line to New York and Boston...We have lines below the snowbelt, [and]...with short lines from the coal regions and the iron regions and the cotton regions of the Southeast, why should we not put our products in the markets of the Northwest to better advantage than any other portion of this country.30

The consolidation's proponents felt that Georgia was ripe for and deserving of development. With the even climate and the bountiful natural resources, the state had a great advantage over Northern ports that had long escaped the notice of businessmen and legislators alike. Calhoun saw Georgia's great potential and insisted that "the dream of direct trade between Europe and the south-Atlantic ports is not trade to Europe must come in the near future."31

According to Jack Spalding, the consolidation did not remain intact as a Georgia corporation, despite Calhoun's vigorous campaigning. John H. Inman, the leader of the Atlanta contingent, was still the president of the Terminal Company in 1892, but was paralyzed by an unsympathetic board of directors. At that time, Calhoun, King & Spalding resigned from their position as general counsel of the Terminal Company, the Central Railroad of Georgia, and the Richmond & Danville Railroad. In the panic of 1893, so many railroads were thrown into receivership that an almost complete reorganization of railroads occurred. The Central Railroad of Georgia alone remained a part of the Northwest-Southeast System that Calhoun, King & Spalding had envisioned and for which they had labored so tirelessly. The others were all realigned with the Northeast-Southwest System.

Pat Calhoun retired from the firm in 1894 to pursue his many other business interests. He had always been more mesmerized by railroads than by Atlanta, and he followed the railroads and their politics about the country for the rest of his life. He crossed paths once more with the partnership of King & Spalding when he sent for Alex King to com to his rescue when he was again in trouble for playing with trains. In 1908, Calhoun was president of the United Railroad, and he held extensive properties in street railways in San Francisco. There was at that time a very heated battle being waged between pro-union and anti-union forces in the city. Calhoun and the political leader of the Southern Pacific Railroad, William F. Herrin. were indicted for bribery of a public official when political boss Abraham Reuf, the power behind the city's union labor administration, admitted taking bribes and implicated Calhoun and Herrin.32

During the time that Calhoun was under indictment, a strike was launched against his street railway, which he broke by importing 1,200 strikebreakers, winning the support of anti-labor conservatives, one of whom, Harrison Gray Otis, was an official with the Los Angeles Times. Calhoun arranged with Otis to distribute copies of the Times that were filled with attacks on the strikers in order to stir up public sentiment against them. Calhoun paid Otis $15,000 for 20,000 papers that were to be distributed throughout San Francisco.

Francis Heney, the special prosecutor directing a graft investigation of the Southern Pacific Railroad, exposed this arrangement, adding more fuel to the fire when he discovered that the Times had applied for low-cost mailing rates by claiming that the papers would be mailed to subscribers. The papers were actually being sent in bulk to addresses not traceable to railroad personnel, and the Los Angeles postmaster asked the Time to pay the $3,000 difference between the two rates. The Times got the $3,000 back after insisting that the papers had never been mailed out because of a mix-up with the railroads. The Times then sold the unmailed papers-for which Calhoun had already paid

$15,000-as scrap. During Calhoun's trial for bribery, Special Prosecutor Heney was shot and wounded in the courtroom by a potential juror, heightening the sensational aura of the case.33

Alex King traveled to California in 1908 to defend Calhoun, staying for three months on the first trip an six months on the second, sending back reports to Spalding that he suspected a conspiracy against Calhoun that included a planted juror. The existence of the planted juror was in time revealed, as the jury vote eleven for acquittal and one for conviction. A mistrial was then declared, and the case was ordered stricken by the California Supreme Court.

The case received a great deal of attention while it was being tried, and was one of the most widely known cases in the courts on the Pacific Coast at that time. King's efforts in Calhoun's defense elevated him from a local to a national legend, and may have been responsible for the broad-based support he received when his name was suggested for nomination to the United States Supreme Court at the time of Justice Joseph Rucker Lamar's death in 1916.

Calhoun, however, did not maintain as constant a reputation. He passed from prominence into security and back several times. A New York City paper reported in 1916 that Pat Calhoun, who once had a personal fortune of over $14,000,00o, was being sued in New York for office rent, and the embarrassed Calhoun was forced to admit the he could put forth only five dollars towards his debt.34

There is little else recorded about Calhoun's personal life, and what there is set down is confusing. The Atlanta Historical Society Bulletin records his first marriage to Sophronia Fuller (1847-1871), daughter of Captain William A. Fuller, the hero of the Great Locomotive Chase, and his second marriage to Ida Cole (1857-1931). Reed's History of Atlanta, published in 1889, reports neither of those two marriages, however, but notes his marriage to Sarah Porter on November 4, 1885.35

While Calhoun suffered a severe financial reverse following the San Francisco fire and earthquake in 1906, it was reported to a South Carolina columnist in a letter from Calhoun's daughter, Mildred Calhoun Wick, that he recovered his fortune by investing in California oil properties and was affluent again when he died at 87 as a result of injuries sustained in an automobile accident in 1943. He was buried in the South Calhoun family cemetery on the university campus at Clemson, South Carolina The grave is only a few hundred yards from Fort Hill, the Calhoun home in which he was born. Thomas G. Clemson, John C. Calhoun's son-in-law, bequeathed the Fort Hill property to the state of South Carolina as the site of a college which later became Clemson University. Both the Calhoun house and the burying ground are carefully maintained by the university.36

As Jack Spalding said in his personal history. A Sketch of Life of Jack J. Spalding, Calhoun was ahead of his time. Indeed, he was an advocate for many things, including railroad consolidations, that did not really get under way until the late 1950s. In his speech before the Thursday Evening Club of Boston in 1883, Calhoun predicted that "the South, if left alone, would solve her race problem with safety, justice, and honor, and is now working on her own solution in her own hands."37 Calhoun's faith, vision, and drive led him to be one of the South's most energetic supporters, and one of the most interesting and influential of King & Spalding's early partners.


1 This topic is treated in depth and with considerable variation in My Memoirs of Georgia Politics, Rebecca Latimer Felton (The Index Printing Company: 1911), pp. 488, 490-91, 496, 518, and Cox v. State, 64 Ga. 374 (1879).

2 Croom Partridge, A Book of Kings: The Life and Antecedents of Alexander Campbell King (Unpublished manuscript, Atlanta c1930, courtesy of the Atlanta Historical Society), p.20.

3 Partridge, p.12.

4 Jack J. Spalding, King and Spalding: Law Partners 1885-1965, p.6.

5 Atlanta Constitution, April 22-25, 1885.

Partridge, pp. 15-19.

6 Spalding, Law Partners, p.5.

7 Hughes Spalding, The Spalding Family of Maryland, Kentucky and Georgia From 1658-1965 (Atlanta: The Stein Co., 1965), Vol. II, p.152.

8 Interview, Hughes Spalding with Horace Sibley, February 20, 1967.

9 Spalding, Law Partners, pp.5-6.

10 Ibid.

11 Ibid.

12 Partridge, pp.21-22.

The road later became the Central of Georgia Railway Company and is now part of the Southern Railroad (Griffin Bell).

13 Taken from a letter form Pat Calhoun to Alex King reproduced in Partridge, p.22.

14 Ibid.

15 Partridge, p.23.

16 "Trackside Duel At Dusk" (author not identified), Ties, Southern Railway Magazine; August, 1967.

The debate and the issues were similar in many respects to the Statewide Banking Bill that the firm supported in the late 1970's and in early 1980 on behalf of the Trust Company Bank (Robert L. Steed).

17 Ibid.

18 Ibid.

19 E. W. Barrett, Atlanta Constitution, August 12, 1889.

The report on Edward Cox's trial for homicide is contained in 64 Ga. 374 (1879).

20 E. W. Barrett, Atlanta Constitution, August 11, 1889.

21 Ibid.

22 Atlanta Constitution, August 12, 1889.

23 Ties, Southern Railway Magazine, August, 1967.

24 The following details are from a transcript of the events surrounding the duel that Spalding had made on or around August 10, 1889. The transcript is signed by Hunter P. Cooper, Ed C. Bruffey, Gordon M. Hunter, and John G. Taylor, witnesses. The transcript is from the Hughes Spalding Collection, the University of Georgia Library, Athens, Box 93.

25 Ibid.

26 Ibid.

27 Ibid.

28 Atlanta Constitution, August 11, 1889.

29 Atlanta Constitution, August 12, 1889.

30 Patrick Calhoun, from a transcript of Calhoun's speech to the Railroad Committee, reproduced in Wallace P. Reed's 1889 History of Atlanta (Atlanta,1889).

31 Ibid.

32 Robert Gottlieb and Irene Wolt, Thinking Big: The Story of the LOS ANGELES TIMES, Its Publishers and Their Influence on Southern California (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1977).p. 71.; I am indebted to this source for information in the following three paragraphs.

33 Gottlieb/Wolt, p.72.

34 The News, Greenville, S.C., June 24, 1974. From J.B. Southern's column "Monday Morning Line."

35 Atlanta Historical Bulletin, No. 40, p.10.

Wallace P. Reed, History of Atlanta (Atlanta,1889).

36 The News, Greenville, S.C. May 13, 1974. From J.B. Southern's column "Monday Morning Line."

Wright Bryan, historical memorandum, May 20, 1985. Mr. Bryan is a native of Clemson, South Carolina and is a former editor of the Atlanta Journal and the Cleveland, Ohio Plain Dealer. Mr. Bryan is a friend of Mrs. Mildred Calhoun Wick, Patrick Calhoun's daughter.

37 Reed, History of Atlanta.

ILLUSTRATION CAPTIONS: (images not yet available on-line)

[p. 21] Steel engraving of pat Calhoun, King & Spalding partner 1887-1894 and grandson of southern statesman John C. Calhoun. (Courtesy of the Atlanta Historical Society.)

[p. 25] The Gate City National Bank, where Calhoun, King & Spalding had offices from 1887-1891 and 1893-1901. Built in 1884 on the southwest corner of S. Pryor and Alabama Streets for $145,000. the building was a haven for lawyers because of its proximity to the courthouse. In 1896, four new floors were added at a cost of $40,000, and the name was changed to Temple Court. The lower floors of the building are now the center of Underground Atlanta. (Courtesy of the Atlanta Historical Society.)

[p. 27] This letter may have been written by a secretary or stenographier in the office to Pat Calhoun during one of his many trips to new York City on railroad business. (Courtesy of the Atlanta Historical Society.)

[p. 30] The Kiser Law Building, where King & Spalding had offices in 1891. The Kiser Law Building was completed in 1890 on the northwest corner of Pryor and Hunter (now Martin Luther King Dr.) Streets. The site is now a parking lot. (Courtesy of the Atlanta Historical Society.)

[p. 36] Draft made out to Calhoun, King & Spalding in 1892 for $500. (Courtest of the Special Collections Department, University of Georgia Libraries.)

King & Spalding -- firm's home page on the web (NOTE: not the host site for this page)

Della Wager Wells -- contact information for the author of this work.

BACK to the Cleveland Digital Library, at Cleveland State University Library's Special Collections (temporary host link until the Patrick Calhoun home page is prepared)

Last updated August 20, 2001