A Collection in
The University of Virginia Library
Accession Number 12094
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The Papers of William Francis Rhea, Accession #12094, Special Collections, University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Va.
These items were purchased by the University of Virginia Library from Stuart Lutz, Historical Documents, Jersey City, New Jersey, October 23, 2001.
William Francis Rhea was born on a farm near Bristol, Virginia, on April 20, 1858, and attended rural and private schools. In 1878, he graduated from King College, Bristol, Tennessee, began to study law, and was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1879. Rhea served as a judge in both the Washington County Court and Bristol, Virginia, city court. He was first elected as a Democrat to the Virginia State Senate, 1885-1888, and then served two terms in the United States Congress, 1899-1903. After his defeat in the 1902 election, he again practiced law in Bristol, until his appointment as a member of the State corporation commission, 1908-1925, when he lived in Richmond, Virginia, until his death in 1931.
This collection consists of the political papers of Virginia Representative and judge of the Washington County Court (1880-1885) and the city court of Bristol, Virginia, William Francis Rhea (1858-1931), 1899- 1902, ca. 316 items (1 Hollinger box), chiefly constituent mail and papers pertaining to the election dispute between Rhea and James Alexander Walker (1832-1901) in the 1898 Congressional election for the Ninth District of Virginia.
Papers concerning the contested election are grouped together and include correspondence of the Campaign Committee with attorneys involved in the contest about their fees; other material about expenditures and fees connected to the disputed election; letters from registrars to Rhea regarding his request for lists of registered voters; miscellaneous documents and notes; lists of voting registrars in the 9th Congressional District; and Voting Rolls for Pulaski County and Russell County, Virginia, listing the registrar's name and address, and the voter's name, address, occupation and politics. According to the letters from the registrars to Rhea, most of them did not include the names of African-American voters on the voting rolls sent to Judge Rhea. Many of these African-American voters were expected to have cast Republican votes for Walker.
Constituent mail is concerned with applications for patronage positions, especially with the Census Bureau and Post Office; requests from farmers for the free blackleg vaccine, flower bulbs, seeds, literature printed by the government, and school superintendent positions. There were also letters opposing the Loud Bill concerning second-class mailing fees.
Other papers include financial documents of the Democratic Campaign Committee; an official ballot from the election held on November 6, 1900, with a letter from the Court Clerk Kilgore certifying its authenticity, January 8, 1902; Washington County receipts for [Claude] Swanson, 1901; a printed bill pertaining to copyright law and a report on "Measurements of Flow on the Holston River, Tennessee, June 10, 1902."