It’s amazing how many people have left the hills and hollows of Logan County and made a name for themselves in one vocation or another. Soon, I will identify many of these individuals in a story that should make us all very proud, despite the doom and gloom of our economically depressed and drug-ridden environment.
But for today’s purposes, I wish to recognize possibly the most underrated figure ever in the history of Logan County; a gentleman whose local history should be recorded in the annals of time, and made known to the younger generation—just as the elders who knew of the vigilance of his work continue to become the deceased.
Born the son of an eloquent Methodist clergyman in 1890 at Pecks Mill, Chester “Cush” Chambers would in 1936 become Logan Circuit Judge and in so doing spend a lifetime fighting what he termed as “the evils of Logan County.”
As one of the three most important men ever in the shaping of Logan County, Chambers is the only one whose final resting place at Forest Lawn Cemetery is easily recognizable. The other two Loganites whose names continue to fade into local history are Henry Clay Ragland and John Cary Alderson—-two gentlemen whose superlative careers helped tame and grow a raw-boned and rebellious Logan County.
Ragland, who recorded the outstanding history of Logan County and started The Logan Banner in 1888, is buried at the neglected Logan City Cemetery on High Street, while Alderson, who started the first bank ever in the county and helped instrument the coming of the railroad to Logan, lies beside his wife in the totally abandoned McConnell cemetery that was named Logan Memorial Gardens. Originally, Judge Chambers had purchased plots at McConnell to serve as his final resting place, but lived to see the desertion and demise of the place whose owners promised perpetual care to its patron saints. Chambers wisely sold his interests in the 20-acre location.
Before Chambers was elected judge, he also served as Logan City Attorney and then Mayor of the rapidly growing Guyandotte River location that would become a bustling city filled with the good and the bad that comes from economic prosperity and diversity; both of which were the result of the coal mining industry.
In examining and reporting a past filled with every attempt to tackle the ills of society, we must first learn to appreciate what the astute judge represented. For instance, in his lifetime, Judge Chambers would dispense justice to a Logan County population that at one time had more subscribers to the local newspaper than there are residents of the county today. It is through the newspaper accounts that we are able to display the famous judge’s nearly futile attempts to eliminate the evils of gambling, prostitution, and all law-breaking, including vote buying.
Considering that today there exists two Logan circuit judges—as well as two Family Court judges—to handle many of the problems of a dwindling population, one has to appreciate the past efforts of a man who did not have to concern himself with the costs of jail or prison incarcerations. The following is a time-line of the storied career of a powerful judge who waged a continuous battle against crime and immoral behavior.
Nov. 6, 1925—Mayor Chambers, who had previously announced his intentions to “clean up” the city of Logan, saw Logan Judge Robert Bland reverse an earlier decision by the mayor in which Chambers had sentenced a man to a $25 fine and 30 days in jail for possessing liquor.
Bland ruled that a search warrant was needed prior to a Logan City police officer charging Mop Giles and a friend, who were seen drinking “something,” as the officer passed by their open apartment door at the Holland Apartments on Stratton Street. The Holland Building, constructed in 1910, still stands with vacant rooms upstairs and is located beside the business known as Gold Town in Logan. In 1932, it also was described as housing the “Amen Club” of Logan, which allegedly consisted of a group of prominent people who reportedly engaged in activities that included illegal alcohol and illicit sexual encounters. The building and club were part of testimony presented in the murder trial of Mamie Thurman.
Jan. 11, 1937—Just 10 days after taking the oath of office as Logan’s only circuit judge, Chambers set the stage for his career with vigorous statements in regards to the drinking of alcohol, gambling, and what he called “the growing public indifference to houses of ill fame,” saying they were places where the stage was set for the commission “of any kind of crime.”
Jan. 15, 1937—In what was described as a rain-darkened and gloomy courtroom, the new judge showed he meant business by sentencing Audley “Skeeter” Austin to five years in prison for stealing an overcoat. It was Chambers’ first sentencing as judge.
Jan, 7, 1938—Discussing the possibility of a gambling “clean-up” in the city of Logan and the county, Judge Chambers told a grand jury that “ I have found that many persons are in favor gambling in Logan. This, however, does not make gambling legal. It is a violation of the law to gamble and I wish that every place in operation in the city and county could be closed down and the operators punished.”
Jan. 10, 1938—Chambers, addressing 15 grand jurors, told them to return indictments in all cases of crimes “involving perjury, rape, illegal cohabitation and every other crime where sufficient evidence is found.” The judge further stated that “I condemn public gaming houses where liquor is drunk and men spend wages that are sorely needed for clothes and shoes for their children.” Chambers also instructed the investigating body to apply the law to everybody. “If a lawyer or doctor gets on the street drunk, he should be arrested just as the poor miner,” Chambers said.
Jan. 9, 1939—Judge Chambers told yet another grand jury that “public officials that are in office to get as much money as they can are not fit to serve,” and he asked jurors to return indictments against such officials. “Strangely, I must say that most officeholders and people who run for public office are there to get all the money and power and glory that goes with it,” Chambers declared.
Jan. 10, 1939—Supplementing his terse charge of yesterday against crooked public officials, Judge C.C. Chambers told grand jurors to indict persons committing election fraud. “It is disgusting to go about the polls in this county at election time. Citizens are herded to the polls and bought like cattle,” said the judge.
Jan. 15, 1943—During the height of World War II, Chambers opened up that term of court by telling grand jurors that the legislature “lied” in describing beer as “non-intoxicating” because it contained less than five percent alcohol.
In condemning “beer gardens,” the judge said, “They might as well have called a rose a cactus.” Further, Chambers stated, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Filth by any other name would smell as bad.”
The judge also blamed juvenile delinquency on beer, but did acknowledge the wartime employment of both mothers and fathers as being partly at fault.
“There came to my attention yesterday a complaint from Buffalo Creek that non-intoxicating beer dispensaries in that neighborhood were selling beer to youths 12 years of age,” said Chambers. “One 12-year-old boy bought a bottle of beer with his lunch money and took it to school to drink with his lunch,” the judge pointed out, saying people selling the “non-intoxicating” beer did not know that it was illegal to sell to people under the age of eighteen.
At the same school, the judge said there was a girl who told the teacher that she hoped that the store would be stopped from selling beer to children because her father sent her after beer at night; that it was dark; that she always had to pass a lot of drunken men, and that she was always afraid.
Jan. 8, 1951—Judge Chambers again attacked crime in addressing the grand jury. “Lewd and lascivious cohabitation” were said to breed much of the county’s crimes. He added that there was “lots” of bootlegging going on, and “not much being done about it.” In addition, Chambers said that “some twenty so-called private clubs that engaged in the operation of slot machines, bootlegging and other nefarious conduct had to go.”
Jan. 8, 1962—Some 26 years after first taking office, the infamous judge had not changed his moral ideology. However, the world had changed, and the aging county leader was not a fan of something called “rock ‘n roll.”
The “twist,” the latest dance craze to capture the fancy of America’s youth at the time, was sharply criticized by Chambers when he said, “It’s the most suggestive thing I’ve ever seen.”
In addressing that year’s grand jury, the judge, who has sentenced more people to jail and prison than all other Logan judges combined, and is the last Logan judge to sentence a defendant to the death penalty, said he had lost faith in the people of this country when each time he turned on the television set and saw the youth and adults engaged in what he called the “hyenic” dance known as the “twist.”
In a very disputed May Primary Election that year, Chambers won by less than five votes. With no opponent in the General Election in November, Chambers in September was back to normal as he declared that 85 percent of the crimes committed in Logan County and 90 percent of all divorces were caused directly or indirectly by liquor.
In addition, the judge chastised those who were participating in what was described as a new crime in the county—drag-racing.
Judge C.C. Chambers would serve out his term, and would not seek re-election again. He would later die as a member of numerous valued fraternal organizations, and as one of the most important figures of Nighbert Memorial Methodist Church of Logan, as well as all of Logan County.
Gone are the so called beer gardens, houses of ill refute, and even local drag racing. Replacing those former issues is an evil epidemic that Judge C.C. Chambers could never have imagined—-drug addiction.
BITS and PIECES
Seventeen years ago, I took the oath of office as a Magistrate in Logan County…..since that time, I have witnessed up close the addiction and death of many people due mostly to opioid drug addiction…..I have lost friends, and saw the devastation of many families as the doctor-driven epidemic spread like a disease without a cure…..now, today, after years of watching people line up at various pill pushing doctors’ offices across the coalfields, numerous municipalities are going after the pharmaceutical companies who dumped millions of pills into our ravaged communities…..I am reminded of a time growing up when nobody addressed the issues of tobacco use; in fact, it was considered “normal” to have a cigarette dangling from one’s mouth…..television, cinema, radio and the print media once promoted tobacco products in different ways…..as a former smoker, I know that tobacco addiction pales in comparison to the scourge of today’s drug problems, but the fact is that the drug companies, just like the tobacco industry, has contributed to the death of millions of unsuspecting Americans…..it should be made illegal for any politician to take a donation from such industries…..it is a shame that we have now arrived to the point that we have to hand out needles to addicts to keep them from spreading diseases such as AIDS; and it is also sad that it is becoming normal for police, ambulance personnel and even schools to dispense naloxone to save the lives of persons experiencing an opioid overdose…..in the meantime, we have a republican controlled legislature that has no economic vision, and a democratic governor, who chooses to bring animal “poop” to a news conference to express a political point….personally, I like the Governor, but his urging of Marshall University officials to fire Thundering Herd football coach Doc Holiday is absurd…..it just goes to show you that, like our President, billionaires think differently than the rest of us poor souls…..speaking of governors, I am very pleased to see that Alabama Governor Robert Bentley has pleaded to two counts of having affairs with his female aide, and has since resigned…..Bentley, a republican, who ran on staunch conservative family values, reminds me of some other people I know, and they’re not all republicans……QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “It is not right to take a contested two-point shot.”—Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni explaining why his successful team takes so many three-point shots…..CLOSING NOTE: I would like to take this opportunity to wish readers a very pleasant Easter, as we celebrate this great religious holiday. I also wish to let you know that 22 years ago today, on another beautiful Easter Sunday, my wife, Janice, and I were united in marriage. Who would ever think that an avid Reds fan and a Dodgers fan, such as me, could ever co-exist under the same roof? I suppose love truly is “a many splendored thing.” Happy Easter.
Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.