Jerry Summers: Blount - Schoolfield - Trump

Saturday, February 13, 2021 - by Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers

What do the above-mentioned powerful individuals have in common?

William Blount (1749-1800) was a signer of the United States Constitution, originally from North Carolina and served as the only governor of the Southwest Territory. He would eventually be elected as one of Tennessee’s initial United States Senators in 1796.

He also was a land spectator and obtained millions of acres in Tennessee and the West.

Blount was responsible for the creation of the City of Knoxville, named after United States Secretary of War Henry Knox, and he built a mansion in that community that still stands as a historical structure.

He was instrumental in conducting a census to determine whether the minimum requirement of 60,000 residents to establish a state could be reached with the population in the territory being determined to be 77,000, and when the state of Tennessee was admitted to the Union in 1796, Blount became a U.S. Senator.

He was an alleged conspirator in a plot to allow the British to gain control of Florida and Louisiana, which he foolishly outlined in a letter.

It reached the hands of President John Adams who thought it constituted a crime and turned it over to the Senate, which led to a bizarre set of historical facts.

Blount fled from Washington to Tennessee while the House and Senate debated whether he should be impeached. He would return to Knoxville where he would remain popular and served in the State Senate until his death on March 21, 1800 from an epidemic.

Scott Raulston Schoolfield (1905-1982) was a trial lawyer, criminal judge, and politician from Hamilton County who was elected criminal judge in 1950 as a reform candidate. He served eight controversial years until 1958 when he was brought to trial in the Tennessee General Assembly on 32 acts of illegal and unethical acts arising out of the McClellan Committee hearings in Washington on racketeering in four Southern states by labor unions - primarily the Teamsters Union under the leadership of James Hoffa.

Schoofield’s feud with Governor Frank G. Clement in the 1954 gubernatorial election would play a part in the initiation of an investigation headed by veteran Nashville trial attorney Jack Norman and future political aspirant John J. Hooker, Jr. and assisted by leaders of the Chattanooga and Tennessee bar associations.

Schoolfield would eventually stand trial in the Tennessee Senate on 24 charges upon a lot of hearsay evidence in a donnybrook and media circus that lasted six weeks and ended on July 12, 1958.

Donald J. Trump is the 45th President of the United States and was succeeded by Joe Biden who was sworn in office on January 20, 2021.

His background and history have been both praised and vilified by his millions of supporters and opponents and is ongoing and will continue into the future and will affect the nation for many years.

What do these three men in history have in common?

The answers are much more complex than an article can cover but there is a connective theme running throughout the lives and political careers of all three.

1. Blount was accused of criminal conspiracy and faced Impeachment charges beginning in early 1798. His trial in the Senate was delayed until January 1779 but Blount refused to attend and fled to Knoxville. On January 11, 1779, the political body by a vote of 14 to 11 voted to dismiss the indictment brought by the House of Representatives on the ground that impeachment did not extend to senators.

2. Schoolfield was found Not Guilty on the most serious charge of accepting a bribe from the Teamsters Union for dismissing 13 of the 32 charges. He was convicted of three minor charges of 1. Cussing out an assistant district attorney at a private club across the street from the Hamilton County Courthouse; (2) engaging in partisan politics; and (3) accepting a 1950 Pontiac automobile paid for by money raised by his court officer from private citizens, lawyers, and bail bondsmen.

A supplemental motion to ban him from holding any future elected office in Tennessee failed by a vote of 19-12 which was one vote short of the required two-thirds majority vote. One of the 33 senators had been ill and absent during the entire six-week trial and another Senator from Davidson County had conveniently exited from the Senate Chamber before the last vote.

As a result, Schoolfield would face disbarment charges from the practice of law, and then run for and win various public offices over the years until 1974.

Because Hamilton County had grown into the same population total as Knox County that had passed a Private Act that authorized a non-lawyer judge in the General Sessions Court, the Chattanooga/Hamilton County voting public could do the same.

Schoolfield filed his qualifying petition at 4 p.m. on the last eligible day and was elected as one of the three new judicial officers in that court.

He would be re-elected in the fall of 1982 and would die of a heart attack on Oct. 5 of the same year.

Donald J. Trump’s unexpected rise to the presidency of the United States after a career as a busy developer of hotels, airlines, casinos, and as a television performer has been both colorful and controversial as an elected Republican to the High Office. His Presidency was filled with controversy from the beginning. Impeached on one occasion and defeated by Democrat Joe Biden in the November 2020 General Election, he now faces another impeachment charge arising out of the Jan. 6, 2021 riots at the Capitol in Washington.

Legal questions surround the trial as to whether a president who has been voted out of office can be impeached?

Like Schoofield, Trump will also be confronted with the issue of whether he can be banned from running for President or any other federal office in 2024 or later.

In order to pass such a lifetime ban, 17 Republican Senators will have to vote with the Democrats to obtain the necessary votes that are needed to prevent any future political candidacy by Donald J. Trump.

Blount, Schoolfield and Trump are individuals that are a part of history who will be remembered as popular and controversial politicians and had dark chapters in their careers of public service in the area of Impeachment while in office.

* * *

Jerry Summers

(If you have additional information about one of Mr. Summers' articles or have suggestions or ideas about a future Chattanooga area historical piece, please contact Mr. Summers at jsummers@summersfirm.com)

Raulston Schoolfield
Raulston Schoolfield

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