Michael J. Malone
Douglas County Law Library

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Lawrence, Kansas 66044
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This Month in Legal History

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This page contains the "This Month in Legal History" column as published in the current Michael J. Malone Douglas County Law Library E-Mail Newsletter. The column features a different event from the history of law and jurisprudence of Douglas County, Kansas, that occurred during the month. It is published monthly in the Michael J. Malone Douglas County Law Library E-Mail Newsletter and on the Home page of this website.

Archived entries from this and previous years can be accessed by visiting the This Month in Legal History Archive page on this website.

July 8, 1936 - Retired District Court Judge Charles A. Smart dies.

Robert Smart and Euphemia McArthur were natives of Scotland. They were married there in 1847, and their first child, Andrew, was born in 1848. Elizabeth came next in 1849, and that same year Robert immigrated to the United States. It was common for the husband to come over first, establish a way to make a living, and arrange for shelter before the rest of the family came over. Euphemia and the children followed Robert to America in 1850. The Smarts settled in Porter, Rock County, Wisconsin, where Robert took up farming. Their first child was Frank, born in 1852, followed by James in 1855. On January 5, 1858, Charles Arthur Smart was born, followed by Ellen in 1860, Arthur in 1863, Winfield in 1868, and finally Effie in 1870. The young Charles grew up, eventually attending Milton Academy in Milton, Wisconsin, a town about 15 miles east of Porter, from 1877 to 1882. It was reported that "he taught eight terms of school during that period." After leaving the Academy, Charles moved eight miles southwest to Janesville, where he read law in a law office there. He joined the Wisconsin Bar in 1883, but did not practice long in his home state. Charles Smart moved to Kansas in 1884, where he was advised by Judge Solon O. Thacher of Lawrence, Kansas, that he should open a law office in Ottawa. Kansas. He took the judge's advice and opened an office there on April 7, 1884. Smart was made Ottawa City Attorney in 1885. He traveled to Wisconsin that same year to marry Lola Sophia Sherman Bedford, daughter of James Bedford, Jr., and Mary Jane Bedford, née Taylor, on April 28, 1885. Smart brought his new bride back to Kansas, and a daughter, Georgia Ethel., was born to the newlyweds on March 19, 1886. A second daughter, Lola Lucille., was born January 31, 1888, and later that year, Smart was elected as County Attorney of Franklin County, whose county seat was Ottawa. Euphemia Mary joined the family on March 11, 1890, and later that year Smart was defeated in his bid for a second term as Franklin County Attorney due to the power of the Populist Party in Kansas. A fourth daughter, Charlotte Ellen, was born to the Smart family on April 3, 1892. In 1896, Smart ran on the Republican ticket for election as judge of the 4th Judicial District that included Anderson, Douglas, and Franklin counties. He was declared the winner in a close election on November 3rd, and began hearing cases after being sworn in in January 1897. Each of the three counties in Judge Smart's judicial district had specified terms when the district court would be in session in those counties during the judicial year. Douglas County had terms that began on the first Monday in February, May, and November of each year, and Franklin and Anderson County would alternate court terms on other months, all avoiding the hot summer months. Judge Smart's challenger in the November 1896 election, Samuel Agnew Riggs, contested the results of the election to the Kansas Senate. The Senate was dominated by the Populist Party, which put Judge Smart at a disadvantage. Although Judge Smart had already presided for one court term in each of the three counties, the Senate voted to overturn his election in favor of Riggs, who then became judge in the 4th Judicial District. The Smart family received another blow that year, when Lola delivered a baby girl on September 6th that died unnamed soon after her birth. Judge Smart ran again for district court judge in 1900, and this time won "a majority that left no room for a contest" in the November 6th election. He took office in 1901. On April 25th that year, a sixth daughter named Carolee Bedford was born, thereby completing the Smart Family. After serving four years on the bench, Judge Smart was reelected in 1904. In addition, he served as President of the Kansas Bar Association for 1905. On September 5th of that year, Judge Smart was handed a hot potato when a petition was filed in Douglas County District Court concerning custody of "The Incubator Baby", a nationally famous case that began in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1904 and kept being revisited in various jurisdictions for a decade. On January 25, 1906, Judge Smart ruled in favor of the adoptive mother in the case. Upon an appeal of Judge Smart's ruling, the Kansas Supreme Court overturned his decision on October 6, 1906, and issued a writ of mandamus to grant the birth mother a new trial. Despite the fact that his ruling in the Incubator Baby case was overturned and had subsequently made national news, the voters in his judicial district did not think any less of him for it, and he was reelected as district judge in 1908, 1912, and 1916. In early 1920, Judge Smart declared that he would not seek another term as district judge. Then in September, Lola became ill. His tenure as district judge ended when he retired in January 1921, having served twenty years on the bench. After leaving the bench, Judge Smart and Lola moved to Lawrence, Kansas, where he opened a law practice. During his time on the bench, he had served on the boards of several banks in the area, and he continued to be associated with the banking industry the rest of his life. Lola died on October 24, 1927, and was buried in Memorial Park Cemetery in Lawrence. Judge Smart married Gertrude Standing on February 10, 1929. On the evening of July 8, 1936, Judge Charles A. Smart died at his home in Lawrence. His obituary reported that "He possessed rare charm as an orator and was in great demand for public gatherings of many kinds. As a speaker on patriotic occasions he had few equals." Judge Smart was buried next to Lola and their unnamed baby daughter in Memorial Park Cemetery.

From: Robert Smart - Euphemia McArthur, kenbower.com; Smart, Robert, 1900 U.S. Census, Milton Town, Rock County, Wisconsin, 7/7/1900; Smart, Robert, 1870 U.S. Census, Porter, Rock County, Wisconsin, 7/8/1900; Judge Charles Arthur Smart - Lola Sophia Sherman Bedford, kenbrower.com website; Lawrence Daily Journal-World, v. 80, no. 164 (July 9, 1936), p. 1; Charles A. Smart, Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co., Chicago, 1912, Vol. 3; Milton College, Wikipedia website; Smart, Charles A., 1910 U.S. Census, Ottawa, Franklin County, Kansas, 5/13/1910; Lola S. Smart, Find-A-Grave website; and, Lawrence Daily Journal-World, v. 65, no. 7 (January 8, 1921), p. 2.

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Created: November 27, 2006; Revised: July 1, 2015