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Judge Jefferson Albert Carnley

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The following is an excerpt from a highly recommended book titled "Coffee Grounds-A History of Coffee County, Alabama 1841-1970" by Fred S. Watson:

The ninth probate judge of Coffee County was Jefferson Albert Carnley. Learned in the law, eloquent in the forum, a sagacious counselor with a rich store of experience in politics, and a public servant who has ably filled both legislative and judicial offices, Jefferson Albert Carnley was one of the leading citizens of Elba and one of the greatest statesmen of his part of Alabama.

A son of John Oliver Carnley, who was a native of Pike County, Alabama, a farmer and a justice of the peace, and of his wife, Susan Anna (Hart) Carnley, who was born in Dale County, Jefferson Albert Carnley was born on December 13, 1873, in the vicinity of Elba.

He began his education in the local rural schools and graduated from the high school at Brantley with the class of 1897. At the age of twenty-two he began teaching school in Coffee and Crenshaw Counties, and so marked was his ability as an educator and an administrator that in 1898, when he was only in his mid-twenties, he was elected superintendent of education of Coffee County. His administration of this responsible position was so successful that he was reelected in the year 1900.

But during the four years of his service as a superintendent of education, Mr. Carnley came to believe that his true vocation was for the profession of the law. Accordingly he resigned the superintendency in order to enter the University of Alabama, from which he graduated in 1904 with the degree of Bachelor of Laws. Indications that his choice of a career at the bar was the correct decision are seen in the fact that during his college years he starred on the University debating team and in the further fact that he became law librarian at the University.

After graduating with the coveted Bachelor of Laws degree, and being admitted to the bar, Mr. Carnley settled in the city of Enterprise and there hung out his shingle. But in the year 1905 he removed to Elba, where he continued to practice until 1922. In 1911 he became editor of the Elba Clipper, and his journalistic career in this capacity extended through 1915. Form time to time he reached his majority. Carnley was active in political affairs, and in 1912 was elected chairman of the executive committee of the Coffee County organization of the Democratic Party. In that same year he was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention at Baltimore, Maryland, where Woodrow Wilson, Governor of New Jersey at that time, received the nomination for the Presidency the United States over a field of other candidates which included Alabama's "favorite son", Oscar Underwood, Democratic leader of the Federal House of Representatives.

In 1915 by special election, Carnley was elected a member of the legislature of Alabama, and in 1918 he was re-elected to that office. In 1922 he moved from the legislature to the judicial branch of government with his election to the position of judge of the probate court. He served as probate judge of Coffee County eighteen years, from 1923 to 1941.

In 1942 after an absence of twenty years from the legislative halls, Judge Carnley again became a candidate for member of the State Legislature, and again was elected. After his term in the legislature he re-established in the private practice of the law with the assistance of his youngest son, the youngest of his six children, Samuel Fleetwood Carnley. In addition to his professional business, he had extensive agriculture interests.

He was a member of the Alabama Bar Association, a member of Masonic Lodge, a Knight of Physias, and also an Odd Fellow and Woodman. He was a Baptist and served as vice-president of the Alabama Baptist Convention in 1937; also a deacon of his church for over forty years.

On June 19, 1901, Jefferson Albert Carnley was married to Mary Olive Ray, who was a native of Wilcox County. Six children were born of this marriage; Josephine Jefferson wife of Terry D. Kendrick; Mary Olive who married E.E. Purvis, Junior; Sarah Albert who married James E. Folsom and died July 10, 1944; Oliver Paul, who died in infancy; Jefferson Albert, Junior, who married Sarah Lee; and Samuel Fleetwood, the youngest ld, married Mary Talbot.

On October 1, 1969, Samuel Fleetwood Carnley was appointed Judge of interior court of Coffee County.

Judge J. A. Carnley died December 7, 1954, at the age of 81. His influence in helping build a better county will be felt for many years to come.

NOTE: The creator of this page is honored to have the above information which was compiled by Mr. Fred S. Watson as a part of this ALGenWeb site. If you would like to read more important facts concerning earlier Coffee County and its citizens, I DO highly recommend the reading of "Coffee Grounds-A History of Coffee County, Alabama 1841 - 1970" by Fred S. Watson.

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ŪPage Created by Phyllis J. K. Owen on September 20th, 1999