The Cases of the Murdering Wives

(This is research for a law school paper – not my family line)

Clarice Covert and Dorothy Krueger were both tried and convicted by courts-martial of murdering their military husbands on foreign soil.  Clarice’s court-martial was in England; Dorothy’s was in Japan.  They were both sentenced to life at hard labor at Alderson Federal Reformatory for Women in West Virginia.  Dorothy’s court-martial was in late 1952 and Clarice’s was in early 1953.  Previous blog posts have covered the details of these trials.  Much of what follows comes directly from my daughter’s paper, leaving out the details she does not want revealed until her paper is published, and in an abbreviated form.

The events that occurred after the convictions are of primary interest in these cases.   Robert W. Toth, along with an accomplice, Thomas L. Kinder, brutally murdered a Korean man while serving as a security guard in Korea.  Kinder was tried and convicted by court martial, but by the time the crime was discovered, Toth had taken an honorable discharge and was back in the United States.  Toth was apprehended and returned to Korea, where he was tried by court martial under Article 3(a), which granted military jurisdiction over former service members who had committed crimes before their discharge.  After his conviction, Toth’s sister filed a habeas petition on his behalf. The D.C. Circuit upheld the constitutionality of Article 3(a) on the grounds that a person is generally subject to trial in the jurisdiction where the offense was committed, but when Toth’s sister appealed to the Supreme Court, they reversed 6-3. Justice Black wrote the opinion for the Court, holding that Congress’s Article I, section 8 power to “Make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces” only allowed for court martial jurisdiction over individuals who were actually in the land and naval forces at the time of trial. Civilians were not in the land and naval forces, thus, Article 3(a)’s grant of jurisdiction over former service members was invalid.

Just ten days after the Toth decision, Clarice filed a habeas petition in the federal district court for the District of Columbia. Judge Edward Tamm granted her petition.  Feeling encouraged by this ruling, General Krueger, Dorothy Smith’s father, filed an identical petition in the federal district court for the Southern District of West Virginia.   Chief Judge Ben Moore rejected the habeas petition.

Both cases were appealed to the Supreme Court—the government filed a direct appeal of Judge Tamm’s ruling, while General Krueger appealed Judge Moore’s denial of habeas relief to the Fourth Circuit.  Nina Kinsella, Alderson’s warden, brought the case to the Supreme Court before the Fourth Circuit could weigh in.   Frederick Bernays Wiener was by this point representing both women and cooperated with the government in expediting the cases so that they could be heard together at the Court’s upcoming October term.

The Court’s conference notes from May 4, 1956 indicate that the judges tentatively intended to come out for the wives.  Chief Justice Warren, Black, Reid, Frankfurter, and Douglas all registered tentative votes for the wives; Burton, Minton, and Harlan intended to vote for the Government; Clark passed. However, in the days following the conference, opinion on the Court began to shift.  On May 14, Justice Reed circulated a memorandum explaining that he had become convinced that his tentative votes in favor of the wives had been in error.  He had concluded that the “long history of the jurisdiction of consular courts” over United States citizens abroad demonstrated that, while citizens were entitled due process, what process was due—what manner of trial, in other words—was not controlled by the Constitution.  With Justice Reed’s switch, the outcome of the case was then settled—the Court voted against the wives 5-4, upholding the military’s exercise of jurisdiction over Clarice and Dorothy.

Chief Justice Warren, joined by Black and Douglas, worried that “[t]he military is given new powers not hitherto thought consistent with our scheme of government,” but stated that they needed more time to prepare their dissents and would submit them at the next term. Instead of joining in the dissent, Justice Frankfurter published a sharply worded reservation, noting that the majority’s refusal to examine the scope of Congress’s power under Article I to make rules regulating the armed forces—“ The plain inference from this is that the Court is not prepared to support the constitutional basis upon which the Covert and Smith courts-martial were instituted and the convictions were secured.” Explaining that “[w]isdom, like good wine, needs maturing”—in other words, that more time was needed for adequate reflection—he reserved his vote.

The Grant of Petition for Rehearing

Rule 58 of the Court requires that rehearing petitions only be granted if a justice who voted with the majority changes his mind or begins to doubt his original vote, accepts the petition, and convinces a majority of the Court to rehear the case.  Wiener focused his argument for rehearing on four issues: (1) military considerations clearly underlay all of the decisions to uphold the court martial proceedings, so the scope of Congress’s rule-making authority for the armed forces was by necessity at issue; (2) the legislative history indicates that Congress never considered the constitutionality of Article 2(a)(11) at the time it was adopted and never considered Ross during any of the legislative hearings;  (3) that there had been no mention of any source of constitutional power by which Congress could strip two citizens of their protections under the Bill of Rights; and finally, (4) Article 2(a)(11) asserted a jurisdiction limited to instances ‘without the continental limits of the United States,’ whereas Clarice was now back within those limits, so Article 2(a)(11) was inapplicable.  The last part of the petition, however, might have carried the most weight with the Justices—he raised the issue of the Court’s adjudicatory procedure in the two cases: the oral argument took place on an accelerated schedule which “cut nearly in half” the time for briefs under the rules; the argument was the last of the day on the last day of the term and stretched well past the time for adjournment; and the opinions were announced before the three dissenters had time to articulate their views, or Justice Frankfurter to make a decision at all.

He decided to aim his argument at Justice John Marshall Harlan II.   Justice Harlan was, very plainly, the swing-man.  In targeting Justice Harlan, Wiener focused on the fact that the accelerated argument schedule hurt the consideration of his case.   Wiener’s decision to target Justice Harlan was a productive one.  Justice Frankfurter appeared to also believe that Justice Harlan was the key to a rehearing—just after the petition came in, he determined that the judges had never considered Wiener’s point (4), and solicited the views of one of Justice Harlan’s clerks.  The clerk, Wayne G. Barnett, wrote in a memorandum to Justice Harlan that he had a “distinctly dissatisfied” feeling about the action taken, and believed that the issues were “deserving of a more deliberate consideration than could be given them at the close of the term.”  Another clerk, Paul M. Bator, wrote a lengthy memo analyzing the petition for rehearing, concluding that, contrary to Justice Clark’s majority opinion, the case had to rest on some specific power given to Congress, not on a “mere combination” of “no prohibition” plus “reasonableness.”  He also thought that there should be a rehearing, that in difficult cases “account ought to be taken” of the view of every member of the Court, “especially one so prominent in Constitutional law as Justice Frankfurter.”

On September 5th, Justice Harlan circulated a memorandum to Justices Reed, Burton, Clark, and Minton, where he explained that he intended, “as presently advised” to vote for rehearing.

In October, the Court granted the petition—in its grant, the Court focused the parties on four issues: (1) the specific practical necessities justifying court martial of civilians, and any practical alternatives; (2) historical evidence bearing on the scope of the Article I, section 8, clause 14 rule-making power and whether that power was understood to be narrow or broad; (3) any relevant differences between court martial of dependents and that of employees; and (4) the relevance of distinctions between petty crimes and major offenses.

This time, both sides had plenty of time to submit briefs and prepare for argument, which was set for February 1957.  The Government submitted a supplemental brief that focused on four arguments in turn—that court-martial jurisdiction over civilians accompanying the armed forces abroad was of practical necessity as a matter of international relations and to accomplish the military mission; that there were no practical alternatives; that the scope of the rule-making power, when read in conjunction with the Necessary and Proper clause, was broad and susceptible to expansion under changing circumstances; and that the constitutional distinction between major crimes and petty offenses was not a relevant distinction for purposes of court-martial jurisdiction over civilians abroad.

The oral argument took place on February 27, 1957.  At this point, several personnel changes had occurred—Justices Reed and Minton had retired, replaced by Justices Brennan and Whittaker.  As Justice Whittaker had not yet taken his seat, the argument occurred before eight Justices.

The Justices’ conference notes showed a solid majority in favor of the wives—Chief Justice Warren, Black, Brennan, Frankfurter, and Douglas all voted to reverse both convictions, while Justices Burton, Clark, and Harlan voted to affirm—and in time, Justice Harlan was prevailed upon to change his vote.  What was up in the air, however, was the scope of the majority opinion, which Chief Justice Warren assigned to Justice Black.

Justice Black’s plurality opinion, joined by Chief Justice Warren, and Justices Douglas and Brennan, opened by acknowledging that “[t]hese cases raise basic constitutional issues of the utmost concern,” and rejected from the outset the idea that the U.S. government could act against its own citizens abroad in a manner “free of the Bill of Rights.” This point was made in the most definitive terms possible—“The United States,” Black wrote, “is entirely a creature of the Constitution.” The rights and liberties of U.S. citizens were “jealously preserved from encroachments” by the express terms of the Constitution itself—because the right to a jury trial was a fundamental right, it could not be rendered “inoperative” when it became inconvenient. This, Black wrote, would destroy the benefit of a written Constitution and undermine the basis of our government.

Black then swept aside the two key pillars of the Government’s argument—that Ross should control, and that Article 2(a)(11) could be upheld as legislation necessary and proper to carry out the United States’ international obligations.  First, Black rejected the rationale underpinning Ross, calling it a “relic from a different era,” and then turned to whether an international agreement could give the U.S. government power, which was not constrained by the Constitution. In emphatic language, Black held that it could not—quoting from the Article VI Supremacy Clause, Black wrote that nothing in the text of the Constitution or in its legislative history suggested that treaties and other international agreements did not have to comply with the Constitution. He wrote, “We have always held that the Constitution supersedes treaties.”

All of this was prologue to the meat of the opinion—having concluded that the Constitution “in its entirety” applied to the wives’ trials, Black then turned to the question of whether anything within the Constitution gave the government the power to authorize courts-martial of dependents overseas.  The answer, unsurprisingly, was no—the rule-making power granted to Congress under Article 1, section 8, clause 14 only gave Congress power over members of the “land and naval forces.”  The wives were not such members, so clause 14 was inapplicable.  As to the Government’s argument that the Necessary and Proper clause combined with clause 14 to constitute “a broad grant of power,” Black scathingly dismissed it.

He further wrote, “We should not break faith with this nation’s tradition of keep military power subservient to civilian authority, a tradition which we believe is firmly embodied in the Constitution…. And under our Constitution courts of law alone are given power to try civilians for their offenses against the United States.”

The second hearing of Reid v. Covert and Kinsella v. Kreuger found 6-2 for the wives.  Clarice Covert’s and Dorothy K. Smith’s convictions were overturned and both were free women.  The angry dissent of Justice Clark is interesting to read and the public view of this decision was mixed.  Clark’s dissent, like Frankfurter’s concurrence, foreshadowed the “sequels” to Reid which would come before the Court in 1960, and in many ways also foreshadowed the current and continuing controversy over whether civilians may be subjected to military justice not in times of peace, but in times of not-quite-war.

Reid v. Covert, (combined with Kinsella V. Krueger) is a landmark case in which the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution supersedes international treaties ratified by the United States Senate. According to the decision, “this Court has regularly and uniformly recognized the supremacy of the Constitution over a treaty,” although the case itself was with regard to an executive agreement, not a “treaty” in the U.S. legal sense, and the agreement itself has never been ruled unconstitutional.

The major precedents set by these combined cases, generally referred to as Reid, underline the fact that the Constitution follows American citizens where-ever they are and that the right to a trial made up of a jury of the citizen’s peers is a basic and undeniable tenet of our Constitution.


Update on Clarice Covert’s Family Tree

(This is research for a law school paper – not my family line)

Clarice Covert – one of the “Murdering Wives”

I haven’t written a post about this research project is quite some time.  My trusted MacBook froze up on me and had to be worked on.  I couldn’t use the IMac to blog as all of the information was stored on the MacBook.  There hasn’t been time to write since I got the computer back from the shop as the research went into high gear and the fist draft of the paper was due.  Lots of proofreading, adjusting information as new facts were discovered, etc.

I left off with the story of Clarice’s father, Robert Laurent Barksdale.   I have pretty much covered her paternal BARKSDALE line.  I don’t know much about her paternal O’Hanlan line, from Macon, GA.  I am going to move to her maternal lineage and illustrate the EXTREME differences in social standing between her maternal and paternal lines.

Clarice’s mother was May Cossie SIMMONS. Cossie, Cossi or Cosse – it is spelled differently in various records and I am leaning towards the COSSE as her grandfather was Cuban – COSSI is an Italian version of the name. May was born 14 Dec 1889 to Lottie Lee LARNER and Alexander COSSE.  His name is spelled COSTER on the Florida Marriage Records Index and COWSI in the 1900 Census records.  May always spelled it COSSE or COSSIE on her Passport Applications, so COSSE is probably correct.

Lottie Lee LARNER and Alexander COSSE  married in Madison County, Florida 3 Aug 1889 according to the Florida Marriage Record Index (surname spelled COSTOR).  May was born just a little over four months later in Key West, Florida according to all records found for her.  The family is found in Mobile, Alabama in the 1900 Federal United States Census.  Alexander lists his occupation as cigar maker, his father as Cuban and his mother as having been born in Louisiana.  May is 11 years old.

About the LARNER grandparents. Charlotte LARNER was born in Key West to parents that she listed on census records as being from France.  On one census, she lists her father as being born in Germany.  On another, she lists Alsace-Lorraine for both. Alsace-Lorraine was a territory created by the German Empire in 1871 after it annexed most of Alsace and the Moselle region of Lorraine following its victory in the Franco-Prussian War.  It reverted to France  the territory reverted to France at the Treaty of Versailles of 1919.  John LARNER was born in England to English parents.

Alexander COSSE either died, or he and May divorced, by the end of 1903.  Lottie Larner COSSI (spelling in the Marriage Index) and Max W. Simmons married 04 Jan 1904 in Monroe County, Florida.  This is the only record I can find for a Max W. Simmons. He does not appear in any Census records, death records, etc. of any kind.  On her Passport Application in 1920, Lottie says she is the widow of Max W. Simmons, born Towanda, Pennsylvania 26 Nov 1869.  There is a Max Simmons found in New Jersey in the 1900 Census who gives his birthdate as Sep 1868 and his place of birth as Pennsylvania. Max is a bit of a mystery.  May used SIMMONS as her surname, therefore she must have been adopted, formally or in name only, by Max.  In the 1910 Federal Census, Lottie SIMMONS and May SIMMONS are found living with Lottie’s mother, Charlotte LARNER. Lottie is listed as a widow.

May Cosse SIMMONS must have maintained a relationship with her Cuban grandparents (or maybe it was her father if Lottie and Alexander divorced).  There are newspaper blurbs about Miss May Simmons leaving to visit relatives in Havana – one found in the Tampa Tribune, 3 Mar 1910. The announcement of her marriage to Robert Laurent BARKSDALE menions that she was a former resident of Augusta, though I have found her in no records there.

It was probably in Cuba or in Key West that May Cosse SIMMONS met Robert Laurent BARKSDALE – more later on their life together, and the environment their child, our Clarice COVERT lived in.  She was balancing between to entirely different worlds.

Murdering Wives – Robert Laurent Barksdale – Man of Mystery

(This is research for a law school paper – not my family line)

In my last blog post about this family, I wrote about Robert Toombs BARKSDALE.  Robert Laurent BARKSDALE was his son, and the father of Clarice Barksdale COVERT – one of the “Murdering Wives.”

He was apparently known as Laurent BARKSDALE.  I have found him referred to as Robert L. and as Laurent.  He was born 9 Oct 1890 in Augusta, Georgia.  He is found living with Robert Toombs BARKSDALE, Annie BARKSDALE (Annie Wallis O’HANLON – his mother), and Ethel Clarice BARKSDALE (sister), in the 1900 US Federal Census.  Annie’s mother, Kathlene O’HANLON was living with the family in 1900 too.  There is also a boarder in the household in the census records, Horace TEAGUE, a 25-year-old railroad conductor.

Laurent’s father, Robert Toombs BARKSDALE, died in 1905.  This is where his life becomes a little mysterious.  I will mention in the next paragraph that Laurent lived in Cuba from 1905 – 1906.  Why would a 14-year-old boy go to Cuba after his father’s death? His future wife (I will talk about that in a later post) had Cuban ties, but the BARKSDALEs did not that I can find.  Passports were not required at that time.  The government required passports of citizens only during the American Civil War (1861–1865) and during and shortly after World War I (1914–1918). The Travel Control Act of May 22, 1918 permitted the president, when the United States was at war, to proclaim a passport requirement, and a proclamation was issued on August 18, 1918. Though World War I ended on November 11, 1918, the passport requirement lingered until March 3, 1921.

Robert Laurent BARKSDALE’s first passport application was issued 28 Apr 1919.  On this application, he reports that he last left the US July 1917, arriving in Tampico, Mexico Aug 1917 for the purpose of working as an accountant for The Island Oil and Transportation Company.  He also lists the following places of residence outside of the US; Cuba 1905-1906, Mexico 1906-1907, Panama 1909-1911, Honduras 1912-1915, and Mexico 1915-present.  He states that he is employed in the oil industry.  He is requesting the passport for Tampico, Mexico and for visiting Cuba.  A part of the Passport Application is an Affidavit to Explain Protracted Foreign Residence and to Overcome Presumption of Expatriation.  On this affidavit, he states he “ceased to reside in the United States on or about 15 Feb 1912 and have since temporarily resided in Ceiba, Honduras and Tampico, Mexico.”  He further states, “I arrived in Tampico, Mexico 1st day of September, 1917, my reason for such residence being as follows: in charge of Telephone Dept., Aguila Oil Co. (British) Sept. 1917 – Sept. 1918; Accountant Island Oil & Transport Co. (American Firm) Sept. 1918 to date.  From 1912-1915 I was in Honduras, operating picture-shows on my own account, most of the time.”

He lived in Clinton, Arizona for a time as evidenced by his WWI Draft Registration card. The registration was done in Clifton, Greenlee County, Arizona – the card is dated 5 June 1917.  On his draft registration card he states that he is a resident of Clifton and is employed as a stenographer for the Shannon Copper Co.  He gives his hair and eye color as brown and states, “I lost one eye.” He uses the exact date of birth and gives his place of birth as Augusta, Georgia on the draft registration card.  It also states on his passport application that he presented his draft registration card from Clifton, Greenlee, AZ as ID.

His amended passport was issued 3 Dec 1920.  He uses only the name Laurent BARKSDALE on this application.  He lists his legal domicile as “in Tampico, Mexico, my permanent residence being at Almeda No. 7, and I last left the United States on Sept. 23, 1920,  arriving at Tampico on Sept. 26, 1920, where I am now residing for the purpose of business, on behalf of Jacobs & Barksdale, Apardato No. 783, Tampico, American, that I have resided outside the United States at the following locations for the following periods, Spanish Honduras 1913 – 1920, Mexico 1915 – 1920.”  He leaves his return date to the US open – saying “When I return there.”  He is requesting the passport for the purposes of visiting Mexico, Cuba, and Colombia, all for business reasons.  One interesting thing on this passport application is that the person vouching for him is Lottie L. Simmons, his mother-in-law.

Robert Laurent Barksdale married May Cossi Simmons of Key West, Florida in the summer of 1919 in New York according to a news item in The Augusta Chronicle 19 Aug 1919.  The couple was visiting Augusta after their marriage.  The article says “Mr. Barksdale has been in Tampico, Mexico for some years and his lovely bride formerly resided in Augusta and has many friends here.”  I have found NO evidence that May ever lived in Augusta, except for a brief time after her marriage to Laurent.  They must have remained in Augusta while awaiting the arrival of their passports.

May Simmons BARKSDALE was issued a passport 23 Aug 1919 to visit Cuba for pleasure and to go on to Tampico, Mexico to be with her husband.  It was requested that the passport be sent to 349 Greene Street, Augusta, GA.  Laurent and May must have been staying with his mother and sister at that time.  Robert Laurent wrote a letter prior to his application that one had been requested for his wife, May, as well and requested that both be mailed to the Augusta address.  The date of that letter was 6 June 1919, so they must have been married before that date.

Clarice COVERT stated in court records that she was born in Augusta, GA, but it seems more likely that she was born in Tampico, Mexico.  The only other travel I can find for the couple is a border crossing from Mexico to Laredo, Texas 10 Sep 1920.  Laurent visited Miami 25 July 1921, according to a news item in the Miami Herald Record on that date. There is no mention in the article that May or Clarice accompanied him.

Clarice was born, if my research is correct, 20 Dec 1920, probably in Tampico, Mexico. Evidence that Clarice was born in Mexico is the fact that May BARKSDALE’s mother, Lottie Lee SIMMONS was issued a passport 10 Sep 1920 to go to Tampico, Mexico via Cuba “to be with my daughter.”  Apparently Lottie Lee wanted to be with May for the birth of her grandchild.  It is interesting that the passport was issued the same date as the BARKSDALE’s border crossing into Texas from Mexico.  Equally as interesting is that May Cossi BARKSDALE gives a sworn affidavit for her mother 1 Sep 1920 in Key West, Florida. That is a lot of traveling for a pregnant woman.

Robert Laurent BARKSDALE, wife May, and daughter Clarice are found in the 1930 United States Federal Census living in Jacksonville, Duvall County, Florida.  His occupation is given as manager of a typewriter company.  In the 1935 Florida State Census, both May and Clarice are found living in Tampa, Hillsborough County, Florida with Lottie Lee Simmons.  Laurent is no where to be found.  Clarice reported in court records that her father left the family when she was young.

Robert Laurent is not mentioned in his mother’s (Annie O’Hanlon BARKSDALE) obituary in 1937.  His sister, Clarice Barksdale ANDERSON died in 1952 and again, he is not mentioned as a surviving family member her obituary.  Clarice is mentioned as a surviving family member in both of these obituaries.  Did he die or was he estranged from his family for leaving his wife and child?

I found a record in the Social Security Death Index for a Robert Barksdale, same birthdate as the R.L. Barksdale we have been talking about.  This man had his social security number issued in Texas between 1951-1952 and died Jan 1981 in  Phoenix, Maricopa, Arizona.  This COULD be Robert Laurent BARKSDALE, or it may not be.  It is possible that our Robert Laurent BARKSDALE never had a Social Security number.  There is evidence, that I will talk about in a later post, that Clarice COVERT’s children went to school in Phoenix, AZ for a time.  Clarice also said in court records that she left Eddie at one point in 1948 and went with her young son to stay with her mother in Arizona.  Maybe further research will reveal that May and Laurent reconciled for at least a time and lived in Arizona. None of that is proven however.

Robert Laurent BARKSDALE is indeed a many of mystery.









Murdering Wives – Grandfather of Clarice B. Covert

(This is research for a law school paper – not my family line)

Delving into the family history of “the murdering wives” had been fascinating.  Clarice Covert was born Clarice Barksdale, daughter of Robert Laurent Barksdale.  Robert Laurent Barksdale was the son of Robert Tombs Barksdale.  He is the topic of today’s blog post.

Robert Tombs Barksdale was born on a farm and raised himself up to high society in Georgia.  He graduated from the University of Georgia (where he was in the Kappa Alpha Fraternity), served in the GA state legislature, was an attorney and a civil engineer.  His daughter, Clarice (the aunt and namesake of Clarice Barksdale Covert) was a great societal favorite after making her debut and a popular guest in Atlanta society. She is mentioned often in the society columns in Augusta, Atlanta, Macon, and the surrounding areas. Her wedding 10 Jun 1905 was announced in the Atlanta Journal as a major event.  It was held at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Toombs Barksdale, so it must be assumed that the home was quite grand. The Ocala Banner, in Ocala, FL, announced that her cousin, Miss Johnnie Liddon, was leaving for Augusta where she would be maid of honor at the wedding.  The groom was also a society type. The Augusta Barksdales were most certainly upper-crust.

Robert Tombs BARKSDALE was born 12 Apr 1848 in Warren County, Georgia (date of birth from his son’s passport application, The History of Warren County, GA and from Robert Tombs Barksdale’s grave site info).  His father, Thomas J. Barksdale, was a farmer in Warren County, GA in the 1850 Census.  His mother’s name was Susan, age 22.  He is found at the age of 12 with TJ and Susan Barksdale in the 1860 Census.  In the 1870 Census, the household includes TJ and Robert T., but Susan is missing.  There is a Fanny, age 24, and a Minnie, age 1.  Perhaps Susan died and Thomas J remarried and had another child.  Robert T. Barksdale is listed as 22 and as having no occupation.  We do know that Robert graduated from the University of Georgia in 1869.

From The History of Warren County, Georgia 1793-1974 (published 1976 by Warren County History Committee, “Graduated University of Ga., 1869. Studied law under Judge E. H. Pottle of Warrenton. Admitted to bar in 1880.”  We also know that he served one year in the State Legislature.  From the same book, “List of Representatives to the GA Legislature from 1794-1968. Robert T. Barksdale is listed on p.79.”  He served from 1878-1879.

He is found in the 1880 Census in Warren County, Ga. with wife, Annie W. (Annie Wallis O’Hanlon) and daughter Ethel C. (Clarice was her middle name and was the name she went by – she is the aunt of Clarice Covert), age 1. His occupation is listed as Lawyer. Robert and Annie were married in 1848 (per the 1890 Census).

In the 1890 Census, the family is found in the City of Augusta, GA. and Robert’s occupation is listed as Civil Engineer.  From The History of Warren County, “Wife, Annie Q. Hanlon of Macon, one daughter, Clarice, and one son, Robert. Col. Barksdale retired from practiced of law. Moved to Augusta, Ga., and became a Civil Engineer.”  In the household with the family was Annie’s mother, Kathlene O’Hanlon. Ethel C. (daughter) is 11 and Robert L. Barksdale (father of Clarice B. Covert) is 9. The Kappa Alpha journal, Volume 18 refers to him in this paragraph, “Robert Toombs Barksdale (Gamma) is a living corpse, and is not dead as reported in the last catalogue.  He is a civil engineer at 951 Greene street, Augusta, Ga.”

I did note that Robert Tombs Barksdale is referred to in the book as Col. Barksdale. It is possible that he served in the Confederate Army as he would have been 13 when the war began and 17 when the war ended, but it is unlikely he could have achieved the rank of Colonel. The title was probably honorary (I have found that to happen often in those days – people of prominence were often given “titles” that they had not earned).  I did find a Robt Barksdale on the Muster Rolls of Capt. W.M. Campbell’s Company, Meade’s Cavalry, enlisted 1 Oct 1864, Madison County, Alabama. This could be our Robert Toombs Barksdale, but that will probably prove to be impossible to verify.

Robert Toombs Barksdale died of a cerebral tumor 3 Sep 1905 and is buried in The Magnolia Cemetery, Augusta, Georgia (source:  Augusta, Georgia Gravesite Search, Augusta City Government).  His wife, Annie, is buried there as well, though she outlived him by over 30 years.  His daughter, Clarice Barksdale Anderson is also buried in Magnolia Cemetery, as is her husband, James Allen Anderson.

Cases of the Murdering Wives – Clarice Covert’s Heritage

(This is research for a law school paper – not my family line)

My daughter, who is writing the paper on the Supreme Court case that grew out of two cases of military wives who murdered their husbands, felt that to REALLY tell the story, she needed to understand the two women and the two husbands.  She asked me to dig into their family backgrounds and to learn as much as I could.  It is very difficult to research people from this era starting with NOTHING.  Brittany gave me some clues from some of the court transcripts and I took those hints and ran with them.

Clarice was born Clarice Barksdale, 21 Dec 1920, daughter of Robert Laurent Barksdale and his wife, May Cosse Simmons.  The place of her birth is somewhat in question.  Her parents were living in Tampico, Mexico when May became pregnant with Clarice.  We know this from their Passport Applications.

Robert Barksdale was an accountant for the Island Oil and Transport Company, based in Tampico in 1919.  He stated on the Passport Application that he ceased to reside in the US in 1912, residing in Ceiba, Honduras from 1912-1915, operating picture-shows “on my own account, most of the time.”  He stated that from 1917-1918 he was in charge of the telephone department for Aguila Oil Company (British) and from 1918 to present (1919) in Tampico, Mexico.  He states on the application that he made visits to the US in 1915 and in 1917.  He says he maintains ties to his mother, Mrs. Annie Wallis Barksdale, 349 Greene St., Augusta, GA and to his sister, Mrs. James A. Anderson, Central Hotel, Highlands, NC and that he and his mother share support of the sister.  Though he states that he has ceased to reside in the US in 1912, he had spent 1905-1906 in Cuba, 1906-1907 in Mexico, 1909-1911 in Panama, before arriving in Honduras in 1912.

May Cosse Barksdale’s passport was issued 23 Aug 1919.  Her destination was to Cuba for pleasure, then to Tampico, Mexico “for husband’s employment.”  The application was filled out in Tampico by Robert Laurent Barksdale, stating that he had known May for 15 years.  It was requested that the passport be sent to the 349 Greene St. address in Augusta, GA.  It is stated on the application that May Barksdale would return to the US within two years.

May’s mother applied for a passport issued 10 Sep 1920 with her destination being Tampico, Mexico “to be with my daughter.”  Presumably, Lottie Lee Simmons wanted to be with May when she gave birth.  However, there is a record of a border crossing from Mexico into Texas by Robert Laurent Barksdale and May Barksdale on 10 Sep 1920. Why did they return to the US 11 days before the birth of Clarice?  Did they go to Augusta, where Clarice was born?

More about the early life of Clarice Barksdale in my next post.

The Cases of the Murdering Wives – Clarice Covert

(This is research for a law school paper – not my family line)

All of my earlier posts on the “Cases of the Murdering Wives” have focused on the parties involved in Kinsella v. Krueger.  The Supreme Court combined two cases and besides calling them the cases of the murdering wives, the case was known by the name of the first case where a writ of habeas corpus was filed, Reid v. Covert. I haven’t written much about the people involved in that case, so it is time to start.

Clarice B. Covert murdered her Air Force Sargeant husband, Edward Eugene Covert with an ax, crawled into bed with his corpse, got up the next morning, bathed and dressed and went to see her base psychiatrist.  She told him that she has killed Eddie.  At that point she was arrested, tried and found guilty by court-martial.  She was sentenced to life at hard labor in the Federal Women’s Reformatory in Alderson, West Virginia.  Here attorneys appealed her conviction to the Military Court of Appeals in DC, winning her release on was basically a technicality.  The Air Force intended to retry her, she was jailed in DC awaiting the trial.  Her attorneys files a habeas corpus on her behalf, claiming that the military has lost jurisdiction by imprisoning her in a DC jail.  Clarice spent very little time in jail and was out on bail when the cases went to the Supreme Court.

Clarice and Edward had three young sons, one born while Clarice was in prison.  I have not been able to determine where the boys went after their father’s murder, but there is some evidence that at least one of them might have spent time with Clarice’s father in Arizona.  Initially, they were probably sent to Edward’s family in Indiana.

I have traced Clarice’s roots back several generations and there are some interesting facts and some intriguing mysteries in the background information I have uncovered.  More on the history of Clarice tomorrow.

The Cases of the Murdering Wives

(This is research for a law school paper – not my family line)

It occurred to me tonight that I hadn’t posted on this blog in over a week.  Research on the parties involved in the cases goes on.  My daughter and I spent all day last Friday, 30 Sep, 2011 at The Library of Congress going through the Supreme Court Justices’ internal memoranda on the cases that the Justices themselves called, “the cases of the murdering wives.” Justice Hugo Black wrote the majority opinion on the their reversal of a decision made only 16 months before this decision.  Justice Black’s papers are restricted and we have requested access to see them.  We hope that permission will be granted soon.  We were still able to glean to great gold nuggets from the papers of other justices.

Supreme Court Note

Let me just throw in here how awesome it was to actually hold in my hands notes HANDWRITTEN by William O. Douglass, William J. Brennan, Felix Frankfurter, Earl Warren and the others.  I was literally holding history in my hands.  Going through the folders, I kept getting distracted by items that nothing to do with the case we were researching.  That was a very special experience.  Going through the papers is very time-consuming so getting distracted was a luxury I couldn’t afford.  There is a lot of paper and much of is not filed in a way that makes it easy to find –  a lot of searching through boxes hoping for a note on the case.  We photographed over 60 notes and documents and I still have to go through those photos to see what needs enhancing in Photoshop for my daughter to use in her work.

On Sunday, 2 Oct 2011, we contacted a living relative of one of the “murdering wives.”  This relative was a young teenager at the time of the murders, but remembers a great deal.  She was able to offer a lot of wonderful information and is going to send family photos are more.  That was another very lucky find.

I spent the rest of the week ill with a bad cold and didn’t do much work.  I did get back into researching Clarice COVERT’s family history.  I have gotten hung up on something that doesn’t make any difference to my daughter’s paper, but it is important to me, as a Research Junkie and dedicated family researcher.  I will write about that mystery tomorrow.

Oh, one last thing.  I put out a query for an obituary for Edward Eugene COVERT and received a copy of that tonight.  This project is coming together beautifully.

Dorothy Jane Krueger Smith

(This is research for a law school paper – not my family line)

Dorothy Krueger Smith

Dorothy Krueger Smith

Dorothy Jane Krueger was the daughter of famed General Walter Krueger.  Gen. Krueger is best remembered for his  command of the Sixth United States Army in the South West Pacific Area during World War II under Gen. Douglas MacArthur. He was the first soldier to rise from the rank of Private to General in the United States Army. He was on board the U.S.S. Missouri during the Japanese signing of the surrender treaty at the end of World War II. He retired from the Army as a full, 4 star General.

Walter Krueger was born in FlatowWest Prussia (German Empire) (since 1945 Złotów, Poland), the son of Julius Krüger, a Prussian landowner who had served as an officer in the Franco-Prussian War, and his wife, Anna, formerly Hasse. Following Julius’s death, Anna and her three children emigrated to the United States to be near her uncle in St. Louis, Missouri. Walter was then eight years old. After Anna remarried, the family settled in Madison, Indiana.

In September 1904, he married Grace Aileen Norvell. They had three children: James Norvell (July 29, 1905 – December, 1964), Walter Jr (April 25, 1910 – February 15, 1997) and Dorothy Jane, (January 24, 1913 – May 22, 1991.  Both James and Walter Jr attended the United States Military Academy, James graduating with the class of 1926 and Walter Jr. with the class of 1931. Dorothy married an Army officer, Aubrey Dewitt Smith.

Walter met Grave Aileen Norvell in the Philippines in 1903.  She was there to visit her sister, the wife of an Army chaplain.  He returned to the US in Dec. 1903 to Fort Crook, Nebraska.  He took a two month leave beginning 10 Sep 1904 to marry Grace.  The newly weds returned to Fort Crook and their first child, James Norvell KRUEGER was born there.

As the daughter of an ambitious man, Dorothy grew up privileged and sheltered.  Dorothy was born while her father was serving at posts on the east coast.  He was at Fort Ontario, NY and Madison Barracks, NY around the time of her birth.  Gen. Krueger served another short tour in the Philippines.  They returned to  Fort Leavenworth, Kansas upon his return to the US.

Dorothy married Aubrey Dewitt Smith at Jefferson Barracks, St. Louis, MO in 1934. Her father was stationed at Jefferson Barracks at this time. They had a son in 1936 and a daughter in 1938.  The Smiths were stationed at some point after their marriage in San Antonio, Texas.  Dorothy by this point had a history of mental issues, alcohol abuse, and narcotics abuse.

Aubrey was involved in the conflict in Korea and directly after that was stationed in Japan where he was  Colonel, Chief of Plans and Operations Division [Logistic section] of the U S Army in Japan.  Dorothy continued to have mental and substance abuse issues.  These issues were, in her words, jeopardizing her husband’s career.  She claimed he was going to send her home to the US.  In reality, Colonel Smith got orders to leave for Washington, where a promotion awaited him. Apparently Dorothy, in an alcohol and narcotics haze, misunderstood and thought only she was being sent back to the US.

On October 3, 1952, Dorothy stabbed Aubrey with a hunting knife while he was sleeping. She told her Japanese maid to call a neighbor, who testified that she was sitting on one of their twin beds holding the knife, while Aubrey lay bleeding on the other.  Later the maid’s version of the story was that she took the knife from Dorothy and hid it downstairs.  The neighbor, another Army colonel, called an ambulance for Aubrey.  He was  taken to the hospital where he died, without giving any testimony, 4 hours later.

More on the legal case in the next post.

Ask And You Shall Receive – Sometimes.

(This is research for a law school paper – not my family line)

Kathryn Smith Obit
Thank you, thank you, thank you genealogy community.  I had asked in my last post on Aubrey Dewitt Smith for an obituary for his mother, in hopes that would prove my research theory that Katie PIATT was his mother.

I had contacted Judy Young, who posted Aubrey Dewitt Smith’s memorial on Find a Grave.  She and I have been in communication for several weeks now trying to tie up loose ends in the line.

Today, Judy emailed me that she had contacted Frances Doubt SMITH, who researches SMITH and lives in that area.  A few hours later, Judy emails me a copy of the obituary I was trying SO hard to find!  It is a genealogical miracle.  Not only did it prove that Katie PIATT is Aubrey’s mother, but it gave me her full date of birth, place of birth. death of date and place of death.  It names her husband and her surviving children.  This is a wonderful gift and I am SO grateful to generous and helpful genealogists and family researchers who go above and beyond to help perfect strangers.

A HUGE THANK YOU to Judy and to Francis.  It means so much!

My Current Research Project

My research has now veered away from digging further into my own genealogy.  My daughter, a 3rd year law student at George Washington University in DC, came to me for help in researching the families of people involved in a Supreme Court case about which she is writing a paper that will most likely be published. Justice Clarence Thomas is teaching the seminar. The cases, Kinsella v. Krueger and Reid v. Covert were joined for the purposes of the Supreme Court hearing due to their similarity.

I have been able to research the family lines of both the wives and the murdered husbands back quite far into the past.  I have found some photos, passenger lists, passport applications, graves of the murdered soldiers and a lot of other interesting information that will add color to this paper, which will probably be published.

This is a great example of how learning to do family research can have uses aside from personal genealogy.  I have gotten so involved with these families that I feel I know them.  I will write more about the actual case tomorrow.