Saturday, September 3, 2011

Dear Gladys, Why did you lie to me?

Charles Hamilton Houston (9/03/1895 - 4/22/1950)
For a Law School Dean or Legal Counsel to the NAACP, painstaking attention to perfection in all details can be A Good Thing. In matters of the heart, not so much. The University of Missouri at Kansas City Law School has published a lengthy essay about Houston and his most notable case, Gaines v Canada. Included are portions of letters Houston wrote to his first wife before their marriage:
His letters to his girlfriend since his Amherst days, Gladys Moran, show him to be a no-nonsense perfectionist—and more than a bit suspicious.  Houston’s letters frequently took the form of lawyer-like interrogatories—a series of two dozen or more questions with space provided underneath each for Gladys to answer.  Typical questions concerned her activities: “How many times have you been to the theatres, what theatres, and with whom?” or “When and how often have you been late to class?”  When a letter from Gladys contained a misspelling, Houston sternly demanded that she practice the correct spelling: “You spell 'perhaps' wrongly; you spell it 'prehaps.'  Write it below correctly 25 times and never spell it wrongly again.” (Gladys dutifully completed her assignment.) On one occasion, Houston learned from a friend that Gladys had received a “D” in a class when she claimed to have received a “B.”  Houston’s wrote a terse letter, with every word underlined: “Dear Gladys, Why did you lie to me?  Charlie.”  Keeping a tidy house may not have been the first priority of Gladys, but a letter from Houston suggests that it might have been his: “And you better darned right pick up.”  (Houston’s  inquisitiveness and prickliness did not deter Gladys accepting his offer of marriage.  The two wed in August 1924.  They amicably divorced in 1937.)
Some days it's hard to get a sense of the person I'm writing about. Other days, waaaaaay TMI.

1 comment:

  1. I think I would have killed him in his sleep.... -_-

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