Two of the most prominent people from our Eslick lines are Tennessee Congressional Representatives Edward Everett Eslick (1872-1932) and his wife Willa McCord Eslick (nee Blake, 1878-1961). Edward was born in Giles County, Tennessee, the son of farmer Merritt E. Eslick and his wife Martha Virginia Abernathy. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1893. Shortly thereafter in 1896, Edward won his campaign to become a Democratic Party Elector for Tennessee’s 7th Congressional District. His oratory skills continued to distinguish him and in 1900 he became a State Elector. In 1902, the Pulaski Citizen reported:
Possibly no man of the younger Democracy of the State stands closer to the people than Mr. Eslick. He has been urged to make the race for Congress in his district, and was also prominently mentioned as a candidate for Governor, although not of constitutional age.
In 1906, the rising Edward married Willa McCord Blake from Fayetteville, Tennessee, the daughter of George Washington Blake and Eliza Hansell McCord. After college, she served on the Tennessee Democratic Committee and became known for civic activism.
In 1924, Edward became a member of Congress and was re-elected for the next three terms. Willa went to Washington, D.C. with her husband, remaining closely involved with his career. He worked on the national issue of communist activities but sadly met his death by heart attack on the Congressional floor in 1932 while delivering an ‘impassioned speech’ in support of the early release of major additional funding for World War I veterans. Many veterans gathering in Washington joined in his funeral procession and the House passed the bill the next day, however the bill was subsequently overturned by the Senate. When President Hoover directed General MacArthur to bring troops in to clear the World War I veterans from the City, it was a shocking event to the nation that is said to have contributed to Hoover’s defeat by Franklin Roosevelt a few weeks later.
Willa had been present at Edward’s death and the Tennessee Democrats asked her to seek the nomination to fill his seat in a special election in August of 1932. There was also an appeal from veterans and she won the election with over 50% of the vote to become the first woman from Tennessee in Congress. She served briefly until the regular elections of March 1933, the candidates eligible for the regular election having already been registered before Edward’s death. However, in her short tenure, she served on the Committee on World War Veterans’ Legislation as well as Public Buildings and Grounds. She also put great effort into improving conditions for Tennessee farmers and promoting the antisubversive legislation that her husband had been so active with. Her contribution was commemorated by Representative Fritz Lanham:
We part with her with regret … because of the service she has rendered and could render to our common country.
Willa returned to Tennessee and passed away at the age of 82.
Matthew Andrew Wasniewski, Women in Congress, 1917-2006, (Washington D.C., 2006), accessed at Google Books, Women in Congress, 1917-2006, [accessed 5 August 2016].
‘Hoover & the Depression: The Bonus Army’, The Authentic History Center, http://www.authentichistory.com/1930-1939/1-hoover/2-bonusarmy/, [accessed 5 August 2016].
‘E. E. Eslick’, Courtesy of Jack Eslick, The Pulaski Citizen, 12 March 1902, accessed at http://mv.ancestry.com/viewer/46df9186-fa2c-4bc6-be77-de5c32b73c41/74181435/40471254983, [accessed 5 August 2016].
Edward Everett Eslick: Courtesy of Jack Eslick, Ancestry, http://www.ancestry.com/genealogy/records/edward-everett-eslick_26151134, [accessed 5 August 2016].
Willa McCord Eslick: By Tennessee State Library & Archives [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Willa_McCord_Blake_Eslick.jpg, [accessed 5 August 2016].
Gravestone: ‘Edward Everett Eslick’, FindAGrave, http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=6330000, [accessed 5 August 2016].