Brothers, Big Time Robbers

The Newton Boys

The Newton family had eleven kids, four of whom would become some of history’s most successful bank and train robbers. As sharecroppers the family moved around, scratching out a living in the cotton fields of Texas. The boys’ mother read outlaw stories to her sons with such success that Willis, the eventual leader of the gang, claimed that he cried in 1902 when he heard that the outlaw Harry Tracy had committed suicide.

The boys grew up in Uvalde County, hating the backbreaking work on cotton farms. Their penchant for petty thievery kept them under the constant eye of local law enforcement. When Wylie (known as Doc) stole cotton from one gin and tried to sell it to another gin, Willis got blamed for the robbery and ended up serving his first prison term. Besides the brutal conditions of the Texas prison system, Willis hated the farm on which he served time because he was forced to pick cotton. Instead of blaming his brother Doc for letting him take the rap, Willis viewed the harsh prison conditions as evidence of injustice in the system. It was not long before Doc joined Willis in prison for robbing the post office of less than fifty dollars (probably stamps). For the next several years Willis and Doc moved in and out of prison. Their escape attempts led to harsher sentences, which resulted in the hardening of their attitude toward law enforcement.

While Willis and Doc stayed in constant trouble with the law, brothers Joe and Jess became cowboys working as ranch hands and bronc busters.

Willis graduated to robbing trains in 1914, taking $4,700 at gunpoint from passengers near Uvalde. Two years later he joined an Oklahoma gang that robbed a bank of over $10,000. When he went to prison the following year, he forged letters that secured a full pardon. Following several unsuccessful bank robberies with a group, Willis decided to organize his own gang known as “the Newton Boys.” The new organization included Doc who had made a successful jailbreak (his fifth), the two younger brothers Joe and Jess, and Brentwood Glasscock, an expert with high explosives and a skilled safecracker.

The gang began a campaign of bank and train robberies that spread from Texas up through the Midwest and as far north as Canada. They operated at night when banks and businesses were closed.

Willis bribed an insurance official with the Texas Association of Bankers to obtain a list of banks that had safes that were older models and more vulnerable to Glasscock’s use of nitroglycerin and dynamite caps. They usually cut the phone wires before a robbery, stationed two men at the door to keep townspeople at bay while the other members loaded the car with money, and then made a quick getaway. In Hondo, just down the road from Uvalde, they robbed two banks in one night. They kept their reputation for not killing their victims and were described by many bank employees as “extremely polite” and “making a real effort to ensure that everyone was comfortable.”

When they tried robbing pedestrian bank messengers in Toronto, Canada, at the height of the morning rush hour, the intended victims refused to give up their bags of cash. The resulting scuffle and gunfire wounded two messengers, ruined the gang’s reputation for nonviolence, and yielded $84,000 in Canadian money.

Willis and Glasscock made contacts in Chicago with underworld characters and used the connection to fence bonds and securities that were included in individual deposit boxes.

On June 12, 1924, they pulled off their last robbery, a mail train carrying money from the Federal Reserve in Illinois, which garnered the largest haul—$3 million—in U.S. history. It all began to unravel when Glasscock mistook Doc for a postal worker and shot him five times. Eventually, they were all arrested, and it was never clear how much of the money was recovered. There was a tale claiming that Jess was drunk when he buried $100,000 somewhere northwest of San Antonio, and despite years of digging, he was never able to find the location.

Jess was caught when he fell for a ruse created by Texas Ranger Harrison Hamer (brother of Frank Hamer who ambushed and killed Bonnie and Clyde in 1934). After the train robbery, Jess had gone into hiding across the Rio Grande from Del Rio. He came back across the border to participate in what he thought was a bronc ride at a Fourth of July rodeo. Hamer quickly arrested him. When they reached Chicago, the newspapers began calling the Newton Boys “colorful cowboys” because Jess was still wearing his rodeo outfit.

After all their escapades the gang received relatively light prison sentences for the robbery because no one was injured except one of their own, most of the money was recovered, and they testified against their accomplice, a postal inspector who had connections with the mob.

Jess returned to Uvalde and lived out his life as a cowboy, dying in 1960 at the age of seventy-three without remembering where he buried all that money. Joe, the youngest, renounced crime after he left prison, but was accused with Willis of an Oklahoma bank robbery that they did not commit. They served another ten years in prison. Joe finally returned to Uvalde, worked at odd jobs, took part in an interview with Willis that became a short documentary, and was interviewed by Johnny Carson in 1980 on The Tonight Show. He died in 1989 at the age of eighty-eight.

Doc was arrested in 1968 for bank robbery. Some accounts say he was never charged because of his old age, however, others say that he suffered a head injury while being arrested and served his entire prison term in a hospital. He died at age eighty-three in Uvalde in 1974.

Willis kept his criminal connections, operated nightclubs in Oklahoma and survived an assassination attempt before he returned to Uvalde. He was accused of a 1973 bank robbery in nearby Brackettville, but there was never enough evidence to arrest him. He and his wife farmed until his death at age ninety in 1979.

In 1998 Twentieth Century Fox Studio released “The Newton Boys,” starring Matthew McConaughey.

“The Newton Boys”

Immigrants Create a Seaport

In 1844, Samuel Addison White saw an opportunity to make some money and develop his barren piece of property that jutted into the waters between Matagorda and Lavaca bays––a protected area along the Central Texas coast. Prince Karl of Solms Braunfels, an aristocratic emissary representing a group of German noblemen, had shown up on the shell beach where White had built his small house. Prince Karl was desperate. He had been sent to Texas by noblemen who had created a grand scheme to make a fortune by shipping thousands of farmers, craftsmen, and intellectuals to cheap land in Texas.

When Prince Karl reached Galveston in July 1844 and discovered that the 9,000 acres his noblemen friends had purchased was unsuitable for settlement, he was overwhelmed by the sudden arrival of a shipload of colonists. He needed a port for disembarkation and a route that offered easy passage into western Texas where he hoped to settle the Germans. White agreed to allow the immigrants to occupy the beach near his home until the prince could make arrangements for their trek inland.


Prince Karl and White were stunned in late November and December as four more brigs carrying 439 immigrants sailed into Matagorda Bay. Each family had paid the Adelsverein (society of nobility) $240 for transportation to Texas, for 120 acres, and for the necessities until they could bring in their first harvest. Instead, they huddled on the wet gravel shore with only rainwater to drink and no trees for constructing protection from the howling winds of a Texas “norther.”

Prince Karl had secured the services of the Rev. Louis Ervendberg, a German Protestant minister, who conducted Christmas services and offered communion. The group continued their traditional Christmas observances with a small tree—either an oak or a cedar—and the children sang carols. Soon after the New Year, Prince Karl secured fifteen ox-drawn wagons and fifteen two-wheeled carts for the journey into Texas. He rushed ahead searching for a suitable site for a settlement. He found a tract near the fork of the Guadalupe River and the short, spring-fed Comal River that offered excellent waterpower.

The weary settlers arrived at their new home on March 21, 1845, one week after the Prince made the purchase. Despite their disappointment with the Adelsverein and the failure to secure their promised acreage, they named the site New Braunfels in honor of Prince Karl’s home. In less than a month the aristocratic prince abandoned the colony, even before his replacement had arrived.

Meantime, not all the Germans trusted Prince Karl enough to follow him on the inland search for a new settlement. Johann Schwartz (Swartz) and his family were among those who chose to stay at Indian Point. Schwartz purchased property from Samuel Addison White three miles down the bay and built a home on the site that would become the center of the future port city of Indianola.

Neither Prince Karl’s abandonment, nor the Adelsverein’s failure to adequately fund their grand scheme slowed the shipment of more unsuspecting colonists to Texas. Between the fall of 1845 and the following spring, thirty-six ships brought 5,247 men, women, and children to the shore at Indian Point. In the beginning, constant rain made travel impossible and wagons could not reach the coast. Then, the impending war with Mexico over Texas’ annexation to the United States led to the U.S. military troops confiscating all the means of transportation to haul their supplies to the Rio Grande.

Upon hearing from the Adelsverein that more colonists were heading to Texas, Prince Karl’s replacement, Baron Johann Ottfried von Meusebach (who had the good sense to change his name to John before he reached Texas) had tents constructed along the beach for the new arrivals. As the extreme cold of that winter set in, people began dying of respiratory diseases.

The tragedy served as a vehicle to create a community. Dr. Joseph Martin Reuss, who arrived on one of the first ships, began his medical practice by caring for the sick and dying. He also opened an apothecary where he prescribed free medicines. When Heinrich (Henry) Huck, a young German who had settled in New Orleans in 1844, heard about the suffering of those stranded on the Texas coast, he quickly loaded a schooner with lumber and medicine and sailed for Indian Point. Huck opened a lumberyard, helped Dr. Reuss distribute the free medicine, and gave lumber to families for constructing coffins. Henry Runge open the area’s first bank in a tent.

As the summer heat of 1846 descended on the encampment, a steady flow of new arrivals poured in. Rain offered the only supply of drinking water. Sanitation facilities––trenches dug in the gravelly soil––proved inadequate, and a plague of mosquitoes, green stinging flies, and house flies descended on the community. Cholera, typhoid, and cerebro-spinal meningitis swept through the camp. Frau Reuss, Frau Huck, Mrs. White, and some of the other women prepared broth for the sick and cared for children whose mothers were ill.

The number of dead reached such proportions that victims were wrapped in blankets and buried in mass graves. No one knows how many perished; the estimates range from 400 to over 1,200. Many people panicked and began walking to the inland colonies, spreading diseases as they moved along the route. Over 200 died along the way.

Samuel Addison White platted a new town on his land in 1846 and began selling lots to the German families that decided to remain on the coast and begin their new life at Indian Point—a choice that would give them the prosperity and freedom they had imagined when they listened to the false promises of the Adelsverein.

9781491709542_COVER.inddWithin three years, the German village developed into the thriving port of Indianola. The wealth that came from the commerce on the high seas created a seaport that eventually rivaled Galveston. Then fortune changed, and the seas sent a fierce storm and tidal wave in 1875 that crippled the port city. Nine years later, a massive hurricane ripped down the buildings and a downtown fire destroyed the business center edging the port. Indianola was reduced to a ghost town.

I have written two historical fictions that trace the development and eventual demise of Indianola. The Doctor’s Wife chronicles the heartache, betrayal, and business success of German immigrants who play a leading role in the rise of Indian Point from the struggling tent community to the port for U.S. military destined for posts as far west as El Paso. As shipping increases and wharves extend along the beach, commercial interests change the village name to Indianola and welcome hundreds of freight wagons and carretas from the mines in Chihuahua, Mexico, loaded with silver for the mint in New Orleans. Indianola hosts 49ers headed to California and the International Boundary Commission that negotiates the border between the United State and Mexico. By 1853, the German enclave is a cosmopolitan entry-point for people from around the world.

Stein House opens in 1853 as a German widow and her children arrive in the bustling port city of Indianola and face the cruelties of slavery and yellow fever and the wrenching choices of Civil War and Reconstruction. While the Indianola seaport reaches commercial levels that rival Galveston, the family and the characters who board at the Stein House struggle with the threats of weather, murder, alcoholism, and finally the devastation wrought by the hurricane of 1886.

Father of the Immigrants

Many early Texas settlers escaped a past that they preferred forgetting.  Johann Friedrich Ernst not only turned his back on his past, he changed his name and became such an outstanding German Texan that he earned the title of “Father of the Immigrants.”

Born in 1796 as Christian Friedrich Dirks (or Dierks), the future Texan began a five-year service in 1814 in the Duke of Oldenburg’s regiment, rising to the rank of quartermaster sergeant and earning a medallion for participating in the campaign against Napoleon. After five years of military service, the duke made Dirks clerk at the post office. (Some accounts claim he served as head gardener for the Duke of Oldenburg.)  In September 1829, apparently aware he was about to be charged by the duke with embezzling a large sum of money from the post office, Dirks took the name Ernst and fled Germany with his wife and five children.

The family settled first in New York where they operated a boarding house and became friends with Charles Fordtran a tanner from Westphalia, Germany.  Fordtran and the Ernst family made plans to settle in Missouri but as they sailed up the Mississippi River they heard of the free land available in Texas and changed their destination.  Arriving in Galveston on March 9, 1831, Ernst applied as a family man for a league of land (4,428 acres) from the Mexican government in the fertile rolling hills between present Houston and Austin.  Fordtran, as a single man received an adjoining quarter league.

Ernst did not reach Texas prepared for a pioneer life.  He did not know how to build a cabin, hated guns, and owned so little farming equipment that he was forced to use a hoe to break the soil for planting.  Still, he was so pleased with his new life of political freedom, good climate, and limitless opportunities that he wrote a glowing letter to his friend in Oldenburg describing the wonderful life that Texas offered.  The account received wide publicity throughout Germany, prompting many Germans to follow him to the new land.  Ernst and family welcomed the newcomers to their home, even loaning money to help many of the immigrants get started.

Apparently overwhelmed by the size of his land holdings, Ernst traded 1,000 acres for a dozen milk cows.  As Germans settled in the area around Ernst, they followed his lead and began growing corn, a crop and diet source totally unfamiliar to the immigrants.  Ernst also introduced tobacco growing and made cigars, which he marketed in Houston, Galveston, and nearby San Felipe.  He even kept records of the rainfall and temperature at his farm.

He sold pieces of his land as town-size lots to establish in 1838 the community of Industry, the first German town in Texas.  The source of the town’s name came from either the industriousness of its citizens or Ernst’s cigar industry.

Despite efforts of German noblemen in the mid-1840s that brought thousands of German settlers to Texas, Industry still carries the title of “Cradle of German Settlement in Texas.”  The 2010 census lists a population of 304.

Gainesville Community Circus

In 1930, when the Gainesville Little Theatre discovered a $300 deficit, the theatre board decided to solve the financial problem by organizing a burlesque circus using local residents as performers. The editor of the Gainesville Register was an authority on circuses, townspeople visited professional shows for inspiration and ideas, and every member of the show spent their after-work-hours practicing. The show proved so popular that it ran for three performances and the theatre ended up with $420. From the beginning the entire operation was a volunteer effort—no one got paid—and they purchased their own costumes and made most of their equipment.

Post card collection

Post card collection

one was turned down. If a volunteer could not master the high wire or perform acrobatic tricks or swing from a trapeze, he could be a clown. The tax collector and the postmaster created the clown gags. A local car dealer donated a stock car that an auto mechanic converted into a funny Ford, a trick machine that appeared to be driverless, squirted a stream of water from the radiator, blew horns, and rang bells.

A junior college student went through four grueling months of exercises required to hang by her knees from a trapeze while holding in her “iron jaw” a girl spinning below. A housewife and young mother learned to climb hand over hand up a rope and whirl high above the ring in a Spanish web. An eleven-year-old girl wowed the crowds on the loop-the-loop trapeze and a gasoline station operator served as the principal bareback rider who stood on a galloping horse while balancing two girls on his shoulders.

When visitors from nearby Denton saw the show, they invited the circus to perform for their 1932 County Fair, which launched The Gainesville Community Circus road shows. After completing their regular day job, the circus performers drove to surrounding towns to present their three-ring circus under a big top. Profits went back into improving trapeze rigging, expanding to seven tents, and adding a 22,000 square foot big top that seated 2,500. The troupe purchased six ornamental tableau wagons, a calliope, and hundreds of costumes.

From 1930 to 1952 the circus offered 359 shows in fifty-seven different cities, cancelling only one in Ardmore, Oklahoma, in 1939 when a tornado destroyed the big top. In 1937 over 51,000 spectators crowded Fort Worth’s Will Rogers Coliseum to see the traveling show and by 1941 it was touted as the third largest circus in the country. During its twenty-five year history about 1,500 Gainesville residents performed in the circus. Although a fire in 1954 destroyed the tents and equipment, the performers struggled to rebuild the circus. After a few small shows, the troupe tried in 1958 to make a formal comeback but as the former circus president and chief clown said, “Television and air conditioning killed” the circus.

Post card collection

Post card collection

The memories are kept alive at the restored Santa Fe Depot Museum where photographs, costumes, and a 1937 Paramount Pictures newsreel shows a behind-the-scenes look at the famous Gainesville Community Circus.

The Doctor’s Wife

My latest historic fiction, The Doctor’s Wife, is the story of Amelia Anton, a teacher who leaves Germany in 1845 on an immigrant ship bound for Texas. After the death at sea of the child she is hired to tutor, her employer abandons her. Amelia quickly accepts the marriage proposal of the much-respected shipboard physician, Joseph Stein, only to discover that he is not the husband she expected.

Dr. Stein takes Amelia to the temporary settlement on Matagorda Bay where hundreds of disease-ridden Germans huddle in tents—stranded during the Mexican-American War—waiting for wagons to transport them inland. This story of heartache, betrayal, and business success of Amelia and Dr. Stein is woven into the struggle of the Germans who choose to remain on that barren shell beach and create the burgeoning seaport of Indianola. The village flourishes  as the jumping off place for dreamers heading to the California gold fields. The U.S. Army, destined for military posts as far west as El Paso, land personnel and equipment at the piers stretching into the shallow bay. Hundreds of freighters from the mines in Chihuahua, Mexico, haul silver to the port for shipment to the mint in New Orleans.

The Doctor’s Wife is a prequel to Stein House, my award-winning historic fiction that continues the story of Amelia and Dr. Stein as they welcome Amelia’s sister Helga and her family to Indianola in 1853. The family saga–tragedy of slavery and yellow fever, alcoholism and murder and the choices presented by the Civil War and Reconstruction–continues until the final storm turns Indianola into a ghost town.

The Doctor’s Wife is ready on Amazon for pre-orders in softcover and e-book. If you prefer a signed copy, I will have books available starting the week of May 16.


A Century of Chautauqua

A Methodist preacher and a businessman started a training program for Sunday school teachers in 1874 at an outdoor summer camp setting on Chautauqua Lake in western New York state. It grew in popularity and soon “daughter” Chautauquas began springing up all over the United States. In the early days, the most popular lectures were inspirational and reform speeches. Over the years, the fare lightened with the addition of current events, story-telling, and travelogues—often in a humorous vein.

A few Waxahachie residents traveled to the summer adult education center when it became famous for its great speakers, musicians, preachers, and scientists. Their enthusiasm led to Waxahachie erecting a pavilion in 1900 for its first Chautauqua Summer Assembly. Two years later Waxahachie built an octagonal-shaped Chautauqua auditorium that seated 2,500. The all-wood building,

1902 Chautauqua Auditorium, Waxahachie, TX

1902 Chautauqua Auditorium, Waxahachie, TX

constructed at a cost of $2,750, boasted large windows that slid upward into the wall to create an open-air facility, which boasted electric lights. Hundreds and then thousands of enthusiastic farmer families and small-town residents from all over North Texas came in wagons and on horseback to camp out for a week to ten days; they slept in tents and under their wagons; and for the first time in their lives they enjoyed a chance to hear humorists, watch jugglers, listen to statesmen talk of patriotism, and actors read from Shakespeare.

The list of programs and the response of the audiences paints a clear picture of how eagerly rural and small-town residents grasped for an opportunity to know about the world and to be challenged with new information in those days before widespread communication. A professor from San Antonio’s Trinity University captivated the audience with experiments showing the many uses of liquid air. In 1906 a standing-room-only crowd arrived for a demonstration of wireless telegraphy. A packed house paid fifty cents a ticket to hear William Jennings Bryant, the famous populist orate on “The Price of a Soul.”

The attendees enjoyed plenty of social life. A Chautauqua Parlor offered popular piano and vocal solos and tables set up for games of Forty-Two. The local Young Men’s Chautauqua erected a social tent complete with electric fans and ice water. Later, they added sofas and rugs. The group became known as the “matrimonial agency” because of the number of couples that met there and later married.

Music brought in crowds especially when the U.S. Marine Band performed in 1914. Scottish music and the Highland Fling became a 1922 hit. The next year an electrical storm interrupted for twenty-five minutes a lecture and demonstration of electricity and the radio. John Phillip Sousa changed his schedule at the last minute in 1925 and crossed out Waxahachie on his hand-written itinerary and in its place wrote “Korsikana,” obviously meaning the lucky town of Corsicana a few miles down the road.

World War I themes turned to patriotism and the war effort. A war tax boosted the new ticket price of $2.50. A 1918 program highlighted war inventions—two-wheeled automobiles or gyrocars, airplanes with gyroscopes, ultra-violet rays, and hearing torpedoes—for a spellbound audience.

By the 1920s at the height of its popularity, twenty-one companies operated ninety-three Chautauqua circuits in the United States and Canada. Often, one performer finished his presentation and left for the train as another arrived. New York City actors brought plays such as “The Melting Pot,” “Little Women,” and Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pinafore.”

Will Rogers, on his third U.S. tour, made a stop in Waxahachie in 1927. As the audience waited for his show, they listened in delight to a radio program amplified with music. Although he spoke for 101 minutes, some in attendance left disappointed because he did not do his famous trick roping, for which he named himself the “poet lariat.”

The advent of the automobile, the popularity of the radio, and the Great Depression began a slow erosion in the attendance at Chautauqua. Ticket sales declined, forcing local supporters to underwrite more and more of the Chautauqua expenses. By 1930 the Chautauqua Assembly in Waxahachie came to an end.

The old building slowly declined until members of the community formed the Chautauqua Preservation Society and began restoration. Today, Waxahachie, like so many communities all over the United States continue to offer Chautauqua entertainment and educational events. The original Chautauqua Institution continues to thrive each summer on the shores of Chautauqua Lake.

The Athenaeum Hotel, Chautauqua Lake, New York

The Athenaeum Hotel, Chautauqua Lake, New York

Rabbi Henry Cohen

Rabbi Henry Cohen

Rabbi Henry Cohen

In 1888, Rabbi Henry Cohen, a wiry little man, barely five feet tall, with a booming British accent, arrived in Galveston to serve Temple B’nai Israel where he remained for the next sixty-four years. He wore black, tuxedo-type suits, white bow ties, and starched white shirts with stiff cuffs on which he wrote his appointments and sermon notes. Dressed in this formal getup, he rode about Galveston on a bicycle from jail cell to hospital bed to Galveston’s red-light district, ministering to and helping every person in need regardless of his or her faith or lack thereof. He was known for saying “there is no such thing as Episcopalian scarlet fever, Catholic arthritis, or Jewish mumps.”

Born in London in 1863, Dr. Cohen was educated in England and lived in South Africa, Jamaica, and Mississippi before coming to Galveston. He spoke eleven languages, well, and was a charismatic speaker. Despite his small frame, he displayed a giant’s determination and a flair for the dramatic as he went about his duties.

Upon hearing of a girl being kept in prostitution against her will, he tore across town on his bicycle, barged into a whorehouse, and found the girl half-naked. Wrapping her in a blanket and walking with one arm around her and the other guiding his bike, he led her to a clothing store where he told the merchant to “fit her out from head to foot.” Then, he took her home to his wife and found her a job. Words of his fearlessness quickly spread through the back streets of Galveston. When a prostitute on her deathbed asked to be given a “proper Christian burial,” Rabbi Cohen was called. He went to the cemetery and led her service reading scripture from the New Testament.

Early in his ministry according to Natalie Ornish in Pioneer Jewish Texans, “Roman Catholic Cardinal Satolli visited Galveston. At a public dinner in the Cardinal’s honor, he asked Dr. Cohen to say grace, and the rabbi said it in Latin—after which the Cardinal responded with a blessing in Hebrew.”

Rabbi Cohen played a major role in providing jobs and homes for Jewish immigrants in what was called “The Galveston Movement.” Beginning in the 1880s millions of European Jews arrived on the East Coast without the means to survive—no English, no job, and no where to live. They settled with fellow immigrants in the slums of New York’s lower East side where several families often crowded into a tiny room, even sleeping in hallways. The congested, impoverished conditions led to child labor and to crime. American Jewish philanthropists were embarrassed, and set about organizing a program that diverted ships away from the port of New York and on to the port of Galveston. Rabbi Cohen, through the Galveston Movement worked from 1907 to 1914 with cities and towns, mainly west of the Mississippi River that kept him informed of their employment needs such as trunk, harness, and saddle makers or spinners and weavers or cobblers and hat makers. Rabbi Cohen met most of the ships and directed over 10,000 immigrants to homes and occupations throughout the South and Midwest.

Dr. Cohen headed the Central Relief Committee after the 1900 storm and he and his friend Father James Kirwin were the primary force that kept the Ku Klux Klan from moving into Galveston in the 1920s. As a member of the Texas Prison Board, the rabbi initiated reforms that separated hardened criminals from first offenders and improved prison medical facilities. Many young men were paroled to his care, and he found them jobs, remaining in touch with them as they got their lives back together.

When he heard that a Russian immigrant had arrived illegally and was about to be returned to certain death, Rabbi Cohen boarded a train bound for Washington, secured an appointment with President William Howard Taft, and made it clear that the man faced a firing squad if he were sent back. President Taft expressed his sympathy and claimed to have no influence on immigration. As the rabbi rose to leave, the President added that he admired Dr. Cohen for coming “all this way for a member of your faith.”

“Member of my faith!” Rabbi Cohen roared, “This man is Greek Catholic. A human life is at stake.”

Immediately, President Taft picked up the phone and arranged for the immigrant to be released to the custody of the fiery little man standing before him.