Bicentennial Biographies No. 166 – 170

A collection of bicentennial biographies from Chautauqua County, N.Y. featuring Robert H. Jackson (Frewsburg and Jamestown), Herman Cooper (Fredonia), Nathan Brown (Ellington and Jamestown), Murray Norcross Shelton (Dunkirk) and Jehuu Caulcrick (Clymer/Findley lake). Originally broadcast on local radio stations Aug. 29 – Sept. 2, 2011.

No. 166 – Robert H. Jackson

Robert H. Jackson (1892 - 1954)

Robert Houghwout Jackson was born in Spring Creek, Pa. on Feb. 13, 1892. Five years later his family moved to Frewsburg.

From an early age Robert was recognized for his public speaking skills and even before finishing school, he was speaking before various clubs and organizations in Frewsburg and Jamestown. He graduated from Frewsburg High School in 1910 and spent a post-graduate year at Jamestown High School. He did not attend college, but apprenticed in a law office and attended Albany Law School for one year.

At the age of 21, Jackson took the New York State Bar exam and became a prominent trial lawyer in Jamestown. Over the next 20 years, he became a very successful lawyer in New York State and, through bar association activities, a rising young lawyer nationally.

In 1934, Jackson answered the call of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to serve as general counsel at the Internal Revenue Service. His decision to move to Washington, D.C. as a public servant was a fateful one, as it steered his life into becoming one of the most remarkable personal stories in American history.

In 1936, Jackson became Assistant Attorney General heading the Tax Division of the Department of Justice, and in 1937 he became Assistant Attorney General heading the Antitrust Division. In 1938, Jackson became United States Solicitor General.  In early 1940, President Roosevelt appointed Jackson Attorney General, replacing Frank Murphy. He served in that capacity until 1941, when there was an opening on the U.S. Supreme Court and Roosevelt tapped him to fill the vacant seat. In just seven years, Jackson rose from relative obscurity in a small town Western New York town to be a Supreme Court Justice.

Jackson was involved in several high profile cases while serving on the court. In 1943 he wrote the majority opinion in a case which overturned a public school regulation making it mandatory to salute the flag. In the case of Korematsu v. The United States, the Supreme Court upheld the authority of the government to establish Japanese internment camps during Word War II, Jackson was one of three dissenting justices.

Despite his remarkable achievements in government service, Jackson believed his greatest accomplishments were the international legal principles established by the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, Germany following World War II. Jackson served as Chief of Counsel for the United States in charge of prosecuting the highest ranking Nazi leaders at Nuremberg.

After serving at Nuremberg, Justice Jackson returned to the bench of the United States Supreme Court. Shortly after participating in the unanimous decision in the famous desegregation case of 1954, Brown vs. Board of Education, Jackson suffered a fatal heart attack and died on October 9, 1954. He was 62. Every Justice of the Supreme Court came to Jamestown for his funeral. He is buried in the Maple Grove Cemetery on Frew Run Rd. in Frewsburg.

No. 167 – Hermann Cooper

Hermann B. Cooper wasn’t a native of the county, nor did he didn’t spend a significant amount of time in the area. But during the three years he lived here, he played a key role in turning the state normal school in Fredonia into Fredonia State, making it one of the most well-respected teacher colleges in Western New York.

Cooper was born Dec. 31, 1895 in Wilbraham, Mass. to Richard and Emma Cooper. Because his father was involved in education, Hermann Cooper also pursued a similar career, majoring in both education and music at Upper Iowa University, where his father was president.

Following military service in World War I, Cooper was appointed director of research of the Bureau of Educational Services for Citizens of Delaware, where he was influential in shaping curriculum within Delaware’s public-school system. He also returned to school and received his masters degree from Colombia University. In 1930, he received his P.H.D.

By the late 1920s, Cooper had left Delaware and had become the head of the education department and director of training at the State Normal School at Geneseo.  In 1929, he left Geneseo to serve as principal and director of the Normal School at Fredonia. It was at this time that the school purchased 58 acres of land west of Central Avenue, with the goal that one day it would become a campus. Cooper left a year later, but the vision of turning the school into a larger college remained, and in 1939 ground was broken on the first building of what would soon become the main campus of Fredonia State College.

In 1933, Cooper was appointed assistant commissioner for teacher education and certification. He was responsible for the preparation of teachers at the eleven publicity-supported campuses – including Fredonia – that reported to the State Education Department.

With Cooper’s help, normal schools throughout New York became degree-granting colleges. Fredonia State, along with ten other campuses, were absorbed into the newly formed State University of new York in 1948, and Cooper became the university’s executive dean for teacher education. He continued to play a prominent role in the rapidly expanding state university until his retirement on his 67th birthday, December 31, 1962.

Ref: Biographical dictionary of American educators, Volume 1 By John F. Ohles

No. 168 – Nathan Brown

Nathan Brown was born in Madison County, New York on Nov. 19, 1812, one of nine children to Nathan and Levia Smith Brown. At the age of ten, Nathan came with his family to Chautauqua County, where his father bought a piece of land in the Town of Ellington.

Nathan Brown spent his early life working for his family farm in Ellington. In 1823, he made his first trip to Jamestown to pick up supplies for his family and fishhooks for his friends. The complete details of the adventure can be found in the book “The Early History of the Town of Ellicott(pp. 31 – 34). In 1832, at the age of 20, Brown moved to Jamestown and started a pail manufacturing business.

Brown continued with his pail business for 11 years. In 1843, however, he was left with a large number of pails he could not sell locally, so he decided to ship them with other wares down river to sell them. While the first trip did not yield any profit, Brown felt that with time he could make a go at it, and he began his store-boat business, which involved shipping building materials on flatboats down to the Allegheny, Ohio and Mississippi rivers and selling the merchandize to the larger towns.

Brown spent the next 40-plus years running his shipping business. During his career he took 154 store boats down the river, the aggregate value of the cargoes being over $500,000 and the majority of it was manufactured articles made in Chautauqua county. It is said there wasn’t a product made in Jamestown and the surrounding area that didn’t find its way onto one of Brown’s boats for export down river. “Commodore Brown,” as he was called, was said to have been the most widely known man along the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers, as a trader in “Yankee notions.”

When Brown finally retired at the age of 73, it wasn’t old age that forced the decision, but rather the dominance of the railroads when it came to shipping goods out of Chautauqua County.

Ref: “The Early History of the Town of Ellicott” By Gilbert Wilkinson Hazeltine

No. 169 – Murray Norcross Shelton

Murray Norcross Shelton (1893 - 1985)

Murray Norcross Shelton was born April 20, 1893 in the city of Dunkirk. As a young athlete at Dunkirk High School, he excelled in all sports he took part in, especially football. After graduating from Dunkirk High School, Shelton spent a year at Philips Andover Prep School in Massachusetts where he played both football and basketball.

Following his year at prep school, Shelton went on to attend school at Cornell, where he played football and basketball and also spent a season with the freshman crew. However, he gave up the latter because he knew he could not compete in three sports and still keep up with his academic workload.

Shelton played varsity football for three seasons with the Big Red as a blocker on offense and a tackler on defense. He was selected as one of Walter Camps All-Americans in 1915, the year Cornell finished undefeated. He was described as a cautious, painstaking player who waited for just the right moment to unleash his blocking and pass-catching talents as an offensive end. Not only was Shelton named an All-American in football in 1915, but also in basketball.

His greatest feat also came in1915 in a game against Harvard. He recovered a fumble on the Harvard 25 yard line that led to the only touchdown of the game. Cornell won 10-0 for its first win over Harvard in 25 years. In Shelton’s three years, Cornell had a 22-6-1 record.

After graduating from Cornell, Shelton spent a year coaching in Joliet, Illinois. Then came a stint as an officer in the field artillery during World War I. His sports career continued with professional football when he returned to the United States. Shelton played with a team called the Buffalo All-Americans and played with and against Jim Thorpe.

Following professional sports, Shelton lived in Columbia, Missouri. In 1973 he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. In 1984, he was also inducted into the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame. He died a year later on Aug. 15, 1985 at the age of 92.

Ref: Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame

No. 170 – Jehuu Caulcrick

Jehuu Caulcrick during the 2011 Pre-Season with the Buffalo Bills (James P. McCoy / Buffalo News)

When it comes to athletes who’ve overcomed adversity to reach the highest level of their chosen sport, it’s hard to find a more compelling story then that of Jehuu caulcrick.

Caulcrick was born Aug. 6, 1983 Liberia. His father, Jerome Blamo, was a politician and security chief for the secretary of state when civil war broke out in Liberia in 1989. Fearing for his family’s safety, Jehuu’s father left his children in the care of their grandparents.

For the next three years, the family bounced from refugee camp to refugee camp. Finally, in Aug. 1992, they reached the U.S. Embassy and waited two weeks to receive their visas. During that time Jehuu learned that his father had been murdered by rebels.

In September 1992, Jehuu’s family finally escaped the horrors of Liberia, settling in Clymer where his mother had friends. While attending high school at Clymer, he wanted to play soccer but the school did not have a team, so he instead tried out for the football team and was hooked from the start.

From his Freshman year to his senior year, Caulcrick started at running back and led the team to four straight Section VI Class D championships. He accumulated 100 career rushing TDs, and is the Section’s all-time rushing leader. As a senior, he was named the Class D New York State Player of the of the Year.

After high school, Jehuu attended school at Michigan State and played football for Spartans from 2004-2007. He totaled 2,395 career yards and 39 rushing Touchdowns – the second-most in MSU History.

After going undrafted in the 2008 NFL Draft, Caulcrick was signed as a free agent by the New York Jets and played on the practice squad for two years. He also spent time with Tampa Bay and San Francisco.

In October 2010, Jehuu returned to Western New York as a member of the Buffalo Bills Practice Squad. In November of that year, he played his first game with the Buffalo Bills and got his first carry in an NFL regular season game.

Ref: NY Times “Prospect for NFL First Ran From Liberia” – Feb. 24, 2008; Wikipedia

Bicentennial Biographies is a not-for-profit radio project designed to raise awareness and increase interest in local history. It is brought to you as a public service by the Chautauqua County Historical Society throughout 2011 to celebrate the county’s 200th birthday. To learn more, visit www.McClurgMuseum.org or contact your local historical society.

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