The Back Rhodes of Our Genealogy

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From the book entitled: Notable Men of Alabama: Personal and Genealogical, Volume 2
Authors: Joel Campbell DuBose
Publisher: Southern historical assoc., 1904

Rufus Napoleon Rhodes, founder, editor and owner of the Birmingham News, was born near Pascagoula, in Jackson county, Miss., on June 5, 1856. His parents were Rufus Randolph Rhodes and Martha Fisher. His father was a lawyer, and practiced his profession in Washington City and New Orleans, where on Nov. 16, 1870, he died. He was commissioner of patents of the Confederate States, and served under Lee and Joseph E. Johnston the last years of the war between the States. The subject of this sketch, Rufus N. Rhodes, was educated by his mother; and in the high school of New Orleans; Dr. J. b: Shearer's grammar school at Cluster Springs, Va.; and the Southwestern university at Clarksville, Tenn. He read law in the office of Hon. James E. Bailey in Clarksville, and was admitted to the practice on his nineteenth birthday, Jan. 5, 1875. In 1876 and 1877 he was private secretary of his law preceptor, Mr. Bailey, when the latter was one of Tennessee's United States senators. In the fall of 1877 he was elected city attorney of Clarksville, and was re-elected four consecutive times. While city attorney he represented Montgomery county in the general assembly of Tennessee, the sessions of 1881 and 1882. He voted against the repudiation of the State debt (as his father had done forty years before, when a member of the general assembly of Mississippi), being known at the time as one of "The Twelve Apostles of Tennessee's State Credit Democracy." On June 27, 1882, in Clarksville, he married Miss Margaret Smith, the daughter of Christopher H. and Lucy Dabney Smith. He has held military commissions from the Governors of Tennessee, Illinois and Alabama. He is now "Brigadier General of the Ninth Congressional District of Alabama." He has always been a Democrat, and has been a member of two National Democratic conventions, having represented the Hermitage district in Tennessee at Cincinnati, when Hancock and English were nominated; and Alabama at large in the Chicago convention that nominated Cleveland and Stevenson. He belongs to the Grover Cleveland school of Democrats. He is a tariff reformer, an advocate of the gold standard, a friend to civil service reform, and after the Spanish-American war, a believer in "Expansion." He practiced law in Chicago for four years and moved to Birmingham in 1887, when he at once engaged in journalism. On March 14, 1888, he founded the Birmingham News, which has become one of the most influential and successful papers in the South. The News has persistently advocated good morals; honesty in personal and official life; the maintenance of credit, private and public; the enforcement of the law; fair elections; the preservation of order; protection of life and property rights; the improvement of the public school system; and every principle, practice, and policy that tends toward the aggrandizement, the elevation and happiness of the people of Alabama and the entire country. General Rhodes has enjoyed since he was a boy the reputation of being a clever public speaker, and has scored considerable success on the lecture platform. Starting life without a dollar, he has earned by hard work a comfortable fortune. He has always been a generous giver to charitable, religious and educational causes. He is an Episcopalian and a vestryman of the Advent church, Birmingham.

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