Luke Lea of Tennessee
Born in 1879, Luke Lea became a prominent figure in Tennessee's public life for a quarter of a century. He burst upon the political horizon by ... Show synopsis Born in 1879, Luke Lea became a prominent figure in Tennessee's public life for a quarter of a century. He burst upon the political horizon by seizing the gavel and banging into order the 1906 state Democratic convention. He founded The Nashville Tennessean in 1907. Lea was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1911 at age 32. At the 1912 Democratic convention, Senator Lea served as a floor leader for Woodrow Wilson, helping him secure needed Southern support. At the outbreak of World War I, Lea raised a volunteer regiment, the 114th Field Artillery, which distinguished itself at the front in France. Upon his return from overseas, Lea resumed active management of his newspaper and acquired the Memphis Commercial Appeal and the Knoxville Journal. Like many others in that exuberant decade of high finance, Lea overextended himself. He lost control of both the Knoxville and Memphis journals, and in 1933 his flagship, The Tennessean, was placed in receivership. An investigation of the loss of state funds in banks friendly to Lea was launched, his transactions scrutinized, and he was indicted out of the failure of the Central Bank and Trust Company in Asheville, North Carolina. Lea waived extradition and went voluntarily to Asheville to answer the charges. The day of his trial, the original indictments were quashed and new ones returned. He was forced to stand trial immediately. Convicted of banking law violations, he appealed the verdict and waged a lengthy but unsuccessful battle to remain free. He served almost two years in the North Carolina state prison. Lea emerged from jail determined not to be defeated by his ordeal nor to lapse into bitterness. Although 57 and deep in debt, he started lifeanew. In the face of incredible obstacles, he managed to support his family. He died in 1945.