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story.lead_photo.caption Headline from Page 1 of the April 6, 1919, Arkansas Gazette. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

April 6, 1919, Arkansas Gazette:

Mrs. J.A. Meyer, wife of Captain Meyer of Camp Pike, was given judgment for $650 against her husband and Mrs. G.H. Walker, alias Mrs. James C. Smith, alias Miss W.A. Meyer, in Chancery Court yesterday afternoon.

Last summer Captain Meyer helped Mrs. Walker to pay for a blue Paige car, in which he and Mrs. Walker often were seen driving about Little Rock. Yesterday, Mrs. Meyer was given a deed to the car with foreclosure on it in order to cover her judgment. She also heard her husband refer to her one-time rival as "that woman" and openly renounce his friendship for Mrs. Walker, if that were any satisfaction.

As we saw last time, Chancellor John E. Martineau's decision in favor of the "little woman" Annie Meyer resolved only one of the charges against Mrs. G.H. Walker.

Judge Jacob Trieber's district courtroom was packed April 23, 1919, for her trial on what the Arkansas Democrat delicately described as "booze charges."

The bronze haired "Memphis woman" stood accused with Ike Hanf of delivering whiskey to officers and enlisted men, of having whiskey in her possession and of selling whiskey to an officer. A grand jury had also indicted her on charges of being a retail liquor dealer without having paid the special tax, of immorality at 1222 Scott St. with Hanf and of "immorality in procuring others for immorality" at the Hotel Marion.

Captain Joseph A. Meyer was the first witness for the prosecution. He testified that he had drunk (illegal) whiskey only during July and August and that he had bought it from Mrs. Walker.

Going into the trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney W.H. Rector had let it be known that evidence was slim for the liquor charges against Hanf, and after Meyer blamed all his drinking on Mrs. Walker, Rector asked the court to drop them.

As sometimes happens, though, her performance on the stand gave the Gazette a better impression of her:

Mrs. Walker is a stately young woman with a rather remarkable poise. She has a well modulated voice and at the beginning of her testimony she talked in a tone so low that she was requested by her attorneys to raise her voice so all the jurors might hear. Many spectators in the courtroom put their hands behind their ears throughout her testimony in order not to miss a word. She may be said to have made a good witness in her own behalf.

Mrs. Walker's husband, Sgt. Walker, newly returned from overseas, and her father, H.D. Amlin, and her aunt, Mrs. C. Rogers, sat with her.

She testified that two pint bottles of whiskey had been put into her car, but not by her, while the car also contained Captain Meyer, Mrs. Meyer, Mrs. Meyer's little girls and Sgt. Tyree of the Camp Pike bakery outfit.

An ad for "The most beautiful car in America" placed by Frank L. Reed in the May 12, 1918, Arkansas Gazette. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)
An ad for "The most beautiful car in America" placed by Frank L. Reed in the May 12, 1918, Arkansas Gazette. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

She also had driven the captain and Mrs. Meyer to Pine Bluff. They directed her to stop along the way at a shack on the Sweet Home Pike. There they bought whiskey from a black man, but she stayed outside in the car. She had received no money for any whiskey, ever.

"I don't drink whiskey. I never have. The odor is repulsive to me."

"Do you mean to say you have never taken a drink?" asked W.H. Rector, assistant United States district attorney, who prosecuted the case.

"I mean it," answered Mrs. Walker.

But she was very fond of grape juice and often packed some in the grip she took with her to Camp Pike, along with fruit and a book.

As Mrs. Walker sat in the witness chair yesterday afternoon, dressed quietly in a midnight blue suit, a navy blue waist with a line of white beading around the color, and a small black hat, she looked like a young woman who might be fond of nothing stronger than grape juice.

While they were en route to Pine Bluff, she said, Captain Meyer became intoxicated and had quite a bad argument with his wife. In this intoxicated condition he had scarred up the back of her car.

Meyer and his pal Sgt. Tyree often carried shoeboxes and other bundles that might contain whiskey, she testified. Captain Meyer always carried a half-pint in his hip pocket.

"He was always drinking," she said of Captain Meyer. "Every time I was out at Camp Pike they all seemed to be drinking. Captain Meyer always had plenty of liquor. Not only he, but it seemed to me every one else I met out there had plenty."

She admitted that she had posed as Miss Meyer, the captain's sister, at the Officers Club. She was in the insurance business in Memphis, she said. Captain Meyer had told her he had great influence in the club that could win her some customers. He suggested she pose as his sister, she said. To sell insurance.

He introduced her at the club as his sister and also at the Scottish Rite consistory.

Noting that she had been living in Little Rock since May 1918, Rector asked whether she had sold any insurance here?

"I never have," she replied.

Rector asked who had been paying her bills, but her attorney objected and that objection was sustained.

"He told me positively he was not married. He told me in the presence of my aunt in Memphis. He said Mrs. Meyer was not his wife and that her little girls were not his children. He tried to get me to divorce my husband," said Mrs. Walker.

Several witnesses testified that she had been known as Miss or Mrs. Meyer or Mrs Hanf. One testified that she had lived with Hanf as Mr. and Mrs. Ike Hanf at 1222 Scott St. in January and February.

She said that she wrote "a very bad hand" and her signature as "Miss Meyer" may have been interpreted as Mrs. Meyer on a hotel register. She denied that she had ever been known as Mrs. Ike Hanf.

But she had applied for her automobile license under the name Meyer.

Her aunt testified that Mrs. Walker was born Miss Willie Amlin and had married three times: to a man named Diefenbach, to a man named Smith and finally to Sgt. Walker.

A friend of Mrs. Walker's who sold corn products and lived at the Hotel Marion testified on her behalf, too.

Five witnesses for the prosecution, including Capt. Meyer, Sgt. Tyree and Sgt. Young, swore they had seen her drink whiskey and give it to soldiers. Her attorneys attacked their credibility, calling them "epauletted" witnesses.

In his charge to the jury, Judge Trieber told them not to consider testimony by an officer that he had seen Mrs. Walker give whiskey to a civilian — because she was on trial for giving and selling whiskey to soldiers, not to civilians.

On April 25, the Gazette reported that the jury took less than two hours to acquit her on the three counts — having whiskey in her possession, delivering whiskey to officers and enlisted men, and selling whiskey to an officer.

The immorality charges and the charge of failing to pay a special tax remained. But Rector made no statement about those charges, and the Gazette reported it was expected they would eventually be dismissed.

Walker appealed to the state Supreme Court to regain ownership of the blue Paige car, but on May 31, the Gazette reported the court's ruling: That car belonged to Mrs. Meyer and she was entitled to foreclose on its mortgage.

EVENTUALLY

On Feb. 1, 1921, the Democrat reported that Captain Meyer, former head of the bakery school at Camp Pike, had been court-martialed in August 1920 and dismissed from the Army.

An item in the United States Army and Navy Journal and Gazette of the Regular and Volunteer Armed Forces says he was charged with converting to his own use $225 to $300 a month collected for the sale of meals to civilians between June 1919 and April 1920. He also was found guilty of gross neglect of his duties.

If you have an Ancestry account or use the one at the public library, you should be able to see his military abstract here.

Divorce was not impossible in 1920. Did Annie Meyer, the little woman who wore glasses, rid herself of her spouse after she foreclosed on that blue car? It’s possible — but the 1940 U.S. Census found one Joseph A. Meyer, wife Annie, at 1215 W. Third St. in North Little Rock. The 1920 and 1930 censuses found this same couple in a house they owned on Gillam Street in North Little Rock. In 1920, this couple had a boarder, one Geraldine Tyree.

In 1940, Joseph Meyer was employed full time as a store helper in the railroad industry. He was born about 1884, in New York, and had completed the eighth grade.

If this is the same couple, census records say more: Annie Meyer was a German immigrant who came to this country as a child in 1900 and became a naturalized citizen at 10. She could read and write but had not attended high school.

At the height of the Great War, when being German was no social asset, Annie Meyer was the 27-year-old wife of an Army officer who betrayed her trust with a flashy young woman from Memphis.

She took them to court. She won.

And she stayed with him.

Email:

cstorey@arkansasonline.com

Style: April 15, 2019

Print Headline: OLD NEWS: The stylishly dressed Mrs. Walker has her (big) day in court

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Comments

  • oeyoung
    April 15, 2019 at 11:18 a.m.

    Celia, Thanks so much for bringing us this delightful story. I laughed until I cried remembering some of the idiots I knew during my time in service. If it wasn't for liquor and females of questionable virtue, the JAG Corps wouldn't hardly have anything to do.

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