Notable Men of Tennessee Page 177 - 181 Honorable Joseph H. Fussell
HONORABLE JOE H. FUSSELL, a prominent attorney and ex-official of Columbia, Tenn., is a native of Maury county, and is a man too well-known in the state to need any formal introduction. He is a man who has made a record for himself along all lines of effort engaging his attention.
He is the son of Henry B. and Eliza C. Fussell, the former a native of North Carolina and the latter of Maury county. The father was an architect and contractor, and Captain Fussell learned carpentering under his father's instructions, becoming a finished workman before his twentieth year. He was superintended the construction of some of the finest residences in the county, which stand today as monuments of his handiwork. The father died in his seventy-second year, and the mother died at the age of eighty-three. The Fussells are from England, and the maternal ancestors were of Scotch-lrish descent. The maternal grandfather, Joseph Kincaid, came from Kentucky among the first settlers of Maury county. In Kentucky he married Eliza McClees at the home of Mr. Clay, an uncle of Henry Clay, the latter being present at the wedding. While a young man Captain Fussell allied himself with the cause of the Confederacy, enlisting in the Confederate service in May, 1861, as a member of the First Tennessean regiment of cavalry. In this capacity he rendered valiant service as a soldier and officer.
The first blood shed in battle during the Civil war is known to have been in the command in which Captain Fussell served, in a skirmish on Mud river, in Kentucky, where one of his regiment was killed. The company 'of which he was captain was also the last to suffer in the final skirmish of the war, and even after the final surrender of the Confederate armies. Captain Fussell had many narrow escapes and thrilling experiences, both in the line and on staff duty. After the surrender he opened a law office in Columbia, Tenn., having been admitted to the bar in August, 1860. He soon- attained more than mediocre achievements, which led to his early elevation to office. He served sixteen years as attorney-general of his district, and in the discharge of his duties came to be recognized as one of the leading criminal lawyers of Tennessee. In his professional capacity he has been associated with some of the most important civil and criminal actions in the various courts of the state. He was one of the first to advocate the legal regulation of the liquor traffic and the adoption of stringent temperance laws; took the stump as a temperance advocate and canvassed the state for the cause; incurred in this the strongest opposition from the liquor dealers and their friends, often resulting in serious difficulties, and a number of times he faced revolvers and knives in the efforts made to drive him from the canvass. In 1882 he was nominated by the "State Credit" wing of the Democratic party of Tennessee for the office of governor. The nominating convention was composed of such men as James C. Bailey, M. C., GOV. James D. Porter, Gen. W. H. Jackson, Judge Harvey Lee Jackson, Hon. Ed. I. James, Judge Mac Dickison, Gen. Luke Wright, and a host of other prominent men of the state. The feature of the campaign was opposition to repudiation of the state debt and the acceptance of the proposition for settlement as made by the bondholders, which would have honorably relieved the state of more than $11,000,000 of debt. The opposing wing of the party favored repudiation of the debt; or at least a payment of 50 cents on the dollar. This policy prevailed, and the state debt was settled on that basis. Captain Fussell was elected president of the amendment work in Tennessee, which- had in view the prohibition of the manufacture and sale of liquors in the state. This work he followed through the legislature, having headquarters at Nashville until the amendment was defeated. This required a year of his time, and during that period lie conducted a temperance paper at Nashville, largely at his own expense. For this arduous service and the exercise of his time and talents he asked and received nothing. In 1901 he was an Independent Democrat candidate for Congress in the seventh district ; made a canvass of twenty-one days, carried his opponent's native county, the strongest Democratic county in the state, by a large majority, and came very near being elected, the final count giving the election to the regular candidate by a very small margin. Maury county gave him a good majority, the first time since the war a regular nominee of the Democracy failed to carry the county. He also carried the largest Republican county in the district Captain Fussell is at present a member of the state temperance committee, and is highly gratified to see the progress made along temperance lines. He took an active part in the defeat of the "dispensary" law, and in the resultant public good.
Mrs. Margaret B. Fussell, wife of Captain Fussell, was a daughter of Capt. William Roberts and a granddaughter of Brig. Gen Isaac Roberts, who served under Gen. Andrew Jackson. She is a grandniece of Gen. James Robertson, the founder of Nashville. Captain and Mrs. Fussell have no children. After Captain Fussell's father died, he took his mother into his own home and cared for her until her death. Capt. S. W. Steele married one of his sisters, and after the war died in Nashville. Another brother-in-law was Rev. Baxter Calhoun Chapman, a noted Cumberland Presbyterian minister, who died.
Captain Fussell has been a Mason from early manhood, and is now a member of the Grand Lodge of Tennessee, and was master of Euphemia lodge, Columbia, Tennessee for five years. He is also a Royal Arch Mason and a Knight Templar, and was for five years eminent commander.
In 1880 he was elected grand commander of the Knights Templars of Tennessee; has frequently been state representative in the triennial conclaves, and is an active Masonic lecturer in the state. He is also a member of the Knights of Pythias, was the organizer and first chancellor commander of the lodge in Columbia, and held that position for six years. In early life he was a Whig but when the state seceded he took sides with the Confederacy and at the close of the war became identified with the Democratic patty, whose fortunes he has generally followed, though he has canvassed the state for the Prohibition candidates for the presidency. He is a member of the Cumberland Presbyterian church and has been a ruling elder since 1856. He was the organizer of the Tabernacle church of that denomination in Columbia; has represented his presbytery in the general assembly of the United States some ten or twelve times; has several times been moderator of his presbytery and of the state synod; and has been Sunday school superintendent for thirty-five years. He is now the president of the Cumberland Presbyterian council, of anti-unionists, composed of loyal Cumberland Presbyterians who oppose the proposed union of the Cumberland Presbyterian church with the Presbyterian church in the United States of America, or what is known as the Northern Presbyterian church, Those whom he represents propose to remain in the Cumberland Presbyterian church and adhere to the original doctrines of that church. In this work he is now actively engaged.
Transcribed by C. Wayne Austin 25 Mar 2013