Biltmore Industries Archive
Correspondence:  Percie Warner Lea and Fred Seely

Percie Warner Lea & LUKE LEA

Brief Biography:

Percie Warner Lea, a native Tennessean, was the daughter of Percy Warner (1861-1927) of Nashville, Tennessee. Percy Warner was a pioneer in the development of electric utilities and hydroelectric power in the south. He was also responsible for some of Tennessee's finest parks including the largest municipal park in Tennessee, located in Nashville. Percie was the second wife of  Luke Lea, a publisher and entrepreneur. His first wife Mary Louise, whom he married in 1906, died while Lea was overseas in the war. They had two sons born in 1908 and 1909 and a daughter, Mary Louise (Tidwell). Percie was Mary Louise's younger sister.

The activities of  Percie on behalf of her husband created considerable debate in the 1930's but the story of her activism is now largely forgotten and a little told tale in Asheville history and in the annals of Tennessee history. 

Luke Lea was the grandson of the former mayor of Nashville, TN (1849), John Lea. Luke's father was Overton Lea, a well-known attorney in Nashville. A graduate of Columbia University where he earned a law degree and edited the Columbia Law Review, Luke organized a newspaper company called The Tennessean in 1907. He was also active in real estate development and owned substantial tracts of land in and around Nashville.

In 1911 he became a U.S. Senator. He was 32 years old and served in this capacity until  1917. He served with honor in the First World War as a Col. and was known as Col. Lea for most of the rest of his life. He returned from the war to resume his leadership of the Nashville Tennessean and the Evening Tennessean newspapers and also published the Commercial Appeal in Memphis and the Knoxville Journal with his partner Rogers Caldwell. In 1929 the governor of Tennessee asked him to fill an vacant seat in the U.S. Senate and again serve the state as a Senator but Lea declined, preferring to continue his private interests. At the 1912 Democratic convention he was a floor leader for Woodrow Wilson and worked avidly to give Wilson the Southern support necessary to win the election. 

Just how the Leas became friends with the Seelys is not known, but most likely they found a common interest in the newspaper publishing business and may have had common friends among the Tennessee relatives of Gertrude Seely whose father E.W. Grove was born near Nashville. Also, the business interests of Luke Lea took him to Asheville where he had close friends in the banking establishment and it was in Asheville that Lea's financial world began to unravel. With the crash of 1929 Lea's over-extended finances began to attract attention. He lost his publication The Tennessean and later,  his other publishing enterprises. The Tennessean  was placed into receivership and his finances then came under scrutiny. Indictments followed for himself and his son along with several others in North Carolina. On the day of his trial the original indictments were rescinded and new ones were returned --- some say "invented". He waived extradition and went to North Carolina to prepare for trial. He was immediately tried and sentenced, a turn of events he did not expect. In the dispute surrounding the extradition and the new indictments Lea and his wife "Percie" disappeared, but after some weeks turned themselves in to the sheriff of Fentress County. 

Tried and convicted of unlawful bank practices and particularly for the failure of the Asheville Central Bank and Trust Company, he was sentenced to prison for from six to ten years and his son from two to six years.  According to the court record he was accused of devaluing assets, for creating severe cash-flow problems, and for unlawful transactions. It was a severe blow to the family. The Seely's friendship with the Leas was one of long-standing but deepened as Percie called on Seely to assist her husband in his battle for a pardon from North Carolina Governor Ehrichaus.  Luke Lea served just under two years (1934-1936) in prison and upon his release he received a full pardon. Many felt his misfortunes stemmed from the maneuvering of his Republican political enemies in North Carolina and in Tennessee. Just a few short months after his release he was approached and asked to run for governor of Tennessee. A request he turned down in favor of a return to the publishing field. His fortunes were never to reach the heights of the pre-Depression years. He died in 1945 at the age of 66, just 10 years after these letter of his wife Percie were written.

About the correspondence:

Percie Lea's correspondence with Seely covers the early period of Lea's imprisonment (1935) and the turbulent activity surrounding the many appeals for clemency or for a reduced sentence. The years leading up to the trial, conviction and imprisonment are not covered in the correspondence. During Lea's  imprisonment Percie was a vocal and aggressive supporter of her husband and her activity to gain his release was ingenious and creative.  Throughout her appeals for clemency or a reduced sentence, she sought out Seely as counsel. Her letters to him are passionate, funny, desperate, and often poignant. They are accompanied by Seely's responses and this combination of letter and response builds a very personal account of the Lea family misfortunes and of Tennessee and North Carolina politics in the Depression years. The letters draw a lucid picture of politics, publishing, and women's survival during the years of the catastrophic collapse of the banking industry. Men threw themselves from the top floors of their empires, but women found other ways to cope. They often mobilized enormous inner reserves and found strengths that were untapped in their roles as wife, mother, and supporters of their husband's careers. This is the story of one woman who fought bravely to save her husband's career, her reputation, the family name, and the family fortune.

lea00... Letters & Clipping (1935):
001a,b Tuesday night. [January n.d., 1935] Letter from Percie to Seely. "My Dear Mr. and Mrs. Seely -- I am sorry I did not get to talk to you all and I hope you will have a lovely time in Florida. 

Mr. Seely, I saw Judge Johnson tonight. I gave him a copy of the report. He was very nice and said he would help all he could. He said he had heard there had been a [break?] between McLendon and Gov. Ehringhaus. I do hope that isn't true. I have an engagement with McLendon at his office in the morning at ten so I will leave here real early. I am sorry you are going to be away for the next few weeks as I had counted on your help and know what it would mean.

Hope you and Fred, Jr. have recovered from the flu. I would have been back sooner except I was in bed last week with flu. I still feel rather shaky. 

Please remember me to all the family. 

Most sincerely, ..."

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001c January 10, 1935. Letter from Seely to Percie. "I called you immediately yesterday morning when I came down but the Hotel said you had left..." no image
Newspaper Clippings: The Evening Tennessean, February 11, 1935. Newspaper article. "Son to Attend Rites Tuesday for Mrs. Lea."...The former Tennessee publisher now serving a term in North Carolina State Prison, was granted a brief parole through Parole Commissioner Edwin Gill. 

A bond of $10,000 guaranteeing his immediate return to the Raleigh penitentiary was made by Fred Sealy [sic], Asheville, Gill said. Col. Lea was accompanied by a prison guard..."

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4 Newspaper clipping: Asheville Times, February 11, 1935. "Lea to Attend Funeral rites for his Mother: Seely to Post Bond Here for Return of Former Senator to Prison ..."

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5 Newspaper clipping: "Luke Lea Obtains Parole to attend Funeral of his Mother" He is placed in Seely's custody after Seely posts bail for him ($10,000)

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6 March 7, 1935. Letter from Percie to Seely noting that Luke's appeal process will have to wait until the Legislature is out of session.

7 March 8, 1935. Seely's secretary  to Percie advising that he is in Florida.

8 n.d. 1935. Letter from Percie to Seely . Asks Seely to wire her so she can call him. She says," We have a plan worked out that can be put through but it will take you to do it. The plan will be of almost as much interest to you as it will be to us and it will enable Luke to be out by the first of April." She also say that she took Jonathan Daniels (Raleigh Observer) out for lunch and had a "satisfactory talk with him. He is going to talk to Judge Conner.

She says, "I have seen Mayor McLendon and have been hot on the job but need your help badly now."

Everything here is in turmoil over the prison investigation which needs it badly."

9 March 14, 1935. Note from Seely's secretary the he is out of town.

10 March 18, 1935. Letter from Seely to Percie that tells her of the death of his sister in Newark, N.J. and that he will be in Raleigh on March 27th and will see her there. He notes that "...there is too much turmoil now to hope to do anything."

11 March 21, 1935. Letter from Percie to Seely. She says she looks forward to meeting Seely in Raleigh and that Luke "will want to see you while you are here too."

12a,b March 29, 1935. Letter from Percie to Seely.

"As I am in a terrible predicament. I am calling loud and long on you for help." She describes her predicament and conversations with men she hope to persuade to assist on her husband's behalf.

She notes, "I think it is essential that we make up our minds what we are going to do, outline a plan, and stick to it, as we will never accomplish anything changing every minute."

"It was good to see you Wednesday and to get the benefit of your sane advice. Please keep this matter in the back of your mind as I am counting on your getting Luke out of that place."

Seely writes on the top of the letter "Phoned her. 5 min. 3/30. Go ahead as planned."

13 April 1, 1935.  Telegram from Percie to Seely requesting that he call. He is out of town.

14 April 7, 1935.  Letter from Percie to Seely.

"I have just returned from Wahsington and would like to know if you have any idea when you will be over here as I am most anxious to see you. I hope it will be some time this week.

I am trying to work things along the line you suggested but I have not yet been able to see McLendon as he has been over here all the time."

15 April 17, 1935. Note from Seely that he is out of town.

16  From Percie to Seely.  April n.d., 1935.

"We will pass through there either Thurdsay or Friday morning and I want to see you. I will call you or on second thaught [sic] I will just go to your office and fine [sic] out if you are there or not. I don't have to tell you that I am frantic and if we get Luke out you are going to have to come over here and do it.

Our house is being sold at a foreclosure sale on the 2th [sic] and I am going homt [sic] to see what I can sell of the furniture to make a payment to the man that has the morgage [sic] on it all and see if by some hok [sic]or crook I can save any thing. This is hard to realize but it is true.

Luke has been having sinus trouble and is far from well and I am worried about him. Out side of this I have nothing to worry about and feel fine and dandy and guess I should be glad I am alive...."

17 April 20, 1935. Letter from Percie to Seely.

"Believe it or not, but we were all packed and ready to leave and were having lunch at S & W when we heard that Mr. Davis had been paroled. We naturally were excited and thrilled to death and decided to stay over and see what we could do.

I called Major McLendon last night and was told by Mrs. McLendon that he was in Washington, D.C, but that he would be here this morning, so I was waiting for him when he came out from breakfast at the Sir Walter. After nearly an hour's talk with him he decided that we should  file our petition as soon as possible and that it was essential for us to have an outstanding reputable lawyer. His first choice was a Mr. Pou who is quite old and in ill health and his second choice is Mr. J.M. Broughton of the firm of Biggs and Broughton. Major McLendon saw Mr. Broughton this morning and sent me word to call him at once which I did and have made an appointment to see him Monday morning at ten o'clock. McLendon said that Broughton would be most acceptable from every angle....

P.S. I told McLendon that you said for me to get him interested in this if I had to weep on his shoulder and it seemed to please him very much. Next to actually taking the case I think he is helping in every way he possibly can."

Sincerely your friend,.....

18 May 2, 1935. Letter from Percie to Seely. 

"I find I will have to be in Nashville Monday morning to appear as a witness in a law suit regarding the compensation insurance of Percy Lea, but I am planning on leaving here Monday afternoon. As it is very uncertain what time we will arrive in Asheville, I think it better to go to a hotel, but if it isn't too late when I arrive I will call you Monday night, otherwise, I will call you Tuesday morning as I am anxious to see you before I go to Raleigh.

With kindest regards to all the family, I am ...."

19 May 9, 1935. Letter from Seely to Percie.

"Glad to have your prompt note this afternoon and to read the encouraging information it contains. Regret that I cannot ge to Wahsington now because I must leave Monday night for St. Louis..."

20 May 8, 1935. Letter from Percie to Seely. "I have just come in from spending the afternoon with Luke and found him looking fine and in excellent spirits.

We had a conference with Mr. Broughton and the entire matter is moving along splendidly. I am going to Washington this week-end with Mr. and Mrs. Brouthton and I am going to secure letters from the Tennessee Congressmen while he rounds up the North Carolina delegation and gets letters from them. Mr. Broughton will also go to Asheville next week to see Webb and Elias and our petition will then be filed the first of the next week. I will also endeavor to secure the Pershing letter while in Washington.

For you information Powell went out to see Colonel while Luke Junior was still there but has not been out since Luke left. The other afternoon Waynick was out to look over the hospital and Dr. Coleman introduced him to Colonel. We went back to tell Colonel that he had many fine and loyal friends in North Carolina who believed in his innocence and that you were one of them and that you had been talking to him about colonel. So you see you missionary work was not in vain.

The men that I want you to send suits to are a Mr. Tom Little, who wants a light gray one, and a Mr. R.G. Poole, who will be thrilled with anything from orphans cloth on up. The address of both these men is State Prison. You will never know how much I appreciate your doing this. ..."

21 May 10, 1935.  Letter from Percie to Seely asking him to meet with McLendon.
22  May 11, 1935. Letter from Seely to Percie telling her that he plans to be out of town and cannot meet McLendon. "Wish I could be here when Mr. Broughton comes by but I will have to leave for St. Louis as I am going to spend about a week there. Don't really know of anything more I could tell him, however."
23 May 11, 1935. Letter from Winifred F. Hagerty, secretary of Percie, to Seely who thanks Seely for Percie for the letter and for sending the suits to the prison workers. She notes that Percie is on her way to Wahington.
24 May 17, 1935.  "Have your letter of the 10th but regret to say the hearing has been postponed to June 11th or 13th and that I am really compelled to go to St. Louis Sunday night.

Have been expecting to hear that you have filed the matter with Mr. Gill? Has anything happened to prevent it? We had a strenuous election here as you probably know and indirectly it would be quite to your benefit since Pat Burdette managed it and Zeb Nettles was one of the most interested parties."

25 May 16, 1935. Letter from Percie to Seely. "I am writing to ask you if it will be possible for you to stay over in Raleigh one day after your hearing to help me with our matter here.

I know it's asking a great deal of you when I ask for a day of your time, but if you don't help me out some I am going to be sunk."

26 May 20, 1935. Letter from Seely to Percie. "Just received your letter this morning and would not place too much dependence on the information mentioned --- it is probably heresay [sic] and I would not take it too seriously.

It certainly would be putting the cart before the horse to attempt to do anything with the matter until you have filed your application. Mr. Gill will not purposely delay it and I don't think there will be any difficulty in inducing him to keep it moving. Simply get it filed and get it to work and after the audit has had its effect than I think something can be done if necessary.

As for Mr. Burdette --- he has had a very strenuous campaign on his hands, having been the manager of it and I do not think he has had a minute to spend for the last two or three months. He was just made City Manager this morning by the New Council.

I would not be discouraged but would simply go on and follow the course you had planned and get the figures before the proper parties.

If my cold is well enough I intend to leave for St. Louis Wednesday or Thursday.

Much love from all."

27a,b March 18, 1935. "I was delighted to talk to you this morning and can't begin to tell you how dreadfully disappointed I am that you will not be here next week. As I told you over the phone I want to file this petition the end of next week, but I am very fearful of the outcome for the following reasons:

First, Mr. Hall Jackson  told General Atkinson from home and Mr. Broughton here that he had talked to the Governor after Mr. Davis was paroled, and the Governor told him point blank that he was not going to do anything for Colonel Lea. If the Governor has prejudged our case and made a statement like that before our side of it is presented to him, I cannot help but feel and know we have absolutely no chance for favorable action from him.

Second, I am afraid when we file the petition with Mr. Gill he will take months to investigate it and end up by saying that where as Colonel has made a model prisoner he has not served enough of his time as he did the other bank cases that were presented to him. Gill kept Mack Rhodes in prison six months on the assumption that he was a dope fiend, when was sentenced for the violation of banking laws and I do not see where dope entered into the case at all, and when he was finally paroled, Gill gave out the statement of what a model prisoner he had been.

Luke was most anxious for you, Major McLendon, Mr. Bob Hanes, and Mr. Broughton to have an informal talk with the Governor because in our opinion after making the statement he did to Hall Johnson he will do nothing for us unless he is made to see the difference between Luke's case and Davis'. If Powell passed the audit on to the Governor he knows as much about the case right now as he will after our petition is officially filed. I think they want us to file our petition as quickly as possible and then take months and months to consider it and of course in the meantime we can do nothing. I wish I could believe as sincerely as you do that they are all in the proper frame of mind and just waiting for a chance to act, as I can't help but feel that it is going to take them a long time to act and then it will be unfavorable.

You spoke of Pat Burdette this morning. He was here about two months ago and after my conversation with him, he was to go home and carefully think things over and let me hear from him. I have never heard from him from that day to this, and I think that he is right in with all of the Powers That Be in Asheville now and they had just soon Luke sit right where he is the rest of his life.

I hope by the time you get this your cold will be better, if not gone, and if it isn't asking too much let me hear from you as I am rather low mentally and somehow you are the only one that peps me up. I guess it is because that I want to believe what you tell me.

With all kinds of good wishes for you, Mrs. Seely, and Fred Junior, I am ...

Most sincerely, ...."


28 May 25, 1935. Letter from Seely to governor Ehringhaus in support of Luke Lea.
29a,b May 27, 1935. Letter form Percie to Seely.  "We returned late last night and I am on the job as usual. I might also add as usual I want you to do several things for me. Besides the list of people that you took down that you were going to see for me I want you if you will to please see Mr. J.G. Merriman [sic] and see if he will write a strong letter in our behalf. I went to his office to see him but was told he had been home ill for some weeks and would not be back to his office until some time this week. Pat Buredette says a letter from him is most necessary as he is the head of the opposite political faction, and that he, Burdette, could not get anything from him, but felt sure Mr. Merriman would do anything you asked him to.

I went to see Mr. Wells, the mayor, Saturday night and he promised to write. On my return here I found a most excellent letter from Mr. Ruben Robertson. I tried to get Colonel Britt on the phone but could not, so  wrote him a letter before I left, and if you could call him I am sure that it would have a great effect, as we are very anxious to have a letter from him on account of his being a big Republican.

I hope and pray that you will be able to make Mr. Webb and Mr. Elias see that this is a different case from Wallace Davis or most anyone else, and after stressing the point of the insolvency of the bank before Luke's transactions with it, and bringing out the point of the Hood suit that you can get them to be active for us. Do not mention to them the fact that you know the amount they owed the bank and the settlements they were able to make, for if you do I am afraid they will take the same attitude with you that they did with Walter Siler, and say that we are trying to black mail them.

Mr. Broughton had to spend a good part of his time with them assuring them that we were not going to do any such thing. As usual I am counting on you to inject enough spunk and moral stamina into the people over there that can be of help to us to do so and if we fail in our application you can just give me a good big dose of strychnine and not be bothered with me any more.

Enclosed are the two letters that I told you I would send you, and when we file our application I am going to ask for a hearing on the 11th as it will suit your time here.

I forgot to tell you that the guard Mr. Tom Little is so over worked and under fed that the material you sent him lacks one-quarter yard, and single width, to get the vest for his suit. If you could send him this it would be deeply appreciated.

Hope you have a good trip to St. Louis and that you will lose you bad cold while there. ...

P.S. If I've forgotten anything just do it for me."

30 May 30, 1935. Letter from Seely's secretary to Percie saying he is in St. Louis. Notes they will mail a quarter of a yard more fabric to Mr. Little. 
31 May 17, 1935. Copy of a letter from General John J. Pershing to Governor Ehringhaus in support of Luke Lea.
32a,b May 27, 1935. Copy of letter from Robert Lee Bullard, LL.D, D.MS., D.S.M., Lieut. Gen. U.S. Army Rtd. to Governor Ehringhaus in support of Luke Lea.

33 June 3rd  1935. Letter from Percie to Seely.  "... I am enclosing you clipping from this morning's paper. I want you to particularly note what they quote Waynick [State Highway and Public Works Commissioner] as saying. Of course I am perfectly furious about it and think for a man in Waynick's position to make the statement he has made, and especially when his wife when [went] out to the prison out of idle curiosity to see Luke and took four of her friends with her, is the most outrageous thing I ever heard of. I think this article shows very clearly not only what we can expect from the News and Observer but Mr. Waynick's attitude.

If you possibly can I would appreciate very much you getting the letter from Mr. Morris and Colonel Britt, as I think strong letters from Asheville are more important than anything we can have. Of course there is nothing we can do to offset Waynick's attitude. ...

34 Newspaper clippings. June 3, 1935, Raleigh News and Observer "Press Agent Paves Way for Luke Lea's Pardon," Dated releases Sent Papers from Raleigh Tell North Carolina Newspapers How Hopeful Nashville, Tenn., is that Luke Lea Will Be Freed; Pardon Campaign Necessitated New Rule at State's Prison." Article tell how the "services of a professional press agent have been utilized by those in charge of the campaign to get a pardon for Luke Lea, Tennessee banker-publisher-politician who is serving a six to eight year term in State Prison, after conviction of conspiracy to break the North Carolina banking laws."...

"As far as the memory of State officials go, this is the first time press agentry has been used in a campaign for clemency from the Governor. However the Lea campaign has been one of the most complete ever known in these parts. "

Mercy By Ballyhoo

"...But it is something new in the annals of executive clemency in North Carolina that this appeal for pardon should be followed by a publicity campaign, directed by a trained publicity agent [Mr. E.C. Shaub the managing editor of Lea's two Nashville papers, later employed by Hearst], designed to fill North Carolina newspapers with articles favorable to Colonel Lea and his appeal for a pardon..."

35 June 4th, 1935. Letter from Percie to Seely commenting on the press. "...What do you think of your friend Capus Waynick after reading the article I sent you?

I went to Greensboro today to see Mr. Godbey, the managing editor of the Greensboro News, Mr. Jeffries paper,. He had an outlandish editorial Monday afternoon and did not run one word in his paper about our petition or Broughton's statement, and did not of course know what we had that we were claiming as new evidence. This is the darndest State from a newspaper standpoint I have ever seen in my life. There is no telling what the News and Observer will say tomorrow as they did not say anything today."

36 June 5th, 1935. Letter from Percie to Seely . "You can't imagine how glad I was to talk to you and how you pepped me up. I have writtenMr. Morris as you suggested and I think you are working a hundred and two degrees in the shade.

At the present writing I cannot think of anything for you to do at this writing except get Mr. Merriman and Mr. Britts letter.

I will sure greet you with open arms Wednesday morning if I con't explode between now and then, and just as soon as Colonel is out "the Irish" and I will go to work for you gratis (if you want us).

... I want you to tell your friend, Mr. Waynick, a few things when you get over here, and as you said over the phone tell the Governor that Mrs. Waynick went out to see Colonel and took four of her curious friends with her.

Enclosed is the statement that I made which the News and Observer ran Tuesday . They have not said anything since. The Lord only knows what they will say nest. I hate to start the day out by having to look at that paper. ..."

37 June 4, 1935. Newspaper clipping from the Raleigh New & Observer. "Mrs. Lea Pleads for Her Husband: Says Inexperience inSuch Matters Has Caused Her to Make Mistakes."

"Mrs. Luke Lea, "from the bottom of a troubled and breaking heart," yesterday assumed sole responsibility for the publicity campaign to gain a pardon for her husband ...

"'Colonel Lea was not responsible for this in any way. ... and I know that the people of this state  are too fairminded to hold against Colonel Lea in his application for a pardon any mistakes that I have made. It is hard not to make mistakes, especially for a woman in my situation undertaking something new and tortured every night and day by our separation and by fright at the prospect of having to take care of three little children for three or four years longer without Colonel Lea. I know my mother will help me as she is doing now as long as she lives, but she has nothing except an annuity greatly reduced by the depression and if she should be taken from me,  --- we have so many tragedies recently in our family that I am always fearing the worse --- the children would be the objects of charity unless I could support them. ...

Please be kind patient and considerate of me as you have been since you have taken me into your hearts and homes and help me in my tremendously hard struggle. I need you help so badly. This is not written by any press agent. Mr. Shaub has gone home. It is written from the bottom of a troubled and breaking heart.' "

38a,b June 6, 1935. Letter from Percie to Seely. "This is thought 999! You know what Mr. Webb and Mr. Elias attitude in regard to us is and through you I know what it is, but the Governor and Mr. Gill don't know what it is, so would it be possible for you to get both of them and if not both then Mr. Webb to write the Governor a letter , stating their position, as it will then be in writing and they could not change their minds and the Governor and Mr. Gill will know that they will not be criticised [sic] or attacked by the Asheville papers.

Mr. Webb told you he would write except for the fact that he and the Governor don't get along so well, but I think it would be of tremendous help to us in spite of that if he would write the Governor, so he would know from the first hand information their attitude.

I won't promise but I will do my darndest not to have any more thoughts and will try to contain myself and wait until I see you Wednesday. I am sure Miss Hagerty hopes I won't have another thought and regardless of how good it may be she will try to discourage me in it.

I spent a most delightful [?] with Dr. Graham at chapel Hill this morning and he promised to talk to the Governor and Mr. Gill after our hearing. That's when I am going to need the smelling salts. ..."

P.S. I had just finished the above when you called. You were so sweet to call that you had me in tears. This is what the Greensboro paper said on their editorial page the day after I saw Mr. Ga...[?] '... and if Mrs. Lea can write like that. Ye paragrapher is certain that there's absolutely no need for hiring a press agent.' -- When the Irish and I get started there is no leading us. "

39 June 10, 1935. Telegram from Percie to Seely. "Will you please try to bring with you letter from R.R. Williams also Asheville paper of recent date with resolution from a Labor Union asking for Lukes release will sure be glad to see you Wednesday as I need encouragement.
40a,b June 18, 1935. Letter from Percie to Seely.

41a,b,c, "Thursday afternoon" June n.d., 1935.  3 page handwritten letter from Percie to Seely.

42 Newspaper clippings
43 June 25, 1935.  Letter from Seely to Percie
44a,b,c June 23, 1935. Letter from Percie to Seely with attached copy of independent audit report by

45 June 28, 1935.  Letter from Seely to Percie.
46a,b June 26, 1935. Letter from Percie to Seely.

47 July 1, 1935. Letter from Percie to Seely.
48 July 8, 1935. Telegram from Pierce to Seely.
49 July 8, 1935. Letter from J. Melville Broughton, Attorney for Pierce and Luke Lea to Fred Seely. .
50 July 9, 1935. Letter from Percie to Seely
51 July 12, 1935. Telegram from Percie to Seely.
52 July 13, 1935. Telegram from Percie. "I will not be there tonight. Writing."
53 Monday afternoon. [July n.d., 1935]

54 August 17, 1935.  Letter from Percie to Seely. "As it has been four weeks yesterday since I saw you, I am wondering if you have been to Raleigh and if you know anything or have heard anything in regard to our matter. Naturally, as I cannot get back to Raleigh I am most anxious to hear anything I can.

Mr. Broughton has not been out to see Colonel since I left and I guess that is because we still owe him $1500.00. I do hope he will not lose all interest in our case but I am afraid he has, for, as you know nothing talks louder than money. I have been working as hard as I can since I got home trying to raise the money for Mr. Broughton. So far have been completely unsuccessful. However, I am dumb enough to keep on trying.

I saw the piece "Under the Dome" had about you and I gathered you had been there recently.

Hope you have worked out your situation satisfactorily and let me hear from you when you can. Please remember me to Mrs. Seelly [sic] and Fred Jr. "

55 August 19, 1935. Letter from Seely to Percie. "Your letter of the 17th came this morning.

Do not know what you refer to "Under the Dome.

I have not been able to get away as we have had some illness at home and had Louise and her little girl both operated on for tonsils.

As soon as I get any information I will let you hear from me.

Many kind regards."

56 n.d, 1935 [September 9,10 ?] Letter from Bruce R. Payne, George Peabody College for Teachers, Nashville, Tennessee, Office of the President. "This "ad" occurred in yesterdays paper. It looks bad.

I wonder if there is any likelihood if the Colonels release this fall in time to help the family after they have consumed amounts from this sale of furniture? It will not realize much."

Yours,  Bruce R. Payne

Ad reads: For Sale. Household effects of Mrs. Luke Lea. Sale to be held Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, September 11, 12 and 13, from 10 AM to 5 PM Second Floor. Sanders Transfer & Storage Company. 129 Eighth Avenue, North.

57 September 11, 1935. "Dear Dr. Payne; Just received your letter.

Regret exceedingly the circumstances but do not know of anything I could tell you at the present time. Have not heard of any developments. Will let you know if I hear anything.

58 September 24, 1935. Western Union ---- Day Letter. From Seely to Percie.

Tried to get information immediately upon receipt Miss Haggertys letter Ramsey gone Legion Convention St. Louis. Only other man could get it has been sick in bed. Hope to have it tomorrow. Kind regards you and Luke.

59 September 27, 1935. "We have been unfortunate in regard to the matter you wanted.

As I wired you, Mr. Ramsey went to the Legion Convention and when I asked Mr. Sumnerr to try to get the information he found that the file had been taken by Mr. Ramsey evidently to copy it, and it cannot be found anywhere. I had him go to Mr. Ramsey's home and to look through his desk without results so I don't see anything we can do until he returns, which I presume, will be in a few days."

61 September 18, 1935. Letter from Winifred Hagerty, secretary to Percie.

 "My dear Mr. Seely, for Peircy: 'Another favor as usual!  I am going to ask you to send for Mr. Ramsey, ther reporter and not the editor of the Citizen and have him go to the office of the City Commissioners, and get for you the following:

1. Copy of the reply of Governor Gardner in April, 1931, to the request of the county Commissioners for a special term of the Superior Court of Buncombe County.

2. Reply of Governor Gardner in June or July, 1931, to the request of the County Commissioners for a Special term of the Superior Court in July, 1931.

I do not want certified copies but merely accurate and true copies. I know that with your usual tact and judgment you will handle this so as not to arouse even Ramsey's suspicion, and no one must know I want them.

Miss Percie has been in Tennessee since her disappointment in July. I was fortunate enough to get temporary work here and so have been able to stay on for a while and to get to see Colonel every week. The last few weeks have been very hard on him.

Miss Percie is having a sale of her furniture and I know from what she writes she is disappointed in the results, and is taking a terrible loss on everything, but she just had to have the money.

Please remember me to Mrs. Seely and Fred, Junior, and every good wish for you, I am Most sincerely, Winifred F. Hagerty"

62 September 28, 1935, Bland Hotel, Raleigh, NC. Letter from Percie to Seely.

"I am sorry I did not get to talk to you as I passed through Asheville and I am glad you reconsidered your decision and are going to stay on the Utilities Commission.

Mr. Broughton is going to be in Asheville Monday, and I hope you can arrange to see him while he is there for as usual I need your help terribly. I am simply worried sick over Luke's looks and condition. He has lost sixteen pounds in the last two months and of course I am afraid if he is not released in the very near future that his health will be permanently impaired. It is not easy for a person fifty-six years old that has gone through what Luke has and starts failing to recover his health.

After you talk to Mr. Broughton if you can co-operate in any way that he may suggest you know how deeply it will be appreciated by both Luke and myself. ..."

63a,b October 2, 1935. Letter from Seely to Percie.

"Failing to hear from Mr. Broughton I called him on long distance this morning and I told him I had the original documents and asked him if he hoped to get here. He did not think that he would so not I have put two and two together and from you telegram and Miss Hagerty's letter we are sending copies of the documents as you request.

The papers Mr. Ramsey finally secured for us -- and by the way, he was not told who wanted them, contained what seems to be the whole file as follows:


As nobody seemed to say anything about returning them immediately I will have them held here until I get back next week unless they ask for them, thinking possibly you may wish copies of still other documents from this file.

Please let Miss Isabel know at once if you do and she will send them before my return.

Am leaving before this letter will be written and it will be mailed to you on Wednesday.

Many kind regards to you all. "

64 October 14, 1935. Letter from Seely to Percie.

"Your letter of the 12th came this morning and I have looked through the entire file, only to find that there is no such document as you mention.

I fear it would get the newspaper people in trouble if I sent the file but will gladly copy any others you desire."

65 October 12, 1935. Letter to Miss I.H. Bowles, secretary to Seely from Percie.

" Thank you so much for your letter of October 4th.

The paper which I am so anxious to get is the copy of the order which should be attached to Miss Mamie Turner's,  executive Clerk to the Governor, letter, addressed to the County Commission, the letter should be dated about June 26th, 1931.

I know how troublesome all of this looking for papers has been for you and I am wondering if it would be possible for you to send that entire file to me registered mail and let me look for the papers I want and I will return it the same way to you immediately.

Thanking  you for your trouble and with best wishes, I am ....


The Lea Papers are held by the Tennessee Historical Society.

Tidwell, Mary Louise. Luke Lea of Tennessee. 1993.

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