Processed by Jeffery Suchanek; machine-readable finding aid created by Hilary Writt
Charles K. Wheeler Collection
University of Kentucky Libraries, Special Collections,Lexington, KY 40506-0039
Collection is open for research.
[Identification of item], The Charles K. Wheeler Collection, 1879-1933, 92M4, Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.
3.5 cubic ft.
Wheeler was born in Christian County, Kentucky, on the plantation of his father, Dr. James Wheeler. His education was largely by tutors or private instruction until he attended Law School at Lebanon, Tennessee. After his graduation from law school at the age of seventeen, the Kentucky legislature passed a special act which "relieved Charles K. Wheeler, of Christian County, of the disabilities of infancy." As a result, Wheeler was able to begin the practice of law.
Wheeler moved to Paducah, Kentucky, and formed a partnership with his brother-in-law, James Campbell. He became Corporation Counsel of the City of Paducah during the first term of Mayor Dr. D.A. Yeiser.
In 1896, at the age of 33, Wheeler ran for the U.S. House of Representatives against the incumbent, John K. Hendrick. He served three terms in Congress before retiring to practice law once again.
Certain incidents of Wheeler's public service were widely publicized. After the termination of the Spanish-American War, he opposed the appropriation of twenty million dollars to be paid to Spain for ceding the Philippine Islands to the United States. He was opposed to the United States becoming involved as a colonial power, encumbered with remote possessions.
During the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, Prince Henry of Prussia, the brother of Kaiser Wilhelm II, visited the United States in order to receive a yacht that had been manufactured there. This incident and the proposed participation by the United States government and members of the president's family in the coronation of King Edward VII of England, caused Wheeler to express his discontent with the situation on the floor of the House of Representatives. In his speech, Wheeler announced his disapproval of the "flunkeyism, toadyism, and snobbery" of the Roosevelt administration, claiming favoritism toward foreign kings and princes, particularly Prince Henry. The opposition sought to make political capital of the event, and nationwide comment and publicity resulted. The enormous mail that Wheeler received after his speech ranged from high commendation to threats of assassination. The incident was recalled and publicized again during World War One when it was suggested that Prince Henry's visit was the beginning of German propaganda efforts in the United States.
During his service in Congress, Wheeler formed a partnership with Mark Worten. Later, after his retirement from Congress, he formed a partnership with D.H. Hughes and W.A. Berry. The firm of Wheeler, Hughes and Berry represented the railroads and utilities serving Paducah and enjoyed an active practice. The firm later became Wheeler and Hughes after the retirement of Judge Berry.
In 1911, Wheeler's son, James, became a member of the firm of Wheeler and Hughes. In 1930, Hughes retired and Wheeler formed a new firm with Roy M. Shelbourne of Bardwell, Kentucky. The firm Wheeler and Shelbourne continued until Wheeler's death in 1933. During his legal career, Wheeler argued cases in the state and federal courts of western Kentucky, the Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court.
This collection consists of correspondence from across the country related to his speech on "flunkeyism", legal documents and cases, and personal material. An unpublished inventory is available.