Saturday, April 9, 2011

Joseph Scott -- 2620 West Eighth Street

Born in England, Joseph Scott (1867-1958) attended school there, then emigrated to America in 1889. One account mentions that because of his Catholic religion, he believed he would have greater opportunity in the U.S. In 1893 he arrived in Los Angeles, and in 1894 passed the bar and became a Los Angeles-based attorney. In 1898 he married Bertha, a California native, and their first son Joseph, Jr. was born the next year.

By 1904 he was well established, and ran for the city Board of Education, a post he would keep through 1915. The family moved often in the 1900's, first living on E. 36th St., then in 1906 moving to Hoover and Eighth Street as his family continued to grow. The house appears below:

Scott Residence - 2620 W. Eighth St.
As a school board member, he had a vested interest in local schools since in 1909, after moving to 984 Elden Ave.,  there were now seven children and three servants living in the house.

In December, 1909 tragedy struck the family as Joseph, Jr. was bitten by a "tramp" dog. Its teeth scratched Joseph's calf, but healed quickly. The children came down with measles in January, which caused a quarantine for the house, and only in mid-February was Joseph then allowed to play outside. Appearing fine on Sunday, late that night the child became "unconscious and in convulsions." By noon Monday he was dead. It was, according to the news, only the second time someone had died of rabies in California. The child's service was held at the house with burial at Calvary Cemetery.

Scott in 1906
In 1911 Scott took on his most famous law case, assisting Clarence Darrow in the defense of the McNamara brothers, who were accused of blowing up the Los Angeles Times building, killing 21 people, in a battle over unions. Advised not to take the case because of the damage it would cause to his reputation, he did anyway. In an interview in the 1950's he mentioned part of his reason was because of the Irish-Catholic heritage of the McNamaras. After the trial, Harrison Otis, publisher of the Times continued to vilify Scott, who collected the articles for future use, and in 1915, after stepping down from the Board of Education, sued Otis for slander, winning a $47,000 judgment upheld by the California Supreme Court. According to an L.A. Times article, Scott kept a copy of the check on his library wall the rest of his life.

Known as "Mr. Los Angeles", Scott lived well into his nineties, passing away in 1958. The funeral services included attendance by the governor of California. He is buried in the mausoleum at Calvary Cemetery, on the upper level, along with wife Bertha.

In 1962 admirers raised money to commission a statue of Scott to be erected in the Los Angeles Civic Center. The original sculptor Carl Romanelli did not do the casting as only $25,000 of the estimated $40,000 needed was provided. A second sculptor stepped in to finish the piece, and made two small alterations from the original clay cast, which upset Romanelli to the point where he would not allow his name to be affiliated with the casting.

Scott statue moved 2008

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