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Lora Drew Barlow and Burnell Shelton


Daughter of Henry Zair Barlow and Mary Manghum Swinney

 

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Lora Drew Barlow was born August 13, 1866 in Mississippi, and died November 07, 1912 in McKinney, Collin Co Texas, burial in Shelton Cemetery, Copiah Co Mississippi
Lora was a graduate of Whitworth College, in Brookhaven, Lincoln Co Mississippi.

She married Burnell Shelton on October 30, 1889. He was born September 30, 1866, and died July 14, 1927 in Copiah Co Mississippi, burial in Shelton Cemetery, Copiah Co Mississippi.   The information I have says that Burnell married 2. Lilly Watson on January 04, 1914. However, the 1920 census shows his wife to be Bertha V.  Burnell had at least one son, John Burnell with his 2nd wife.
Fosters Creek, Copiah Co Mississippi      21 June 1900     pg 197      #276/283
Married 10 years, 5 children born, 4 living

Burnell Shelton Head September 1866 33
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Lora B. Shelton Wife August 1866 33
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Dupree Shelton Son October 1891  9
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Berneter Shelton Daughter December 1894  5
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Sidney Shelton Son January 1898  2
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Not Named Son Mary 1900  2 mo
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Sallie Barlow Niece April 1885 15
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I have not yet figured out who Sally's parents are.  I believe she is Darius' daughter, the age is correct, but date of birth is not.
Fosters Creek, Copiah Co Mississippi   15 April 1910   pg 214  #1/1
Married 20 years, 6 children born, 5 living

Burnell Shelton Head 43
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Lora B. Shelton Wife 43
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A.D. Shelton Son 18
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Bartina Shelton Daughter 15
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Sidney Shelton Son 12
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Burnell Shelton, Jr. Son 12
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Edwin Shelton Son  4
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Louis Furnace  / black Hired Man 26
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Mamie Stewart  / black / widow Servant 22
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Hazlehurst, Copiah Co Mississippi   09 January 1920   pg 58  #59/66

Burnell Shelton Head 53
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Bertha V. Shelton Wife 32
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Burnell Shelton, Jr. Son 19
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Edwin E. Shelton Son 14
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Children of Lora and Burnell are:
Laurie Barlow, born October 15, 1890 in Copiah Co Mississippi, and died April 18, 1891, burial in Shelton Cemetery, Copiah Co Mississippi
Allen Dupree Shelton, born October 16, 1891.  
In 1920, he was living in Greenwood, Poinsett Co Arkansas, head of a boarding house.      He was a member of the legislature of Arkansas, and he was also City Attorney in Hot Springs for many years.
2. Burnita Drew Shelton was born December 28, 1894 in Copiah Co Mississippi, and died April 25, 1988 in Washington DC, burial in Shelton Cemetery, Copiah Co Mississippi
Sidney Shelton, born January 23, 1898.      He was a musician.
3.  Burnell Shelton, Jr., born March 14, 1900 in Copiah Co Mississippi.
Edwin E. Shelton
 
2.  Burnita Drew Shelton was born December 28, 1894 in Copiah Co Mississippi, and died April 25, 1988 in Washington DC, burial in Shelton Cemetery, Copiah Co Mississippi

She married Lt. Col. Percy Ashley Matthews on April 28, 1917.    He was born March 22, 1895 in New Orleans, Orleans Parish Louisiana, and died January 08, 1969 in Washington DC, burial in the Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.    They had no children.  (If anyone can share Percy's parents with me, I would most appreciate it.  I have in one record that his father is Simon Suggs Matthews, son of John Prentiss Matthews and Mary Barlow, but believe that to be incorrect.)

In 1920, she and Percy are living in a boarding house in Washington DC.    She is using her maiden name, shown as single, he, shown as married.
Burnita Shelton Matthews was the first woman appointed to the Federal District Court Bench, an event which did not take place until 1949. This fact appears in the history books, but Burnita accomplished many other things throughout her life that made her an exceptional person. She spent a lifetime fighting for women’s rights under the law. The issues Burnita tackled spanned from suffrage to jury service, and from property to citizenship.
The following information was supplied by the Mississippi State Archives

Burnita Shelton Matthews was born in Burnell, Mississippi, on December 28, 1894. She was the third of six children of Burnell and Lora Drew Barlow Shelton. Her father owned a plantation and served as chancery clerk and tax collector of Copiah County. Although Matthews had an early interest in the law, she studied voice and piano at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and received a teaching certificate.

She married Percy Matthews on April 28, 1917. Percy Matthews was born in New Orleans and grew up in Mississippi. He graduated from Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, and the Chicago-Kent College of Law. Matthews enlisted in the army in 1917, serving as a flying cadet during World War I. He served as an attorney and field investigator for the Veterans Administration after the war. Matthews was commissioned as a captain in the Judge Advocate General’s Department of the Army Reserve in 1934, and he was called to active duty in 1942 to serve as staff judge advocate at military installations around the country. He also served as staff judge advocate and senior legal officer in the Mediterranean theater, the European command headquarters, and the Africa - Middle East headquarters during World War II. Matthews retired from the military as a lieutenant colonel in 1955. He died on January 08, 1969.

During World War I, Burnita Shelton Matthews abandoned her career as a music teacher and moved to Washington, D.C. There she worked as a clerk in the Veterans Administration while attending night classes at the law school of National University (now George Washington University). She received a bachelor of laws degree in 1919 and master of laws and master of patent laws degrees in 1920. She was admitted to the bar of the District of Columbia in 1920 and to the bars of the United States Supreme Court and Mississippi in 1924.   She practiced law privately in the Washington, D.C., area for twenty-five years, and she was an instructor in the laws of evidence at Washington College of Law (now part of American University) from 1934 to 1939.

She also became involved with the National Woman’s Party, actively supporting the Equal Rights Amendment and helping write much of the early literature favoring the amendment. Mississippi Governor Henry L. Whitfield chose Matthews to represent Mississippi as a fraternal delegate at the International Woman Suffrage Alliance meeting in Paris, France, in 1926. When the United States government sought to purchase the headquarters of the National Woman’s Party (the "Old Brick Capitol"), Matthews served as counsel. This case established the purchase price of the property that is now the site of the United States Supreme Court building.

Matthews was appointed to the United States District Court of the District of Columbia by President Harry S. Truman on October 21, 1949. She was the first woman to be appointed as a federal district court judge. Among the more noteworthy cases over which Matthews presided during her long career are the following: Monroe v. United States (1956); Kyne v. Leedom (1958); United States v. Wise (1962); and United States v. McSurely (1972).
She also refused to order the State Department to issue a passport to singer / actor Paul Robeson in 1955; signed the order that formally disbanded the Grand Army of the Republic in 1956; and presided over the 1957 bribery trial of future Teamsters Union president Jimmy Hoffa in which he was acquitted. Matthews’s decision to step down as an active judge was announced on March 01, 1968.

Following her retirement, Matthews took senior judge status, and from 1969 to 1970, United States Supreme Court chief justice Warren Burger assigned her to work on the United States Court of Customs and Patent Appeals. Matthews served on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia from 1970 to 1977. She continued to serve as a United States District Court judge through September 1983.

Burnita Shelton Matthews died on April 25, 1988, following a stroke. She is buried in the Matthews family cemetery in Copiah County, Mississippi.

During her lifetime, Matthews received the following honors:

Woman of the Month Award of the American Woman’s Club, New York City, 1950

Honorary doctor of laws degree from George Washington University, Washington, D.C., 1950

Citation from the District of Columbia State Federation of Business & Professional Women’s Clubs, 1958

Honorary doctor of laws degree from American University, Washington, D.C., 1966 

Woman Lawyer of the Year, Women’s Bar Association, 1968 

Alumni Achievement Award, George Washington University, Washington, D.C., 1968

Distinguished Service Award of the District of Columbia Bar Association, 1968
Obituary of Burnita Shelton Matthews from the New York Times

Washington, April 27 -- Burnita Shelton Matthews, the first woman to serve as Federal district judge, died here Monday at the age of 93 after a stroke.
A very interesting interview with Burnita Shelton in 1973, read it all at the University of Berkley Archives.
BURNITA S. MATTHEWS DIES AT 93; FIRST WOMAN ON U.S. TRIAL COURTS                  Copy of Original Article
by Steven Greenhouse, A Special to the New York Times

Washington, April 27 -- Burnita Shelton Matthews, the first woman to serve as a Federal district judge, died here Monday at the age of 93 after a stroke. Judge Matthews was named to the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia by President Truman in 1949.  At the time of her nomination, she was a familiar figure in Washington as a lawyer for the National Women's Party and an active campaigner for women's rights.

Judge Matthews presided over a number of major trials, including the 1957 bribery trial of James R. Hoffa, at which the teamsters' union leader was aquitted.

She recalled in an interview several years ago, that her friendshio with a number of senators had blunted opposition to the notion of a woman on the Federal bench.

When her nomination was being considered, one of the judges on the district court, T. Alan Goldsborough, said publicly that while "Mrs. Matthews would be a good judge,"there was "just one thing wrong; she's a woman."

While Judge Goldsborough told her some years later that his opposition had been mistaken, she recieved an icy welcom from her fellow judges, who agreed among themselves to assign her all the "long motions," the most technical and least rewarding part of the court's docket.
Judge Matthews never retired from the court.  In 1968, she took senior status, permitting her to reduce her workload on the district court while also hearing occasional cases in other Federal courts in Washington.  She sat on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and on the United States Court of Customs and Patent Appeals.  She continued hearing district court cases until five years ago.

Judge Matthews retained a strong sense of her own role as a pioneer, and never wavered in her commitment to expanding opportunities for women.  In a 1885 interview with the Third Branch, a newsletter published by the Federal court system, she said she had always chosen women to be her law clerks.

"The reason I always had women," she said, "was because so often, when a woman makes good at something, theyalways say that some man did it.  So I just thought it would be better to have women.  I wanted to show my confidence in women.

Sent to Music School

Burnita Shelton decided as a young girl that she wanted to be a lawyer, although professional opportunities in the law were extremely limited for women.  She was born Decembre 28, 1894 in Copiah Co, Miss, where her father owned a plantation and served as clerk in the local chancery court.  She often accompanied him to court.  But while the family sent her brother to law school, she was sent to the Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati, where she studed voice and piano.

She was teaching piano when the United States entered World War I.  Hoping to find a Government job that would enable her to go to law school at night, she moved to Washington, passed a Civil Service examination, and took a job with the Veteran's Administration.  She went to night school at National University Law School, which later became part of George Washington University.  After her graduation in 1919, Mrs. Matthews, now married to a lawyer, Percy A. Matthews, applied to the Veterans Administration for a job as a lawyer.  When the agency told her that it would never hire a woman in the legal department, she opened her own law office.

OTHER OBSTACLES TO LEGAL CAREER.

There were other stumbling blocks as well.  The local bar association refused to accept her application for membership, returning the check she had sent for membership dues.  Judge Matthews included that check among the papers donated to what is now the Burnita Shelton Matthews Collection at the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, at Radcliffe College.

Her activities on behalf of women's rights began in law school.  In 1919, she was among several dozen women who regularly picketed the White House on Sundays on behalf of women's suffrage. 

"You can carry a banner," she recalled in the 1985 interview, "but if you spoke, you were arrested for speaking without a permit.  So when they asked me why I was there, I didn't answer."

After women got the vote in 1920, she shifted to the focus of her activities.  She became the lawyer for the National Woman's Party, which was trying to persuade state legislatures to lift legal barriers to women.  Mrs. Matthews researched state laws and proposed bills.  The National Woman's Party owned the property across the street from the Captiol where the Supreme Court's building is now located.  In the 1920's, when Chief Justice William Howard Taft proposed acquiring the land for the Court, she went to the Chief Justice's home to try to persuade him to look elsewhere.  Her efforts failed, but she represented the party in the condemnation proceedings and won a generous settlement for it.

In the 1940's she also taught at the Washington College of Law, now part of American University.

In 1949, President Truman named her to one of 20 new district judgeships that Congress had created to relieve a backlog of district court dockets.  Among her rulings was one upholding the right of Black Muslims in the local prison to conduct reliegious services.

In a 1955 case, she refused to order the State Department to issue a passport to singer Paul Robeson, ruling that he had first to exhaust available administrative remedies before he could challenge the legality of the regulations.  Mr. Robeson's passport was withheld from 1950 to 1958 and was restored to him when, in a similar case, the Supreme Court ruled the State Department's action unconstitutional.

On the Court of Appeals, Judge Matthews ruled that the Social Security Administration could not cut off disability benefits without a hearing.

In 1984, President Reagan commended her for her "diligence, distinguished efforts and pioneering spirit."

Her husband died in 1969.  They had no children.  Judge Matthews is survived by four sisters-in-laws and 11 nieces and nephews.  She will be buried in the family cemetery in Copiah County, Mississippi.
Copiah County Courier-Hazlehurst, Mississippi      January 02, 2002

COPIAH NATIVE IS NAMED TO HALL OF FAME

By Mal Jones

A native Copiahian, Judge Burnita Shelton Matthews, has been elected to the Mississippi Hall of Fame.  Judge Matthews was one of five Mississippians elected for their contribution to letters, the law, education and human right.

Others elected were: John C. Stennis, Mississippi's longest serving U. S. senator, holding office from 1947 until 1988; Tennessee Williams, two time Pulitzer Prize winning playwright; Owen Cooper of Yazoo City, founder of Mississippi Chemical Corp and civil rights leader; Jacob Reddix, the fifth president of Jackson State University. They were elected from 37 nominees bringing the total number of inductees since 1902 to 122.

Elbert Hillard, director of the state Department of Archives and History, said it was a difficult choice of the nine to select the five new inductees."It is tremendous for a single state to produce so many worthy nominees," Hillard said.Former Governor William F. Winter, board president said, "These men and women elected to the Hall of Fame represent the widest possible array of leadership, with careers that have had a lasting impact on our state."Those elected to the Hall of Fame must have been deceased at least five years.

Matthews was the first woman ever to be selected and confirmed as a federal trial judge in the nation.Born in 1894 in Copiah County, she received her law degree from Washington, D.C.'s National University Law School and was admitted to the bar in 1920.Unable to find a private firm or government service that would hire a woman, Matthews opened her own practice.

She became an ardent suffragist and feminist, championing women's rights, working with the National Women's Party and appearing several times before the U.S. Supreme Court.In the 1930's, she was a law professor at American University.  In 1949, President Harry Truman appointed her to the U. S. District Court in Washington, D. C., where she served until retiring in 1968.

The next year she assumed senior judge status and served on the U. S. Court of Appeals and again on the U. S. District Court through September 1983.

Throughout her career she presided over several noteworthy legal actions, including the bribery trial of Teamster president Jimmy Hoffa and the passport denial of singer and activist Paul Robeson.In the Court of Appeals, Matthews ruled that a disabled person receiving benefits from the Social security Administration is entitled to a hearing before the benefits can be terminated.She was a member of the American Bar Association, Women's Bar Association of the District of Columbia, National Association of Women Lawyers, Kappa Beta Pi Legal Sorority, National Federation of Business and Professional Women, the Pilot Club and Wesley United Methodist Church in Washington, D. C.The Mississippi Legislature commended the life, works and character of Matthews during a legislative session.Senators Lynn Posey of Union Church and Rob Smith of Richland, who represented Copiah County, co-authored the resolution expressing the sorrow of the Legislature upon the death of Judge Matthews in 1988 at the age of 93.

At her retirement she placed in the Mississippi Department of Archives and History papers and memorabilia relating to her distinguished career.Many of her papers are housed in museums and archives around the nation, including a check returned to her when she first tried to join the local bar association in Washington.Her robe and briefcase were donated to the Museum of History and Technology at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D. C.Her numerous awards are also divided among museums and archives.

Judge Matthews was the daughter of Burnell Shelton and Lora Drew (Barlow), and attended public schools in Barlow and Hazlehurst.The Shelton homestead is on Gallatin Street, near Cato Street.Her father, who served as Chancery Clerk and Sheriff and Tax Collector in Copiah County, felt that a woman's place was in the home and encouraged her to teach music, which she did for several years.However, her interest in law was strong enough for her to travel to Washington, D. C. at the outbreak of World War I, taking the Civil Service Exam and beginning a job with the Veterans Administration.She went to law school at night.

On the humorous side, a member of congress once wrote a jingle about a gentle lady from Mississippi did what General Lee and his lieutenants couldn't do; she dissolved the Grand Army of the Republic.  It seems the legal papers dissolving the army were given to her to execute (this occurred many years ago).A tribute in memory of Judge Matthews in 1993 stated, in part that "Burnita Shelton Matthews graced the bench of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia for three decades and more.She was a southern gentle woman of bright mind and indomitable spirit, a 'role model' before the term was coined."

"The local bar knew Burnita Shelton Matthews as a skilled general practitioner and expert on matters of eminent domain.While engaged in a traditional practice, she devoted her talent and will, simultaneously, to then untraditional activity - advancement of the equal stature of women and men under the law.Believing the Nineteenth Amendment incomplete, she served as Counsel to the National Women's Party, a group responsible for introducing the idea and text of an equal rights amendment, and for urging state legislators to repeal restrictions on women's opportunities.She wrote in those early days, in a 1926 issue of the American Bar Association Journal.
'It is of course disappointing to women that men of the legal profession are unable to see equality when applied as between men and women.But then it is not surprising when one remembers that this defective vision, the regard of discrimination as "protection," is traditional.'"Burnita Shelton Matthews helped change the tradition.She did so, characteristically, with restraint and understanding, but without ever altering her vision of a just and fair society.""In 1949 she was appointed to the District Court, first woman ever to be selected and confirmed as a federal trial judge.She encountered some resistance.A District of Columbia jurist was reported to have commented: 'Mrs. Matthews would be a good judge, but there's one thing wrong - she's a woman. The President, however, stated: 'This is one appointment about which I had no misgivings, only genuine satisfaction.'"On the bench, her fine lace collar and cuffs, slim size, and soft voice identified the great lady from Mississippi as much as her firm hand in managing each case, and her secure knowledge and application of the law.After nearly twenty years of distinguished service, she became a senior judge; in the years that followed, she regularly served on appeals court panels."

Judge Matthews is interred in the Shelton Cemetery in Western Copiah County...

Ed. Note: Thanks in part to Judge Matthews' nephew, Thomas Edwin Shelton, who contributed much to this article.
 
3.  Burnell Shelton, Jr., born March 14, 1900 in Copiah Co Mississippi.

He married Subye C.  Cowan on October 27, 1923 in Monticello, Lawrence Co Mississippi.  The daughter of Ira C. Cowan and Sally J. Moran, she was born September 16, 1904 in Hopewell, Copiah Co Mississippi, and died November 14, 1981, burial in Hopewell Cemetery, Copiah Co Mississippi.  (Sally J. Moran was the daughter of Hezekiah Moran and Rachel C. Barlow, Rachel, the daughter of Nathaniel Green Barlow and Mary Byrd)   Subye Shelton Cowan Dubose, thus, she must have married a second time to a Dubose.
Children of Burnell and Subye are:
Burnell Shelton, III      Jane Austen Shelton     Marguerite Shelton     Thomas Edwin Shelton     Gary Drew Shelton
 
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