Portrait courtesy of Find-A-Grave.
A Confederate veteran and lawyer from Tennessee, Summerfield Axley Key earns a slot here on the Strangest Names In American Political History due to his service in the Tennessee General Assembly, as well as serving as Chancellor for Tennessee's Third Chancery District. One of four children born to John and Mary Armitage Key, Summerfield A. Key was born on October 14, 1834 in Monroe County, Tennessee. While Summerfield Key would attain prominence in state politics, the Key family could also boast of David McKendree Key (1824-1900), a former U.S. Senator from Tennessee, federal judge and U.S. Postmaster General under Rutherford Hayes.
A student in the Monroe County schools, Summerfield Key went on to attend both the Hiwassee College and the Carson Newman College in Jefferson City. In 1855 he removed to Chattanooga to begin the study of law in the law office of his brother David, and after a period of study was admitted to the state bar. Key would join his brother's firm in the late 1850s and in 1861 put his profession on hold to enlist in the Confederate Army. In April of that year Key took rank as a private in the Nineteenth Tennessee Infantry and was later transferred to the Forty Third Tennessee Infantry, with which he would serve until war's conclusion. During the final days of the war Key was a member of a military escort to President Jefferson Davis, and remained in his service until Davis' capture in Georgia in May 1865.
Following his return to Tennessee Summerfield Key recommenced with his law practice and in December 1871 married to Mary Divine, to whom he was wed until his death. The couple would have three children, John Divine (1875-1921), Elizabeth Key Johnston (1873-1948) and Mary Key Mayfield (1879-1971).
Acknowledged by his contemporaries as "one of the ablest and most honored members of the bar of Southern Tennessee", Summerfield Key entered the political life of his state in 1876 when he was elected as Hamilton County's representative to the Tennessee General Assembly. Taking his seat at the start of the 1877-78 session, Key sat on the committee on Public Buildings and Public Grounds, and also served as chairman pro tem of the committee on Enrolled Bills.
Summerfield Key and his wife, from "Chattanooga's Forest Hills Cemetery", 2011.
After leaving the state assembly Key returned to practicing law in Chattanooga and reached his highest degree of political prominence in 1886 when he was named as Chancellor of the Third Chancery District of Tennessee, a position that saw him serve as a judge presiding over a chancery court. Key would serve in that capacity until his death on June 14, 1890, and his time on the bench was later remarked as having been devoted to "clarity" and "unswerving devotion to the conservation of equity and justice." Key was survived by his wife Mary, who, following her death in 1927, was interred alongside her husband at the Forest Hills Cemetery in Chattanooga.
While Key's name is most certainly unusual, there is some confusion as to his middle name, as it is variously given as both Axley and Armitage. Both of these names are listed in works highlighting Alexander's life (some published shortly after his death) and despite Armitage being his mother's maiden name, the name Axley appears to be the correct one, as it is inscribed on his headstone at the Forest Hills Cemetery.
A prominent public official in Kansas for over three decades, Summerfield Still Alexander parlayed a successful career as a lawyer into a term as U.S. District Attorney for Kansas and later launched a candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1942.
Born in Maryville, Nodaway County, Missouri on August 15, 1887, Summerfield Still Alexander was the son of Henry Clay and Mary Elizabeth (Ammons) Alexander. No information could be found in regard's to Alexander's childhood in Missouri or why he was endowed with the impressive first name "Summerfield". He removed from Missouri to Kansas during his adolescence and enrolled at the University of Kansas in the early 1900s. He would graduate in the class of 1907 and shortly thereafter began the practice of law in Kingman County, Kansas.
On September 1, 1910 Alexander married to Anna Belle Horner, and in that same year was elected as county attorney for Kingman County at the age of just 23. He served in this post from 1910-1912 and later went on to serve as city attorney for Kingman for nearly a decade.
While continuing as a practicing attorney, Alexander immersed himself in Democratic political circles in Kansas, serving as the chairman of the Democratic State Convention held in the city of Lawrence in 1932. That same year he actively campaigned for U.S. Senator George McGill's reelection bid, which proved successful. McGill himself proposed Alexander's name for the position of U.S. District Attorney for Kansas, and in 1935 Alexander was tapped to head that post. He served as District Attorney until his resignation in June 1942, and in that year launched his candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives from Kansas'5th district.
Running as a Democrat in a heavily Republican state, Alexander was unsuccessful in his bid for Congress, losing to incumbent Republican Clifford Ragsdale Hope by a vote of 27,381 to 54,677. Hope (1893-1970) had served fifteen years in Congress prior to defeating Alexander, and managed to keep his house seat for a further fifteen years, not being a candidate for renomination in 1956. Not one to a let a loss get the best of him, Alexander continued to be an active public servant during his later years, and would serve as a member of the Kansas delegation to the Democratic National Convention of 1952 in Chicago.
Earlier in his life Summerfield S. Alexander had remarried to a certain Josephine G. (last name unknown at this time) and the date of their marriage also remains unknown. On June 1, 1957 both Summerfield and Josephine were severely injured in a car-truck accident near Wichita, with Josephine expiring a few days following the crash. Also injured in this accident were Kansas District Judge Clark Adolphus Wallace (1889-1963) and his wife Anna, both of whom survived their injuries. Alexander was treated for his injuries and remained under hospital care for a number of months, eventually succumbing to his injuries on January 13, 1958 at a hospital in Wichita. He was 70 years old at the time of his death and was later interred at the Walnut Hill Cemetery in Kingman, Kansas.
The death notice below appeared in the Hutchinson, Kansas News on January 14, 1958, and lists a number of Alexander's surviving relatives, including a step-daughter.
The Hutchinson News, January 14, 1958.
From the Clearfield Progress, July 12, 1917.
Another "Summerfield" that made his name known in political circles is Summerfield J. Miller of Clearfield County, Pennsylvania. Little could be found online in regards to this oddly named man, but a small biography in a 1921 Smull's Legislative Handbook of Pennsylvania helped significantly in fielding information!
Miller was born in Pike Township, Pennsylvania on August 26, 1859 and received his education at the Curwensville Normal School, graduating in the class of 1879. He later went on to attend the Williamsport Commercial College (graduating in 1881) before deciding upon a career in medicine. He studied at the University of New York's medical school, graduating from here in 1886. He returned to Pennsylvania and opened a practice in the town of Ansonville. He practiced in this town for nearly a decade, eventually removing to the town of Madera. Pennsylvania.
Miller's years in Madera saw him become not only a prominent local physician, but a noted civic leader as well. In addition to his medical practice Miller served as a school director for the township of Bigler, president of the Madera Water Company, and was a past vice president and director of the Madera National Bank.
Summerfield Miller was elected to his first term in the Pennsylvania Senate in 1914, representing the counties of Clearfield and Centre. He won reelection to the Senate in 1918 and during his second term served on the Health Insurance Commission that had been created by an act of the legislature in 1919. Miller's second term in the senate concluded in 1922 and he died nine years later on November 10, 1931 at age 72. He was survived by his wife Emma Klare Miller (died 1947) and five of his children.