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Al J. Jennings. Undoubtedly one of the most widely known citizens of Oklahoma is Al J. Jennings, who in 1914 made a spectacular race for nomination as governor before the primaries and stood third in the list of seven candidates. The vicissitudes and tense interest of his career are familiar to thousands and thousands of people all over the United States and the world through his autobiographic story which ran serially for many numbers in The Saturday Evening Post in 1913, under the title “Beating Back.” While a lawyer by profession, Mr. Jennings has always had an ambition for the lecture field, and in 1914, after the conclusion of his political campaign and after his name had become so widely familiar through his life story as told in The Saturday Evening Post, he took to the platform, and has since been one of the leading lecturers and has appeared in all the important centers of the United States and Canada.
His father was the late Judge J. D. F. Jennings, who gained many distinctions on account of his valued public service in Oklahoma. Judge Jennings was born in June, 1831, in Tazewell County, Virginia, where his parents were also natives. Educated at Emory and Henry College, he joined the Methodist Episcopal Church as a circuit rider, and preached for many years. He also studied medicine, and when the Civil war broke out was commissioned a surgeon in the Confederate army. His service was with the Forty-first Virginia Infantry and continued from the start until the close of the great struggle. In 1865 he located at Marion, Illinois, where he was a Methodist minister, a physician, and in addition to carrying on these vocations he studied law. In 1872 he was elected county attorney of Williamson County, Illinois, and held that office for two years. In 1874, on account of the ill health of his wife, he started back by boat to his old Virginia home. His wife died in Adams County, Ohio, and he thereupon abandoned the journey. He then located at Manchester, Ohio, where he practiced law until 1880, and then practiced in Appleton City, St. Clair County, Missouri, until 1884. In the latter year he became one of the pioneer settlers of Comanche County, Kansas, and established himself as a lawyer at Coldwater. He was elected the first probate judge of Comanche County and filled that office for two terms, four years. In 1888 Judge Jennings moved to Baca County, Colorado, and was engaged in practice at Trinidad until 1889.
He was an original Oklahoma eighty-niner, having participated in the rush in April of that year and securing a tract of Government land eight miles south of Kingfisher. His reputation in other states followed him to this new community and he was soon a leader in democratic politics and was selected as a delegate to territorial and other conventions. In 1893, with the opening of the Cherokee Strip, Governor Renfrow appointed him the first probate judge of Woodward County, and he was elected to succeed himself at the first regular election. In 1895 Judge Jennings moved to Shawnee, where he continued in the practice of law, and in 1896 was elected probate judge of Pottawatomie County and by re-election held the office four years. With these many honors of professional and public life, he retired in 1901 and in that year moved to Slater, Missouri, where he died in June, 1903. Judge Jennings was a Knight Templar Mason.
He was twice married. In 1853 he married Miss Mary Elizabeth Scates, who was born in Virginia in 1834 and who died at Rome, Ohio, in 1874. In 1885 Judge Jennings married Miss Mattie Holt, but all his seven children were by his first marriage. Zebulon Jennings, the oldest of the children was born in 1855 and died in 1879. John D. F., Jr., was born in 1857 and is now a well known lawyer of Oklahoma City. Edward E., who was born in 1859, was a pioneer lawyer of Oklahoma, being senior of the law firm of Jennings & Sharp, at Purcell, the latter member being now an associate justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Edward E. Jennings was assistant county attorney of Canadian County in 1893-94, and was murdered at Woodward October 18, 1895. He was married in 1884 to Lena Nichols, who died in 1887, leaving one child, John E. Frank F. Jennings, the fourth of the children of Judge Jennings, was born September 25, 1861, was admitted to practice law in 1884, and in 1886 became one of the founders of the Town of Boston in Colorado, and for three years served as county clerk of Las Animas County; in 1889 he took part in the first opening of Oklahoma. Frank F. Jennings married Miss Nelle C. Bunyan, October 1, 1906. She was born in Meade County, Kansas, October 23, 1885, a descendant of John Bunyan, author of “Pilgrim’s Progress,” and she herself has attained some note as a newspaper woman in the states of Oklahoma and New Mexico. She is the mother of one child, Frank, Jr., born July 19, 1907. The next in age is Al J. Jennings, the youngest is Mary Dell, who was born in 1870 and is the wife of Edward Kipple of Kansas City, Missouri.
Al J. Jennings was born in Tazewell County, Virginia, November 25, 1863. After completing his education in the University of West Virginia, he joined his father at Coldwater, Kansas, in 1884 and was admitted to the bar there. In 1889 he took part in the opening of Oklahoma, locating at Purcell in the old Chickasaw Nation and practicing before the courts of the eastern district of Texas, being admitted to the United States court at Paris, Texas, in 1890. Many of the incidents of his exciting career are vividly told in the autobiographic narrative above mentioned. In 1891 he removed to El Reno, and in 1892 was elected county attorney of Canadian County. In 1903 Mr. Jennings began practice at Lawton, Oklahoma, and bis power and versatility in handling criminal cases soon brought him a reputation of more than state wide prominence. In 1911 he came to Oklahoma City and in 1912 was nominated for county attorney of Oklahoma County. It is generally believed that he was legally elected, though he was counted out on account of an alleged error which later proved unjustified, though he was not given the office.
Mr. Jennings is a member of the Baptist Church. On January 6, 1904, at Lawton he married Miss Maude E. Deaton, daughter of James E. and Effie L. (Person) Deaton. Mrs. Jennings was born March 2, 1881, in Polk County, Iowa. She is a talented musician and singer and a graduate of Drake University of Iowa.