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Hon. Paul Nesbitt. Among Oklahoma legislators there are few careers that illustrate more decisive turning points in personal advancement than that of Paul Nesbitt. Briefly outlined, he spent his boyhood on a Nebraska farm, began dealing with adversity at an early age, struggled for means to secure a higher education, turned to medicine and graduated and for several years was in practice in Oklahoma. After a long delay he answered a truer call to journalism, equipped himself by metropolitan experience, and then returned to Oklahoma and since the beginning of the statehood period has been one of the leading newspaper men of the state. In 1914 he answered another call from his home district at McAlester, and went to the Legislature, representing Pittsburg County.
Paul Nesbitt was born in Nuckolls County, Nebraska, in 1872, a son of James B. and Eveline (Lee) Nesbitt. His father, who was of Irish descent, was a Union soldier in the Twelfth Illinois Regiment of Infantry during the Civil war, but enlisted from Iowa. The father’s grandfather was a soldier under General Washington in the Revolutionary war, and spent that dreadful winter of suffering with his comrades at Valley Forge. Eveline Leo was a daughter of Francis Lee, who was foreman of the largest shipbuilding concern in the United States, the old Atlantic Forge in New York, before the Civil war. Francis Lee emigrated to Iowa during the war, but was expelled from the state because of his sympathy with the cause of the Confederacy.
Paul Nesbitt’s birthplace was a ranch situated on the Little Blue River, in Nebraska, and through it ran the famous Oregon trail. There he was reared to the age of sixteen, and was then sent to high school at Edgar, Nebraska. Later he attended school at Lincoln, and during 1900-01 was a student in Cotner University at Lincoln. By much economy and by hard work in vacations and also while in school he managed to take one year in the work of the medical department at Cotner, and was then compelled by lack of finances to leave school and become a wage earner. Going out to Denver, he began railroading, and by 1893 had saved $500, which he deposited in a bank in Denver. Leaving most of this fund in the bank, he went on to Chicago for the purpose of completing his medical education. A day or so after his arrival the news came that the Denver bank had failed, and that his hard-earned savings wore irretrievably lost. When he applied for admission to the Chicago Medical College he had $10, and $5 of this he spent for the matriculation fee. Paul Nesbitt has never been the type of man who could be permanently rebuffed by misfortune. For two years he continued attending college and earned between times practically every dollar that his medical education cost him. He was vice president of the class of 1895 in which he graduated.
As Doctor Nesbitt he began the practice of his profession in El Dorado Springs, Missouri, in 1895, and during the three years of his residence he enjoyed a satisfactory patronage. In 1898 Doctor Nesbitt came to Watonga, Oklahoma, and there was engaged in practice for three years. For a number of years he had been hearing the call to a newspaper office, but it was only after he had made a sucress in the medical profession that he answered the summons and bought the Watonga Herald. After a brief experience he realized that a broader equipment and training were necessary for a thorough success, and he accordingly sold his plant and went to St. Louis, and in that city and in Joplin he did editorial work for several years, and thus acquired a training in metropolitan newspaper activities. Returning to Oklahoma in 1906, Mr. Nesbitt took charge of the publicity department of the democratic campaign for the election of delegates to the constitutional convention. After statehood was a fact, he served a year and a half as assistant state examiner and inspector and two years as a clerk in the office of Gov. C. N. Haskell. In 1912 Mr. Nesbitt became editor of Governor Haskell’s newspaper, the New State Tribune at McAlester, and has since devoted most of his time to his editorial duties.
In 1914 he was elected to the Legislature from Pittsburg County, and was made chairman of the committee on penal institutions and vice chairman of the committee on rules. He has been a member of the committee on labor and arbitration. His home county contains the state penitentiary and some of the largest coal mines in Oklahoma, and these interests bring him naturally to a consideration of compensation laws for workmen and other measures that affect the laboring classes.
Mr. Nesbitt was chairman of the democratic county central committee of Pittsburg County in the campaign of 1912. He is a member of the McAlester Rotary Club. Having relied on his own resources and having come up through adversities which few men could successfully face, Paul Nesbitt has never sought the easier paths of life, but has been ambitious to acquire more strength to perform larger duties, and has been dominated by an ambition to work and to make his work count for something in useful service to humanity. He takes considerable interest in matters relating to the history of the Five Civilized Tribes.
In 1896 Mr. Nesbitt married Carrie M. Lee at Falls City, Nebraska. Their two children are Robert Lee, aged seventeen, and Muriel Bird, aged ten. Mr. Nesbitt also has three brothers and two sisters: E. F. Nesbitt, manager of a wholesale grocery house at Altus, Oklahoma ; Charles George, owner and editor of the Record at Hinton, Oklahoma; Howard, manager of the Signal at Mounds, Oklahoma, thus making three of the family engaged in the newspaper business; Mrs. E. E. Harrett, of Watonga; and Mrs. Lewis Shaw, who lives in Fairfield. Nebraska.