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Bill Thayer

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Percy Elkins

This webpage reproduces a section of
The History of Jenkins, Kentucky

published by The Jenkins Area Jaycees
Jenkins, Kentucky 1973

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

Judge John Herbert Abbott

The following article is by Barbara Stambaugh and was written about 1958.

One of the true old Southern Gentlemen, Judge John Herbert Abbott, has been tipping his hat to Jenkins ladies for nearly half a century. From Newburg, Louisiana, this student of law feels he had a love for the mountains and knows he has never lost that love. He answered his call to the tall timber by going to work for Standard Log Lumber Company as a logger and knew everyone on all the tributaries of the Big Sandy.

He said he had to defend his mountain background when he was in the Spanish-American War. The lessons he took from an old professional boxer came in handy when he and the other boys were called "hillbilly". Judge Abbott was in Cuba for several months and learned a little Spanish during this stay. He says he developed stomach trouble in Cuba as a result of poor food and bad conditions and has had it ever since.

He decided to settle down in the valley of Jenkins in 1911 and opened up and shipped the first car of coal from #3 mine. By that G‑25time, however, he was an old hand at mining. When he was only 16, he worked at Peach Orchard where the first coal on the Big Sandy was shipped.

Back in Jenkins' infancy, Judge Abbott said he had to wear high top boots to get up town.

He met and married Esther Lilly Clere, who was then principal of Dunham School 34 years ago. They have two daughters, Agatha and Evelyn. His two sons, James A. and David Riley are both deceased.

In 1921, he began his career as police judge and was re-elected seven times and held the office until 1956.

Before he even began logging, he was interested in politics and law. Back in Louisiana, he studied the law books of a retired congressman, John W. Rife.​a Although he never finished the course under Rife, he has never stopped studying. He tells the story of how he was taught his most important political lesson. Once after hearing him argue with two Louisiana politicians, his father called him aside and told him how impressed he was that he remembered everything he read in the daily paper. He added, however, that from then on they would also take another paper which was a democratic paper, so that he would know the other side of the question. From then on, Uncle John said he always looked at both sides of an issue before making a decision. He said he became an Independent as a political move in 1933 when John L. Lewis and Sam formed the non-party league. He felt that by this he would have a better chance to be re-elected as judge.

Uncle John says he feels Jenkins is one of the most law-abiding towns in the state. When whiskey was legal in town, he says he knows from experience, that the money gained from the sale of whiskey can never compensate for the damage it does.

While judge, Uncle John always believed in giving the man a chance. His harsher sentences were always the last resort and he always tried to give a little advice and counseling along with his sentences. His experiences with juveniles are the closest to his heart. He feels kindness has been his most effective tool. He thinks each case is different and that the law gives a judge the privilege to use his judgement. He doesn't feel imprisonment is a solution and always tried first reasoning with juveniles, counseling them and placing them on probation when possible. Tears came to his eyes when he recalled that over half of his Christmas cards came from former delinquents.

Uncle John has been failing in health for some time, but years of habit cannot be erased. He still manages to get to the police court to see how things are getting along. I am not worried about the future, Uncle John says, as he sits out in the sun surrounded by his beloved mountains and his memories.

Thayer's Note:

a The text as printed has "John M. Rife"; there has never been a congressman by that name. For John W. Rife, see the U. S. Congress's Biographical Directory; he was born, died, and is buried in Pennsylvania, the state he represented in his brief Congressional career. I've been unable to find a Louisiana connection so far, but the text probably just means that Judge Abbott studied books authored by Rep. Rife, although here again, I haven't found any yet.

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Page updated: 8 Dec 05