Gregory, Thomas Watt

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps
 
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Thomas Watt Gregory served as attorney general of the United States under President WOODROW WILSON from 1914 to 1919. Because his term of office coincided with the entry of the United States into WORLD WAR I,Gregory's JUSTICE DEPARTMENT experienced tremendous growth. He presided over the creation of a war emergency division within the Department of Justice, and he watched the FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION (FBI) grow to five times its prewar size as he worked to enforce U.S. laws pertaining to ESPIONAGE, SEDITION, sabotage, trading with the enemy, and SELECTIVE SERVICE compliance?in addition to pursuing the general interests of the U.S. government.

It is fitting that Gregory's service to the United States came in a time of war. Born November 6, 1861, in Crawfordsville, Mississippi, he was, in many ways, a child of war. His father, Francis Robert Gregory, a physician and Confederate army captain, was killed during the early days of the Civil War. His mother, Mary Cornelia Watt Gregory, a delicate woman mourning the loss of her first child, was unable to cope with news of her husband's death. As she

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drifted in and out of melancholy, the upbringing of her remaining child, Gregory, fell to her father, Major Thomas Watt, a Mississippi planter.

By all accounts, Gregory's grandfather was a stern taskmaster with a strong commitment to education. Gregory graduated from Southwestern Presbyterian University, in Clarksville, Tennessee, in 1883. Driven to please his grandfather, he had completed his course work in just two years. From 1883 to 1884, he studied law at the University of Virginia. In 1885, he received a bachelor of laws degree from the University of Texas. Later that year, he opened a law office in Austin, Texas.

In the early 1890s, Gregory began forming some important partnerships. On February 22, 1893, he married Julia Nalle, the daughter of Captain Joseph Nalle, an Austin native. They had two sons, Thomas Watt Gregory, Jr., and Joseph Nalle Gregory, and two daughters, Jane Gregory and Cornelia Gregory. He also formed a law partnership with Robert L. Batts. Together, they successfully represented the state of Texas against Waters-Pierce Oil Company, a subsidiary of Standard Oil of New York, charged with violating Texas ANTITRUST LAWS. The company was found guilty and enjoined from doing further business in Texas. The case was appealed, and was ultimately affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court (...

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