Jonathan Fairbanks and Clyde Edwin Tuck

Past and Present of Greene County, Missouri

Early and Recent History and Genealogical Records
of Many of the Representative Citizens

LUTHER QUINTER McCARTY. The name of the late Luther Quinter McCarty needs no introduction to the readers of this volume, if indeed, it needs any formal presentation to readers anywhere, for that name has been printed repeatedly throughout the world, and it has attracted much attention and aroused both admiration and regret--admiration owing to his physical prowess, and regret that his brilliant career as one of the greatest athletes of modern times should have terminated so soon and so tragically. But we are reminded of the saying of the ancient Greeks, the wisest people the earth has ever produced, that "whom the gods love die early." Those same Greeks, also the Romans, were great admirers of athletes and the latter nation especially boasted of its fine specimens of manhood. The Olympic games held in those remote days were national affairs and attended by emperors, senators, famous generals and men of letters, and the victors at these great fetes--the winning athletes--were lionized by the fashionable and cultured, and myrtle wreaths were placed upon their brows as symbols of victory, these wreaths being coveted almost as much as crowns of royalty. And from that epoch down to the present, the world has never ceased to admire and applaud the man who is capable of showing superior physical ability just as much as he who achieves fame in the realm of intellect. Many thinking people of today are saying that we, as a nation, neglect the physical development of the youth of the land and place too much emphasis upon business qualifications, and are advocating that more encouragement be given to a stronger, purer physical manhood. Surely no one could object seriously to clean athletic sports, and the man who excels, as did Mr. McCarty, is entitled to the plaudits of his fellowman. Physically he was an Apollo, and personally a prince of good fellows; no kinder heart or broader sympathy could have been found among the young men in this country. His career was short, but it was brilliant, like the meteor that flames along the horizon for a moment, then disappears in darkness.

Luther Q. McCarty, for some time white heavyweight champion pugilist of the world, was born on a ranch near Omaha, Nebraska, March 17, 1892. He was a son of Aaron and Margaret McCarty. The mother died when our subject was an infant, and the future champion lived in various homes when a boy, but later the father remarried and the boy was partly reared by his stepmother. The father, Dr. Aaron McCarty, known as "White Eagle, the Indian doctor," spent his earlier life in Nebraska, but for a number of years he has made his home in Ohio and he and his second wife are residents of the city of Piqua, that state. Dr. McCarty is a giant in size, measuring six feet and eight inches and weighing three hundred and fifteen pounds.

Luther Q. McCarty received a meager education in the public schools of Nebraska, and later in life became a well informed man by wide travel and contact with the world. He was endowed with good common sense and learned quickly. He was the right kind of man to make a good pugilist. He never had the bad habits that wreck so many of the young men of the world. There was no taint of easy living to be worked out of his system. He was a working man from the start. He was brought up on the farm, where he lived in the open air all the time, riding horses, herding cattle, working hard, and it was this free life on a western ranch that aroused in him a love for horses which characterized his subsequent career, and, useless to add, that he was an expert rider and horseman. Nothing delighted him more than to "break" an unruly bronco. When a poor lad, he admired the great saddles of the cowboys, and it was his ambition to own one when he grew up. This desire was gratified beyond his youthful dreams, for during the last year of his life he had made to order a very fine saddle, beautifully studded with silver and various trappings that would have been the envy of any Indian chieftain in the country, paying the sum of seven hundred dollars for the saddle and a special trunk in which to keep it.

When he left the ranch, Mr. McCarty went to sea, where he lived the hard life of a common sailor for two or three years. After that he became an iron worker, a bridge builder. This kind of work required nerve, strength and courage and it made McCarty's sinews like the iron he handled. When he left that trade, having had his leg broken in an accident, he went back to the West again and took up the old cowboy life. There he accidentally had occasion to take on a glove fight and discovered that he was fitted for the profession that brings in the money faster than any other open to a man without a college training. He not only had the physical strength and agility, but he had also one of the most important qualities which a boxer can have--intelligence. When in the ring he needed no coaching or advice from his seconds, he used his own brains.

Entering the ring when about eighteen years old, his first fight was at Swift Current, for which he received only fifteen dollars. His rise was perhaps the most rapid of any prize ring star in the history of pugilism, and his last battle, about eighteen months after his first, brought him many thousands of dollars, and during that brief period he earned about one hundred thousand dollars. In all he engaged in twenty-three-battles and won sixteen of them with knockouts. Four of the other seven were ten round, no-decision bouts, two were six-round, no-decision bouts, and one, the last, was to have been a ten-round fight. He won over such widely known pugilists as Carl Morris, Al Kaufman, Jim Flynn and Al Palzer. Upon the defeat of the last named at Los Angeles, California, January 1, 1913, he was given a diamond-studded belt, valued at five thousand dollars, and was the recognized white heavyweight champion of the world, which honors he retained five months, or until his untimely death,

Mr. McCarty was married at Sidney, Ohio, May 28, 1907, to Rhoda Wright, who was born November 9, 1888, in Sidney, Ohio, and there grew to womanhood and was educated in the common schools. She is a daughter of Theodore and Amanda (Stumpff) Wright, both natives of that place, also where they grew up, were educated, married and established their home. The father was born January 23, 1855, and his death occurred at Sidney, February 26, 1914. The mother was born March 23, 1852, and, she still lives in Sidney. Mr. Wright devoted his active life to general farming, also operated a threshing machine. Politically he was a Democrat, and fraternally a member of the Masonic Order. His family consisted of six children.

To Luther Q. McCarty and wife one child was born, a daughter, Cornelia, Alberta McCarty, the date of whose birth was February 14, 1911. Mrs. McCarty and daughter make their home in Springfield. The champion was very fond of his little daughter, and intended retiring the ring on her account after he had amassed a sufficient fortune to live comfortably the rest of his life and provide for her in every way, especially giving her an excellent education. He left a large bank account and valuable property at Venice, California, and elsewhere.

The death of Luther Q. McCarty occurred at Calgary, Province of Alberta, Canada, May 24, 1913. The exact cause has never been fully determined. He was engaged in a bout with Arthur Pelkey, and in less than three minutes after the opening of the engagement McCarty fell to the mat and expired almost immediately. It seems certain that he was not killed by a blow from his antagonist. However, such a blow probably had its effects in causing the champion's tragic end. It was at first believed that heart failure was the cause, but this was later doubted by physicians, who found that a dislocation of a vertebra in his neck had taken place, and it was the accepted theory by most that this injury had been caused a few days previous when the champion was riding a bucking mustang and that Pelkey's blow caused a further dislocation, resulting in death.

The remains of the great athlete were sent to Piqua, Ohio, for burial. The body was viewed by thousands as it lay in state. Beautiful floral tributes, were sent by admirers from all over the country. Interment was made in the family lot in Forest Hill Cemetery. The city of Piqua never saw so large a crowd at a funeral. Newspaper representatives from big dailies throughout the country were there covering the funeral, as well as magazine writers of national reputation.

The following obituary, written by Billy McCarney, manager of the subject of this memoir, during his successful ring career, appeared in The Ozark Magazine in its issue of June, 1913:

"'Luther McCarty, Springfield, Missouri,' were the last words ever written by the lamented heavyweight champion who went to his death in an orthodox ring engagement with Arthur Pelkey, at Calgary, Alberta, Canada, May 24th . The night preceding the bout, McCarty remained in he city of Calgary instead of returning to his training camp. Where he elected to stay was the best hotel the city of Calgary affords, the Royal King George, and it was on the register of the hotel he inscribed his name and home town. Luther McCarty was essentially a product of the Queen City of the Ozarks. He was heard continually referring to Springfield as he grandest place in the world and no matter when his trips across the country were being routed, he always tried to have it so arranged that he could go through the city he loved. When we were leaving the East to make the trip through Calgary, Luther asked me to try and arrange it so that we could go by way of St. Louis and Springfield, but it was so much out of the way and meant such a sacrifice of time that I declined changing the ticket routing and we made the run by the shortest route, via Chicago. I am sorry that I refused his request.

"The sudden and unlooked for death of McCarty jarred the whole world, but nowhere did it hit with such terrific heart aches as it did in Springfield. They loved the big good-natured boy in the city he loved to call home. They had seen him in his budding days, saw him blossom the night he tumbled Carl Morris to the mat and later when he returned from his triumphal, sensational astounding tour of the West, with the championship of the world in his keeping, it was the people of Springfield who gave him his greatest reception. McCarty returned in full bloom to greet his friends of the early struggling days. Despite the fact that he had won the greatest honor a man of his chosen profession could acquire, he returned to Springfield as just the same plain Luther McCarty they had known here in the days of privation. He did not run to grasp the hands of the big men of the city. It was not his way. With the reception over he jumped on the same horse he had ridden in the early days and rode from place to place meeting the friends he called friends when he was just one of the common herd. His success never turned his head and he never forgot anyone who befriended him in the early days. The religious element did not take kindly to the reception planned for the return of the lad who went forth from Springfield to conquer and, incidentally, placed Springfield on the map, and headed by one individual they made the home-coming of the champion somewhat different from what it was planned, but McCarty never once referred to it as an unpleasant memory. His idea of life was that we all travel in our own grooves and it hurt him to know that he had been spoken of so illy by the man who fought the giving of a reception for him. It was not the individual; it was not a combination of forces working against him; it was not the stout-hearted friends who battled to have him received properly, that stood out in his mind. It was simply that he loved Springfield. Despite the harsh things said of him by the man who opposed his being received properly, I am glad to say Springfield loved Luther McCarty. Not Springfield alone, but the world loved the big boy. The world admires a winner, but some are better liked than others, and Luther McCarty was loved to the fullest. I do not recall him ever speaking mean of anyone.

He lived a temperate life, was free from profane language, loved his fellow man and was ready at all times to benefit one in need. The Golden Rule was his motto and he never was so well pleased as when, in his days of prosperity, he was able to help one of those in need. His charity was not of the noisy kind. He was unostentatious in the performance of good deeds and his enjoyment was in knowing he had done something for someone, that he at some time in his early life would have appreciated having done for him.

"In the death of Luther McCarty the world lost a noble character. His loyalty to a friend was unbounded. Appreciation of good done for him was paramount and the one way to awaken him to a point of showing his temper was to have anyone speak disparagingly of his friends. As a companion he was truly lovable. Of a sunny disposition, he loved the good things of life and wanted those nearest to him to share his every pleasure.

His treatment of myself was so perfect and our days of close association so crowded with sweet memories that he will live in my mind for all time. I loved him as a son and he respected me as an obedient son would a father. In our eighteen months of daily association we never had a cross word. I did at times chide him for some of his recklessness, but he never answered me back. He knew I had his interest at heart. By his death I lost the dearest pal man ever had, one who knew no wrong. His equal in manly principles will never again grace the profession he adopted. May the dust rest lightly over him."

It would require volumes to hold all that was published about him. The Springfield Daily Leader, in its issue of June 8, 1913, contained an article under the caption of "McCarty and Ketchel," which we deem worthy of reproduction here:

"With the sad taking off of Luther McCarty, the name of his home town, Springfield, Missouri, became temporarily the most talked of place in America. Twice before the Queen City was the central focus point of the Union. The night Carl Morris went down to defeat from the powerful right of Luther McCarty and the day Stanley Ketchel, was done to death were the two occasions when, everywhere over the country, this city was foremost in the topics being discussed. Speaking of Ketchel and McCarty, two of the most sensational men who ever gained distinction in the sport world, it is strange that this city should have to do with the end of one and the rise of the other. They were two grand characters standing out in bold relief from all others of their profession. Each bore a name, one Stanley, the other Luther, new to fistiana. They both rose meteorically, astonished the world by the character of their ring work, champions of the never-to-be-forgotten kind, and after brief careers each went to a sensational death. From the beginning of their lives to their untimely end these two men, lovable socially and dreaded when in the roped enclosure, traveled in almost parallel lines. Disciples of Nomad by choice, stout-hearted to the point of recklessness, with the love for adventure uppermost in their hearts, it was but natural when they took to boxing that their very temperaments would carry them to the front ranks of their new profession. Both men sprang into prominence from the unknown class over night. It was Joe Thomas, then welter-weight champion of the world, who was the stepping stone for Ketchel, while Carl Morris answered the same purposes for McCarty.

From the first time they attracted attention, McCarty and Ketchel were lionized by the public. Their care-free ways won people to them. The newspapers of New York attacked both men, but was the result of work on the part of their managers demanding what they figured the right price for service s of the men wanted by the New York clubs. The unjustness of their attack on McCarty was so palpable that many other papers took sides with the big boy, and the unwarranted abuse of the New York sport writers cut deep into McCarty's sensitive brain, but he never once complained. Both McCarty and Ketchel survived the attacks and when away from New York were idolized. They both thrived on the adulations they received, loved to be in the limelight and the very air the breathed, they breathed, they exhaled with a sensational flavor. Dying sensationally as they did, they lived their parts right to the very last earthly move. Even in death, the eyes of the world were focused on them. The train bearing McCarty's remains was met all along the line by throngs of people who stood about, sad-eyed, talking of the good traits of the boy they all loved just so with Ketchel. When the former, on his tour, visited Grand Rapids, Michigan, he made the trip to the Polish cemetery and paid his respects to the grave of Ketchel-- the man whom he had always looked upon as his hero. May the memory of both be kept green forever."


A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y

Table of Contents | Keyword Search | Greene County History Home | Local History Home

 Springfield-Greene County Library