They still remember ‘the man upstairs’
The man upstairs in this case hasn’t been around in 50 years but the memory of Emory A. Camp is still strong at 217 North Main.
A new business, 217@Main, is opening this spring downstairs from Judge Camp’s old law office where he practiced law for 58 years.
Business owners Wendie Upson, Janet Leininger and Leanna Applegate, plan to open in the spring after the extensive renovation is completed, and promise “a little bit of everything.”
Judge Camp would have liked that. He was a lot of everything to Rockdale in the first part of the 20th Century.
‘ MR. ROCK DA LE’—He served as the town’s mayor, as a state representative, was city attorney for 30 years, a member of the draft board, chairman of the Rockdale State Bank board of directors and vice-president of the Rockdale Sandow & Southern Railroad.
Remembered as the man with the bat-wing collar and the fresh carnation in his lapel who could turn a trip to the post office into the highlight of the day for anyone fortunate enough to encounter him holding court before an open postal box.
His Reporter obituary bore the title “Mr. Rockdale.”
NOT OLD ENOUGH- Camp came to Texas in 1887 at age six with the family settling in San Gabriel.
He was in line to receive his law degree when the presiding judge reminded graduates the state bar required them to be qualified voters.
Camp quietly stepped out of line. He was 20, not yet eligible to vote. He had finished law school early.
The bar granted him a law license conditional upon his registering to vote on his 21st birthday.
SUPREME COURT— He moved into the law office at 217 North Main in 1903 and practiced there until his death.
It would be a stretch to say Camp “invented” Rockdale but only a bit. He was involved in every facet of the town’s life for 50 years.
He obtained the political support to get the area’s first paved roads in 1916.
Camp argued the case all the way to the Texas Supreme Court. He won. The school was built.
He was known as the father of the Texas Burial Association law and was co-author of the Robinson Insurance Law which laid the foundation for the Texas insurance industry.
He was a leading figure in the development of the lignite mining venture which eventually led to the establishment of Alcoa’s Rockdale Operations.
21 STEPS—But those were the big things. Those 1,000 people came to Judge Camp’s funeral as much for the little things.
How many people climbed those famous 21 steps to his office door through two world wars and the depression?
Probably tens of thousands.
Sometimes those clients needed legal advice and sometimes just advice. They got it.
And there was never a color barrier at Judge Camp’s office door.
UNANIMOUS—How much respected was E. A. Camp in Rockdale?
Not many towns have a political story like this one.
On July 29, 1929, Rockdale held a special election to fill the vacant mayor’s post.
Camp did not seek the position. He was nominated by his friends, without his knowledge. There were 131 votes cast in the election.
All were for Camp.