Stagger Lee

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Nathaniel Craig Dryden

Nathaniel Dryden was born in 1850 in Missouri to Judge John Debose Sharpe Dryden (1814-1886) and Sarah F. Barr (née)(1825-). His father was a Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court. Dryden grauated from Amherst college and practiced law from 1871. He was eloquent in the courtroom. He is reputed to be the first attorney to gain the conviction, and hanging, of a white man for killing a black.

"I think his power as an orator was his factluty of impressing a jury with the sincerity of his opinions, his capacity to acurately state all the facts and circumstances, as established by witnesses, together with his ability to logically conenct them with a rational conclusion, which he usually substantiated by a very considerable power of rhetoric and pathetic and emotional appeal."

-- Charles P. Johnson

His reputation for hard drinking and morphine addiction caused him to be known as "the wickedest man in Missouri." An unsolicted love note from an infatuated shopgirl forced Dryden to admit to a second secret marriage which came as a surprise to his four daughters and first wife.

Dryden died on August 26, 1896 after a drinking binge after Lee Shelton's first trial and before his second.

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