The following article by Charles Hartley was published on 6 Mar 2016.
Franklin Pierce Straus was born and reared near the waters of Plum Creek in Spencer County in the little community of Waterford. It appears that his parents, Simon and Marana (Collings) Straus, named him for the nation's newest president. The fifth of their seven children, Frank grew up in a household that favored hard work and a sound education. His father had come to America from Bavaria sometime prior to his arrival in Kentucky. Here he married Marana (also called Miranda) in 1842. Simon was a merchant, likely with a small general store that served the needs of Waterford.
Frank's early education began with the local school where his aptitude for learning convinced his family to further his education, and he spent two years at the recently established Wesleyan school at Millersburg (now Kentucky Wesleyan College in Owensboro). He next came to Louisville where he studied at the law school and where he graduated in 1874 with class honors.
With law degree in hand, Frank left Louisville for the cozy confines of Shepherdsville, where he began what would prove to be an outstanding law career. Still single, he boarded at a small hotel run by the widow Mollie Samuels which catered to young professional men.
In Waterford, the Straus family's church life had centered around the Plum Creek Baptist Church, and when Frank arrived in Shepherdsville he appears to have joined with the Baptist Church there. By 1879, he was listed as their Sunday School superintendent. In that year he was happily married to Miss Katie Crist, daughter of Dr. H. C. Crist.
Frank Straus didn't take long to make his mark, serving twice as Bullitt County attorney, and three times as the County School Superintendent. In 1885 he was elected to represent Bullitt and Spencer counties in the Kentucky General Assembly. Then in 1890-91 he was a delegate from the same counties in the Constitutional Convention, and took an active and prominent part in the proceedings that produced a new Constitution.
In 1889, Frank and his brother, Dr. Leon Straus, each invested $2500 to become stockholders of the new E. W. Hall bank (later named the Bullitt County Bank), and within a few years, Frank Straus was the bank's president.
In 1892, seeking greater opportunities, Frank moved to Louisville and joined David W. Fairleigh in the new firm of Fairleigh & Straus. He rapidly became one of the leading lawyers in the city.
It appears that he was fond of telling stories about some of his more interesting cases. In one particular case, early in his career at Shepherdsville, he represented a young lady in a slander case against a young man. It appears that the young man had told others that she had "granted him favors that an unmarried woman is not allowed to grant." A large crowd attended the proceedings where Straus asked his client, "How long have you known the defendant?" to which she replied, "Several years."
He next inquired, "Have you ever been alone in his company?" When she replied, "many times," he next asked, "Did you or not ever have any improper or immoral relations with him in all your life?" Her response of "No Sir!" brought some indignant muttering in the crowd. Undeterred, Straus then asked, "Did you ever, at any time or in any place, have any improper relations with any man?" To her quiet response, "No, sir; never-but once." the judge abruptly announced, "Call the next case!"
In another case, after he had moved to Louisville, Straus was defending the Louisville Railway Company in a suit brought by a lady who claimed to have severely injured her shoulder when leaving a street car that suddenly lurched, hurling her to the ground. The court called a local doctor to examine her injury, and report on its extent. Neither lawyer knew what he would say, but Straus decided to find out. When questioned, the doctor's response was "It is very bad. It is permanent; there is no cure for it. She can't lift her arm high."
Straus was greatly discouraged, but continued on, "Doctor, do you know whether her injury is such as could have been produced by a fall from the step of a street car?"
When the doctor replied, "Well, sir, it is strange but true that I treated that shoulder twenty years ago. Its condition now is the same as it was then. I told this lady it could never be cured." the lady gave a hysterical scream and fell on the floor. Her attorney dismissed the petition.
Frank and Katie Straus were the proud parents of a boy and two girls, Harry, Ben Louie, and Ruth. It came as a shock to the family when Katie died in 1910 at the family home on St. Catherine Street.
But Frank carried on, continuing his law practice, and various community services such as his membership on the Louisville Library Board, until his death in 1925, brought on by a stroke.
In 1892, Zachariah Frederick Smith had written, "Mr. Straus is of medium stature and compact build, with blue eyes, dark hair and complexion, denoting a physique capable of great energy and endurance. This, with a strong and vigorous mind, incisive and alert, and an indomitable will, gives that power and force of character which rarely fails to make the man of successful life."
And successful he was.
Copyright 2016 by Charles Hartley, Shepherdsville KY. All rights are reserved. No part of the content of this page may be included in any format in any place without the written permission of the copyright holder.