Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Page 7



Evelle J. Younger: Related to Wild West Outlaws and to Nation’s Founding Fathers




Seventy-First in a Series


EVELLE J. YOUNGER, as district attorney, had a practice of personally interviewing would-be deputies who had made it through the initial vetting. One young hopeful who had passed the bar exam only four month earlier met with the DA in October, 1965. He was Curt Livesay…destined to become a legend in the office, but unknowing at that point whether he would make the grade or be told, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

As Livesay recounts it, at the end of the questioning, Younger queried:

“Have I failed to ask you something that, if you were in my place, you would want to know?”

Livesay, speaking to me by phone from his ranch in eastern Oklahoma, says he proceeded to confess that he had some relatives who had been convicted of brewing moonshine.

That revelation, Livesay might have thought, doomed his chances of being hired. Not so. The district attorney, doubtlessly amused, put him at ease by inquiring: “Have you ever heard of the Younger Brothers?”

Younger—“Mr. Law and Order”—revealed he was a decedent of those fabled outlaws of the old west.

The stage coach- and bank-robbing Younger Brothers were Cole (their leader), Jim, John, and Bob; they teamed with the James Brothers, Jesse and his half-brother, Frank. The James-Younger Gang rode from a period starting shortly after the Civil War and ending in 1876 after the Younger Brothers (sans John who died in 1874) were apprehended after attempting a bank robbery.

In conducting a bit of genealogical research, I not only confirmed ties to the Younger Brothers but came across Evelle Younger’s unheralded links with other historical figures who were, decidedly, “good guys.”

Resources show that a common progenitor of Younger and of the bandits was Joshua Logan Younger (born 1755). He was the father of, among other offspring, Charles Lee Younger (1779) and Henry Younger (1772).

Charles Lee Younger was the grandfather of the Younger Brothers.

Henry Younger was the great-great-grandfather of Evelle J. Younger.

In figuring relations: a child of your aunt and uncle is, of course, a cousin…in particular, a first cousin. That cousin’s descendents, no matter how far down the line, will all be first cousins to you, but the child of your cousin will be a “first cousin once removed,” a grandchild will be a “first cousin twice removed,” etc. Your cousin’s child and your own child will be second cousins; your grandchild and your cousin’s grandchild will be third cousins, and so on. On a family tree, where cousins are on the same horizontal plane (same generation), they’re first, second, third cousins, and so forth, while any diagonal relationships entail a “removed” status.

So, starting with Henry Younger and going forward in time: his son, also named Henry, was the first cousin of the outlaws’ father, Henry Washington Lee; Henry Jr.’s son Richard was the Younger Brothers’ second cousin; his son Harry was a second cousin once removed; and his son Evelle was a second cousin twice removed.

While journalists are keen about making sure of their facts before reporting anything, I confess that I can’t be altogether certain of the following. That’s because genealogical information going back into the 18th Century is largely based not on official records of any sort, but letters, diaries, and the like. Families typically were large owing to the lack of—well, I don’t need to spell it out—making it all the more difficult to keep track of births. Philandering was common, with doubts existing sometimes, from the standpoint of history, not as to who a child’s father was, but as to the identity of the mother. In short, data is incomplete and conflicting.

Subject to that disclaimer, it does appear that the aforementioned Joshua Younger was married to the former Elizabeth Lee, and that she was the daughter of Richard Henry Lee, a founding father of our nation. It was he who made the motion on June 7, 1776, as a member of the Second Continental Congress, to declare independence from Great Britain. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and later served as a U.S. senator from Virginia. That would mean he was the great-great-great-great grandfather of Evelle Younger…signifying that Richard Henry Lee’s brother—Francis Lightfoot Lee, also a signer of the Declaration of Independence—was the future DA’s great-great-great-great granduncle. (Richard Henry Lee and Francis Lightfoot also had an ancestor in common with Joshua Logan Younger, and were Evelle Younger’s first cousins 15 times removed.)

Evelle Younger was also, it seems, related to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Richard Henry Lee had a first cousin, Henry Lee II. So…his son, Henry Lee III—known as “Light Horse Harry” for his activities as a cavalry officer in the Revolutionary War—was a second cousin of Joshua Younger; Henry Lee II’s son, the man who surrendered to Grant at Appomattox was third cousin of Henry Younger Sr.; and Lee was a third cousin four times removed from Younger.

There’s more.

Evelle Younger was a distant relative of outlaws other than the Younger Brothers. He was a fifth cousin 10 times removed to Texas train robber Sam Bass; a ninth cousin twice removed to Jesse James; a fifth cousin seven times removed to Butch Cassidy; and a seventh cousin once removed to John Wesley Hardin.

Speaking of outlaws, someone accused of perjury and obstruction of justice was President Bill Clinton. Richard Henry Lee was first cousin of Anneke Jane Edwards, great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother of Clinton. Evelle Younger was a seventh cousin twice removed to Clinton.

President Zackary Taylor was Evelle Younger’s third cousin 14 times removed, as was President William Henry Harrison; the latter’s grandson, President Benjamin Harrison, was a fifth cousin 12 times removed. Getting into really remote relationships: President John Kennedy was a seventh cousin 10 times removed, and President Lyndon B. Johnson was an eighth cousin 10 times removed.

Kin also included author Mark Twain (third cousin six times removed); newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst (second cousin, 12 times removed); blind author Helen Keller (third cousin six times removed); and U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (third cousin 10 times removed).

I recently quoted District Attorney Steve Cooley as explaining the kinship of his wife, Jana, to Evelle Younger: her father was attorney Kenneth Younger, a cousin of Evelle Younger.

I’ve found that their common relative was Richard Younger, Evelle Younger’s grandfather. He had two sons: Richard Emeal Younger and Henry Clive Younger. Richard Emeal Younger’s son was Kenneth Cooper Younger (born March 22, 1922 in Stamford, Nebraska); Henry C. Younger’s son was Evelle J. Younger (born June 19, 1918 in Stamford, Nebraska). Ken and Evelle Younger were first cousins, making Jana Cooley a first cousin once removed to Evelle Younger.

Cooley notes that his late father-in-law “and Evelle grew up in, I think it was Funk, Nebraska.”

He wasn’t sure of the name…but, yes, there is a Funk, Nebraska. It’s a miniscule village which comprises less than one-third of a square mile.

Continuing his account of Evelle and Kenneth Younger, the district attorney says:

“They both were in the service in World War II, and after coming out to California during their service time, they decided to locate here. I think Evelle came first, and then Ken joined him later.”

Evelle Younger was admitted to practice here in July, 1946, and Kenneth Younger in January, 1951.

Cooley says that there is a vague awareness in the legal community of a relationship to Evelle Younger, but that “a lot of people thought that Jana was maybe Evelle’s daughter.”

We’ll have to assume that the “Younger Cousins”—whose proclivities were quite the opposite of those of the Younger Brothers—did spend time in Funk, Nebraska. After all, nobody would falsely claim to have haled from there.

However, the 1930 Census shows that by the time young Evelle was 11, he resided with his parents in Hastings, Neb., a short distance east of Funk…and comprising 10 square miles—two-and-a-half times the size of Beverly Hills, but with somewhat lower population. Here’s the census entry from a page listing denizens of Hastings:

Evelle Younger’s continued residency there is reflected by various newspaper articles appearing in Nebraska during his student years, largely comprised of renditions of his athletic feats, but covering other matters.

The April 19, 1931 issue of the Lincoln Star relates:

“Four Hastings people, two of them Boy Scouts enroute to Lincoln to attend the Scout Circus, escaped serious injury, it is believed, when their light coupe overturned eight miles west of Lincoln….

“Evelle Younger, 13, son of Mrs. H.C. Younger, the driver, was the most severely injured. He suffered a brain concussion and body lacerations and bruises.”

The Nebraska State Journal’s edition of Feb. 20, 1937, reports:

“Evelle Younger of Hastings, Neb., a student at the University of Nebraska where he is majoring in journalism, has received word of his appointment to the United States Naval academy by Congressman Charles G. Binderup.

“He has been directed to report at Annapolis June 10.

“Younger, 18 year old son of Mr. and Mrs. Harry C. Younger of Hastings, was informed his college credits have been accepted by the academy so that it will not be necessary to take entrance examinations.

“After being graduated in 1934 from Hastings high school where he was prominent in athletics and extra-curricular activities, he attended Hastings college for two years. He transferred last fall to the University of Nebraska….”

An article on June 27, 1937 in the Sunday Journal and Star confirms: “Paul Jorgensen of Wilcox and Evelle Younger of Hastings were admitted to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis June 15.”

As it turned out, Younger did not pursue studies at Annapolis, instead returning to the University of Nebraska. His son, former Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Eric Younger, says he did not learn of the appointment to the Naval Academy until after his father’s death, relating that he thinks that his father’s departure from Annapolis had to do with “some kind of color blindness.” He notes the condition did not impede his father in his military career in other branches. (Evelle Younger started out in the Army as a private and worked his way up to the rank of major general in the Air Force Reserve.)

The Lincoln Sunday Journal and Star’s March 13. 1938 edition carries a photo of Evelle Younger sporting a top hat, draped in a high-buttoned cloak like that worn by an undertaker, adorned with a thick mustache, and clasping a whip. The caption explains: “Right out of Uncle Tom’s Cabin stepped Simon Legree in the person of Evelle Younger, Hastings.” No, he wasn’t in a student production; a fraternity staged a “story book ball,” a variation on costume parties, with quartettes of students each dressed as characters from a novel.

FOOTNOTE: The Younger Brothers on Sept. 7, 1876, attempted to rob the First National Bank in Northfield, Minnesota. During that event, the cashier was fatally shot. The three were apprehended following a week-long pursuit, and on Nov. 21 of that year, they pled guilty to first degree murder and were sentenced to life imprisonment.

Widespread glorification of them as Old West desperados whose deeds reflected adventure and pluck led to repeated efforts to gain freedom for them through pardon or parole…though in fact, they were career criminals, thieves and slayers, who rated the death penalty. On July 14, 1901, Thomas Coleman “Cole” Younger and James Younger were released on parole, Robert having died in prison.

James subsequently committed suicide in 1902.

And Cole? He and Frank James—who had been acquitted in 1881 of armed robbery and in 1902 of the only killing for which he was ever been tried—teamed together in a wild west show.


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