The Toilet Paper Defense: The Story of William Paul and Charlie Jones
William L. Paul Sr., the pioneering Tlingit civil rights leader, was born on May 7, 1885. His landmark legal assault on the U.S. government beginning in the 1920s laid the groundwork for the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971, which returned 44 million acres of land and nearly a billion dollars to Alaska Natives. But instead of reviewing his life, I’d like to examine just one episode, William’s 1923 defense of the Tlingit leader Charlie Jones, who was charged with illegal voting.
The Sophisticated Tlingit Lawyer
William Paul came from the small town of Wrangell, Alaska, the son of a half-Tlingit mother and a half-Tlingit father. He attended Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania and later received a baccalaureate degree from Whitworth College in Tacoma. He knew Latin and Greek and was said to have a beautiful tenor voice. After studying law through LaSalle University, he became the first Native to pass the Alaska Bar.
In 1920 he returned to Wrangell, determined to make enough money fishing to finance a move to New York, where he planned to train for the Metropolitan Opera. But, like a Tlingit George Bailey, he would never go.
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