FULL TEXT: “ALIMONY SAM” REID, World War hero, spent more than three year in jail rather than pay alimony.
The red-headed veteran, who went through the blazing hell of the Argonne and St. Mihiel, has just been released from his cell at Willows, Calif., through the aid of his former buddies.
Reid's former comrades, with whom he spent eight months on the battlefront, chipped in and paid his back alimony and field walked from the jail a free man.
But not before he had put up heated arguments to his buddies against surrendering to a principle."
"I'm fighting for a principle." Held declared. "I spent eight months in France with the 383d Infantry, fighting for a principle, and now I am fighting for another one."
Reid believes the alimony system is wrong and he thought his self-imposed prison sentence might do something to change it.
The story of Samuel field's unique case began shortly alter be returned from overseas. Reid had been a prosperous young farmer before the United States entered the conflict for democracy, and he at once answered the call to arms.
Alter eight months? through the thickest of the fighting, no German bullet carried his name and Reid came back safely to San Francisco.
There he met Phoebe Stuben and his romance began. It ended on the rocks of the divorce court.
Reid and his sweetheart, after a romantic courtship, were married at one of San Francisco's most prominent hostelries.
His bride had been married previously. This had a bearing later on the case of “Alimony Sam" Reid. who was to become known throughout the country for his determined stand against alimony.
The Reid’s marriage lasted only a short time after the birth of their daughter, Zada May, and then Mrs. Reid sought the recourse of the divorce court.
A charge of cruelty and nagging was preferred against Reid, who countered with the accusation that his wife was addicted to drugs.
Mrs. Reid was granted a divorce and with it the small alimony of $20 a month for the support of her child. Reid refused to pay it, stating that he thought h: former all unqualified to bring up the child in the proper home surroundings.
As usual in such cases, Judge C. F. Purkitt ordered Reid brought into court and gave the former soldier a warm lecture and admonished him to pay the all alimony at once.
Reid again refused to pay the alimony "I am willing to be the first martyr to a great cause," be declared.
"Then you must stay in jail until you agree to abide by the order of the Court to pay the alimony," ruled the Judge, perhaps thinking to himself that a few days of confinement and prison fare would break Reid's spirit and cause him to pay the alimony.
But the Judge didn't know Sam Reid.
"All right, I'll go to jail and stay there the rest of my life," declared Reid. "I have the money and I will gladly pay for the support of my daughter. But I will not pay alimony till hell freezes over."
So Reid was led to jail and is case was destined to attract wide attention through the efforts of his former buddies to free him and through his appeals to two Governors of California against the alimony law.
Reid was committed to jail on July 27, 1925.
Days turned into weeks and weeks ran into months, until a year and two months had passed. Reid's determination remained unshaken.
As a protest against his sentence. Reid let his beard and hair grow until he looked like a son of Rip Van Winkle. The "alimony martyr" refused to see any one, and this led to the report that he had become insane.
Meanwhile, his former buddies paraphrased a wartime slogan to "Out of the alimony jail before Christmas" and tried their best to liberate Reid, but without success, for Reid continued his refusal to pay one cent of alimony.
Then an insanity complaint was filed against the bewhiskered Reid by John Thomas, foreman of the Glenn County Grand Jury.
Reid laughed. He thought the complaint a huge joke.
"Let them go to it," he said, chuckling "Why, they can never prove me insane I am personally acquainted with most oi the members of the Grand Jury and I'm sure I've got more sense than they have.”
Then Reid was found sane. A commission of four reputable physicians named at the request of the county taxpayers examined the "alimony martyr" and reported him to be thoroughly normal.
WHEN he was returned to his cell Reid issued the following statement:
"I am perfectly sane. I will stay in jail the rest of my life effort I will pay this money. I will gladly contribute to the support of my daughter as soon as she is placed in the proper home surroundings – not before."
Reid suffered. The other prisoners shunned the long-haired and be whiskered man who had elected to stay in jail rather than pay $5 a week to his divorced wife.
But the war veteran ignored his jail-mates and spent bis time with his radio making toys for children of the neighborhood and in studying law, particularly the civil codes that relate to alimony.
His monotony also was relieved by a deluge of mall from persons who had read daily in California, exist anywhere else in of his unusual case. Strange as it may seem, many women wrote him letters praising his stand. Excerpts from a letter received by Reid from Eva M. Bryan, of Los Angeles, read:
"You are a man among men. Don't weaken you certainly have backbone. So many are cowards. The girls of today are usually looking for a meal ticket, and when the one they choose gets old they get another, but not before they try to get alimony to they can keep the second meal ticket.
"Remember, there are not many good girls like our old-fashioned mothers of yesterday left. I hope you come out with flying colors. Don't weaken at the last. You have gone this far and the battle almost won."
OFF1CIALS and organizations also took an interest in Reid’s case.
Adolph J. Mende, deputy registrar of vital statistics at San Diego, wrote to Reid:
"I wish to express to you my high regard in appreciation of a man who is willing to suffer as you have for helping to abolish some of the great wrongs of the alimony system as it is being practiced in California and which is rinsing many men reluctant about getting married.
"I do not believe that the woman worship that we have in this country, especially in California, exists anywhere else in the world to the degree that it does here. I believe that if a commission were appointed to study these matters in foreign countries, view of proposing absolutely just laws to both men and women, much good might result from it."
And a letter signed "Alimony Payers Protective League of New York" brought this query:
Should Reid be imprisoned for a longer term than the average served by murderers the country over? Punishment to contempt of court cannot consistently be more severe than is the punishment for murder."
The league coupled its query with a demand that the California Legislature mate a rigid investigation of the Reid case.
To all this outcry the former Mrs. Reid, who now has remarried to her first husband. Walter Stuben calmly replied:
"So Reid is holding out for a principle? Well, so am that’s all there is to it. I may be as stubborn as he is, but I feel that it is his moral obligation to pay a certain nominal turn to his child so long as he is able to. That is my belief, and I'll stand by it."
Meanwhile, the “alimony martyr," believing that perhaps his shaggy hair and heard might lead many persons and officials to think him insane, cut off his hirsute adornments.
Then he appealed to Governor Friend W. Richardson, of California, in 1926, to intervene in his case. The Governor turned a deaf ear to Reid's appeal in August, 1927. Reid reopened his crusade for freedom without concession in an appeal to Governor C. C. Young, who had succeeded Richardson, and demanded a full pardon.
"It is time California makes an investigation of my case before my board bill mounts to the size of the war debt," Reid argued.
But Governor Young also ignored the plea.
“Reid is defying constituted authority, and he must remain in jail,” decreed Judge Purkitt, who had sentenced the “alimony martyr.”
"I have the money and can pay but, I will not do so." countered Reid. "My case alone is not at stake. The whole alimony system is wrong and I propose to do what I can to right it."
AT THIS time plans were being made for the tenth annual reunion of Reid’s former overseas outfit the 363rd Infantry. Joseph M. Cahen, of San Francisco president of the Infantry Association, thought it would be a good idea to have the popular Sam Reid present at the parade and the banquet that was to follow.
So Cahen went about with plans for obtaining Reid’s g release from jail so the former soldier could come to San Francisco.
But Judge Purkitt refused the plea that Reid be granted temporary freedom to attend the Infantry reunion. He remained adamant and no plea could move him. A final telegram was dispatched to the jurist the day before the reunion. Meanwhile field's former buddies had appealed personally to Heard. I took Heard in whose custody Reid had been for more than three years. Heard liked Reid and apparently sympathized with the former soldier.
So Sheriff Heard took the responsibility upon his own shoulders and decided to take Reid to the reunion. Of course, Sheriff Heard trusted Reid and knew that the prisoner would not try to escape.
At the height of the reunion merriment there came a climax that sent the former soldiers into gales of laughter. The climax came in the form of telegram from Judge Purkitt, who had sentenced Reid to jail for contempt of court because Reid had refused to pay alimony.
The telegram, which was in answer to the one sent by Reid's buddies appealing to Judge Purkitt to permit the "alimony martyr" to attend the Infantry reunion, read:
"Under no circumstances can Reid be permitted to attend the reunion."
The telegram was read at the banquet, where Reid sat as the guest of honor.
It was Reid's attendance at the reunion that set the machinery into action that eventually was to liberate the "alimony martyr."
When Judge Purkitt learned of Sheriff Heard's action in taking Reid to the reunion, the Judge caused Heard to be charged with contempt of court. That placed the Sheriff in the same boat as Reid.
Then the former members of the infantry regiment went into action for both Reid and Heard.
On October 10, 1928. Just three years and sixty-nine days from the date Reid had gone to prison, a dramatic scene was staged in the courtroom at the little town of Willows.
Shops were closed and men and women drove in from thirty miles around to see Sam Reid. For Reid had been persuaded to permit his buddies to pay his back alimony so he could go free. But he had not given in until after an all-night argument.
When Reid was brought into court there were cheers and handicapping for the man who had "fought for a principle."
CAHEN Informed the Judge that the 363d would pay Reid's back alimony. The Judge nodded and Informed Cahen that a $250 fine would be slapped on Sheriff Heard for contempt of court, because the officer had taken Reid against Court orders to the infantry reunion In San Francisco.
All right" responded Cahen. The 363d will be proud to raise the money and pay Sheriff Heard's fine also mere isn't a man in the outfit who won't go the limit to vindicate Heard, and to nave had Reid. one of the most beloved buddies of our outfit, missing from the reunion would have taken all the pep from it."
Every one in the courtroom beamed and there was considerable applause as Reid walked from the building a free man.
He was met with a deluge of stage offers by promoters, who saw a harvest of dollars through the attention Reid's case had attracted but he emphatically turned down all the offers.
"It’s great to be out again," he remarked as he left for San Francisco to take up the Interrupted course of his life and to begin a court fight for the custody of his daughter, Zada May, now 5 years old.
And Glenn County breathed easier, for it had cost the taxpayers considerable money to pay the board bill of a healthy man for more than three years.
But the case is not settled definitely yet. Reid hoped to obtain custody or partial custody of his child, who now is in the care of his former wife. Failing in this, he will ask the Court to excuse mm from further alimony payments for the child's support in accordance with the “principle” for which he went to jail for more than three years.
There is this possibility: The Court may refuse to modify the decree ordering Reid to pay alimony; Mrs. Stuben. Reid a former wife, may insist upon his paying the alimony; Reid may again refuse to comply with the Court order with the result that Held may be returned to his cell. And if Reid goes back to jail his friends say he might make good on his vow:
"Rather than pay one cent of alimony, I'll spend the rest of my life in jail."
[Maurice A. Raiser, “Sooner Stay in Jail than Pay Wife Alimony,” Honolulu Advertiser (Hawaii Terr.) (syndicated by: Public Ledger), Dec. 23, 1928, p. 5]