By M. L. Lyles1
Samuel Thomas Bledsoe was born in Clinton County, Kentucky, May 12, 1868, the son of Elijah and Ottilla G. (Snow) Bledsoe. His preliminary education was in the common school in Clinton County, Kentucky; a private school at Jamestown, Russell County, Kentucky; the Southern Normal School and Business College at Bowling Green, Kentucky; he studied law under the direction of the Honorable Tom Brown of Brown and Bliss, Sherman, Texas; Judge Brown subsequently became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas. He attended the University of Texas for the year 1888-89. He was a student in both junior and senior law courses for that year, passing all examinations satisfactorily, but did not attend for a sufficient length of time to receive a degree. He taught school in Clinton County, Kentucky, in 1885; Cumberland County, Kentucky, in 1886; Grayson County, Texas, in 1887 and the fall of 1889. He was admitted to the practice of law at Sherman, Texas, in 1890. On May 1, 1890, he moved to Ardmore, Indian Territory, and began practice of law there, continuing the general practice of law until 1914, at Ardmore, Indian Territory, from 1890 to 1908; Guthrie, 1908 to 1910; and Oklahoma City, 1910 to 1914. He entered railway service as Local Attorney of the G. C. & S. F. Railway Company at Ardmore, Indian Territory, in 1895, and became Attorney for Indian Territory in 1907. From July, 1908, to July, 1912, he was a member of the firm of Cottingham and Bledsoe, Solicitors for Oklahoma for the Santa Fe System Lines. On July, 1912, he was appointed General Attorney of the Santa Fe at Oklahoma City, retaining, however, his partnership with the firm of Cottingham and Bledsoe. On January 5, 1915, he was made Assistant General Solicitor, Santa Fe System Lines, with headquarters in Chicago; and on April 12, 1918, he was appointed General Counsel and elected a member of the Board
of Directors. He was elected Chairman of the Executive Committee on December 2, 1931, and on May 2, 1933, President and Chairman of the Executive Committee for The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Company, and shortly thereafter President of other Atchison System Companies.
Mr. Bledsoe was active in the movement to secure enactment of Congressional legislation authorizing the organization of municipal governments in the Indian Territory in order to provide for schools, water supply, sewerage, and other general purposes of municipal governments. He was also active in the movement which resulted in Indian Territory being admitted with Oklahoma Territory as the State of Oklahoma.
Mr. Bledsoe was leading Counsel for Oklahoma railroads in the Oklahoma rate case (1909-1914). He was also responsible for settlement by arbitration of claims arising from the explosion of a car of casing-head gasoline at Ardmore, Oklahoma, in 1915, in which many lives were lost and heavy property damage suffered. A car of casing-head gasoline had been shipped as ordinary gasoline. The heat of the sun on the car caused the escape of gas which finally exploded, and although there was grave doubt of the Santa Fe's responsibility for damage resulting from the explosion, that Company on Mr. Bledsoe's recommendation offered to assume liability to all claimants who would agree to submit their claims to arbitration by a Committee of Ardmore citizens to be selected by the Mayor of Ardmore in case they were unable to agree with the Company as to the amount to be paid. Notwithstanding there were many hundred claims, only one suit was filed, the claimant recovering much less than he had been offered.
While serving as Assistant General Solicitor in addition to his other duties he had charge of the valuation of Santa Fe System property by the Interstate Commerce Commission, of all state tax matters, and supervision of proceedings before state commissions and of litigation resulting from state legislative action and orders of state commissions and actions of state and local taxing bodies.
He was active in behalf of the railroads during the trouble-
some times preceding Federal Control, during Federal Control and for a considerable time thereafter, especially in connection with negotiating the standard compensation contract under which the government operated the railroads during Federal Control. After the expiration of Federal Control he became Chairman of the Adjustment Committee of the Association of Railway Executives, consisting of engineering, accounting, and legal representatives, the purpose being to secure uniformity in presentation of the railroads' contentions as to their rights under the compensation contract and to obtain a fair adjustment in settling differences between the railroads and the Director General. He conducted the negotiations and had charge of the settlement for Atchison System Lines of all matters arising out of the Federal Control contract, including under-maintenance of the property and liability of the Director General for materials and supplies received at the beginning and not returned at the end of Federal Control.
His public relations work kept him in touch with all departments of the railroad and offered him an opportunity to make many friends along the Santa Fe System Lines. His policy was always that the public side of every question concerning the railroads be given careful consideration. Mr. Bledsoe took a great personal interest in the welfare of Santa Fe employes, attending their family gatherings and committee meetings and frequently talking to them on matters of mutual interest. He was a member of the American Bar Association and of the bar of the State of Illinois and of New York, and an honorary life member of the Texas and Oklahoma Bar Associations, and a member of the Commercial Law League of America, of which he was President in 1905. He belonged to the several Masonic bodies and various other fraternal organizations. His social club memberships included the Chicago, University, Old Elm, Illinois Athletic, and Lake Shore Athletic in Chicago, and the City Midday in New York. He was a life member of the California State Society of the Sons of the Revolution. He passed away at Chicago on March 8, 1939.