Attorney and federal judge Edgar Sullins Vaught was born January 7, 1873, in Cedar Springs, Virginia, to Noah Trigg and Minerva Atkins Vaught. Vaught earned the bachelor of science degree from Carson and Newman College, Jefferson City, Tennessee, in 1899 and then pursued graduate study at Emory and Henry College, Emory, Virginia.
Vaught taught in the public schools of Tennessee and served as a county superintendent before coming to Oklahoma City in 1901. There he was high school principal and later superintendent of Oklahoma City schools from 1902 until 1906. In the latter year, he was admitted to the Oklahoma Bar and began the practice of law.
Vaught was associated with a number of lawyers over the years. His last firm before going on the bench was Everest, Vaught, and Brewer. Primarily a trial lawyer, Vaught tried sixty-three cases one year, and won fifty-seven of them. He represented Ford Motor Company for more than twenty years and never lost a case.
A Republican, Vaught was appointed U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Oklahoma in 1928 by Pres. Calvin Coolidge in the waning days of his administration. Likely Judge Vaught's most famous case on the bench was the trial of George A. "Machine Gun" Kelly for the kidnapping of prominent Oklahoma City oilman Charles F. Urschel. Vaught sentenced Kelly to life imprisonment. When Vaught retired from the bench in 1956, he had earned a reputation as a "durable, conservative jurist."
Throughout his life Vaught remained very active in civic and church affairs. A Methodist, he served as trustee for Oklahoma City University. In 1951 he received the Distinguished Service Citation from the University of Oklahoma. In 1899, Vaught married Mary Holtsinger, and they had three children, Mary Eleanor, Edgar Sullins, Jr., and Ruth Loretta. Vaught died December 12, 1959.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Biographical Dictionary of the Federal Judiciary, comp. Harold W. Chase, et al. (Detroit, Mich.: Gale Research,1976). William C. Kellough, "Power and Politics of the Oklahoma Federal Court," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 65 (Summer 1987).
Von R. Creel
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