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Mail Tribune 100, May 24, 1921

The following news items were drawn from the archives of the Mail Tribune 100 years ago

May 24, 1921

1ST BANK CASE FOR MAY TERM GOES TO JURY

Closing arguments in the civil action of the State Bank Board against S. L. Johnston were begun in the circuit court this morning, and the case will go to the jury early this afternoon. Johnston was the principal witness for the defense, and told of his business relations with the defunct institution.

Attorney Porter J. Neff in his argument contended that his client as well as the State Bank Board were deceived by the manipulation of Johnson. Attorney E. E. Kelly in his argument characterized Johnson as “a rotten perjurer,” and “a man who robbed old women of money they had saved to bury themselves.”

“Johnson is a smooth individual — he fooled the banking board for five years.”

Attorney Kelly also said the bank failure was the “most colossal in the history of banking.” Attorney Roberts in his review of the evidence said Johnson “had come clean,” and “had made his peace with his God and was trying to make it with his fellow man.”

W. H. Johnson, former cashier of the defunct Bank of Jacksonville, back from state prison, where he is serving a ten-year sentence, was the principal witness Monday afternoon in the civil suit of the state banking board against S. L. Johnston, Thompson Creek sawmill operator, for the collection of an alleged overdraft of $3,750.87.

Johnson admitted fictitious entries in the books of the bank, to keep the account of Johnston “out of the red,” and identified checks, deposit slips and books introduced as exhibits by the plaintiff.

Prison life has begun to show upon the former Jacksonville bank head, and in place of his former willing demeanor in his testimony there was a trace of gruffness. He was not as good a witness as in former hearings and seemed to have lost all interest in the court proceedings.

On cross-examination by Attorney Porter J. Neff, Johnson answered all questions, but refused to admit that he had not notified Johnston that he was overdrawn in his account. He testified Johnston had asked for a statement of account, but had told him that he was “too busy.” He testified that he had agreed to aid Johnston in his sawmill proposition, and stated when the bank examiner had paid a visit he “took Johnston outside the bank and told him he was overdrawn $3,000.”

“He was excited and talking all the time, and I don’t know whether he understood me or not,” concluded Johnson.

The second witness called was E. D. Kahler, in charge of the liquidation of the Bank of Jacksonville, who identified accounts and figures, and testified to the condition of Johnston’s account.

— Alissa Corman; acorman@rosebudmedia.com