Clay County Mississippi Genealogy & History Network

Frank A. Critz Biography

Frank A. Critz of West Point, Miss., was an able and distinguished lawyer and not only contributed materially to the high standard of the Mississippi bar, but was a prominent figure in the public affairs of the State. He was born in Talladega county, Alabama, June 19, 1846. His father, Archelaus Hughes Critz, a farmer, was born in Patrick County, Viginia, in 1806. The mother of Judge Critz, before her marriage, was Lavinia Stovall Penn and was born in Patrick county, Viginia, in 1812. She and her husband lived in that county until after their marriage.


Haman Critz, the paternal grandfather of Judge Critz, was a colonel in the Colonial service in the War of the Revolution. He was a native of Germany, and his wife, whose maiden name was Nancy Dalton, was born in Rockingham County, North Carolina, about 1763. She died in Patrick County, Virginia, at the age of ninety-six years. She was the daughter of Samuel Dalton, who was a son of Samuel Dalton, who accumulated a magnificent landed estate in Rockingham county, North Carolina, and lived thereon to the patriarchal age of 106 years. He was born about 1700. The Daltons were of English ancestry and representatives of the family are said to have accompanied William the Conqueror from Normandy to England. The original name was De Alton.


The maternal grandfather of Judge Critz was James Penn, of Patrick county, Virginia, and his maternal grandmother was Miss Leath. James Penn was a son of Col. Abram Penn, who commanded a regiment in the Revolutionary war. James Penn's mother, before her marriage, was Ruth Stovall, daughter of Thomas Stovall. Col. Abram Penn and Col. Haman Critz were both in the battle of Yorktown and witnessed the surrender of Lord Cornwallis. Colonel Penn was born in Amherst county, Virginia, then moved to Patrick County, where he made his home for the balance of his life. He was a son of Moses Penn, who was a brother of John Penn, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and they were related to William Penn, the Quaker. The wife of Moses Penn, before her marriage, was Katherine Taylor, who was the sister of Pres. Zachary Taylor's father, and hence Col. Abram Penn was second cousin of President Taylor. Archelaus Hughes Critz, the father of Judge Critz, moved with his wife and two children from Virginia to Alabama in 1832 and there settled upon the plantation where Frank A. Critz was born.


In 1853, when Judge Critz was seven years old, his father, with his family, moved from Talladega County, Alabama, to Oktibbeha County, Mississippi, and settled on a farm four miles west of Starkville, where he continued his occupation as a farmer, and he and his wife made their home in that county up to their deaths. The Critz family has been notable for longevity and for impregnable integrity. Its representatives in the various generations have played well their parts in life as thrifty, upright and useful citizens. Judge Critz is the seventh son of a family of twelve children and that the same fact is true concerning his father and his maternal grandfather.


Judge Critz was reared on the homestead plantation in Oktibbeha County, Mississippi, and by assiduous study at home he prepared himself for admission to the junior class of the University of Mississippi, in 1867, having labored upon the farm for the means with which to pay his way. He was graduated in that institution in 1869, with the degree of Bachelor of Arts. In 1869-70 he was engaged in school teaching at the Starkville male academy. At the same time he studied law, without preceptor or instructor of any kind. His power of absorption and assimilation enabled him to make rapid progress in the accumulation of legal lore, and in 1870 he was licensed at Starkville to practice law. He entered the university in his twenty-second year, after the full experience and training of a Confederate soldier.


He first enlisted when sixteen years of age. In 1863 he became a private in Company I, Sixth Mississippi cavalry, Mabry's brigade, and served under Gen. Wirt Adams until not long before the battle of Harrisburg, when he, with his brigade, were transferred to the army of General Forrest and took part in that battle. The battle of Harrisburg was fought near Tupelo, in Lee county, and is designated by the Federals as the battle of Tupelo. From that time until the close of the war, Judge Critz served under Forrest and received his parole as a member of that command. Soon after his enlistment he was appointed third sergeant. When but eighteen years old he was tendered the position of first lieutenant as a reward for meritorious service. That promotion was prevented by the termination of service in the surrender of Forrest at Livingston, Ala., soon thereafter.


After his admission to the bar, Judge Critz engaged in the practice of his profession, first at Starkville, then at Lagrange, in Choctaw County, whence he removed to West Point, in November, 1872. In that place he continued in the active practice of his profession, in which he attained prestige and success. He had several partnership associations in his professional work and was senior member of the firm of Critz & Kimbrough. For a long time he was partner of Hon. R. C. Beckett, and that firm became one of the best known in the State. Critz & Beckett were employed by the State revenue agent to recover back taxes from various corporations, and the suits prosecuted by them resulted in securing judgments in favor of the State for more than $1,500,000, all of which was collected.


Judge Critz was a stalwart and uncompromising supporter of the Democratic party and performed much effective service in its cause. He was chancellor of the Sixth judicial district of Mississippi, 1880-1888; was a member of the State senate, 1894-1896 inclusive, and was a member of the lower house of the legislature, 1896-1900. In 1903 he made the race for governor of the State against Hon. Jas. K. Vardaman and Hon. E. F. Noel. Noel having been defeated in the first primary, the second primary was between Critz and Vardaman. During that entire campaign Judge Critz made a spirited and notably clean and legitimate campaign, securing a strong representative support that clung to him to the last, but the final result was his defeat by about 6,000 votes. Still, as a result of his canvass, several important measures, advocated by him alone, were enacted into laws and became a part of the policy of the State. And his interpretation of the limitation of the Constitution of the United States upon the power of the State to discriminate against the negro in school privileges was followed by the legislature.


After the end of that campaign he returned to his practice at West Point. He and his wife were zealous and valued members of the Methodist Episcopal church, South, and he was steward and trustee of the church in West Point, as well as a teacher in the Sunday school. He was also a member of the general board of missions of the Southern Methodist church. He was affiliated with the local lodge, chapter, council and commandery of the Masonic fraternity, and with the Mystic Shrine, and also with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and United Confederate Veterans. On Dec. 7, 1876, was solemnized the marriage of Judge Critz to Miss Lizzie B. Barker, of Macon, Mississippi. Mrs. Barker was a Cockrell and was a descendant of the Harrisons, a family prominent both in England and America. She was a second cousin of Gen. William Henry Harrison, who was President of the United States, and she was closely related to Benjamin Harrison, signer of the Declaration of Independence.


Judge and Mrs. Critz became the parents of seven children, of whom three died in infancy—Annie Beauchamp, Florrie Pugh and Louise Bates. Josie Evans, the eldest living child, was the wife of Prof. Richard Henry Watkins, superintendent of city schools of Bristol, Tennessee. Bessie Beall Critz and Frank A. Critz, Jr., lived at the paternal home. Walter Barker Critz, the second son, a young man of exceptional promise, died Sept. 13, 1906, just twenty-one years old. Capt. Walter B. Barker, distinguished for civil and military service, as Confederate soldier, consul and soldier in the regular army of the United States, was Mrs. Critz' only brother.


Judge Critz died August 2, 1922 in Clay County, Mississippi. He is buried in the Greenwood Cemetery in West Point, Clay County, Mississippi.


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