Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

Mirabeau L. Towns

Georgia & New York

Mirabeau Lamar Towns was a member of the New York Bar for some 40 years. He died at the age of 82. Towns was born in Russell County, Alabama and attended school in Atlanta, Georgia. At the age of 14 he was sent abroad to continue his education, first at the Friedrich Wilhelm Gymnasium in Berlin, then at the University of Berlin. He received his law degree in 1869 from the University of Tübingen. He stayed on in Europe to study Italian and French before returning to Georgia where he was admitted to the bar. He then took up the study of law at the New York University Law School and began practice in Brooklyn in 1876. Towns was prone, on occasion, to present his court pleadings in verse.

[Source: Obituary, "Mirabeau L. Towns, Poet Lawyer, Dies," New York Times, Nov. 26, 1932, p. 10]

Harper's Weekly
(July 29, 1911)

Mirabeau Lamar Towns is a Brooklyn lawyer who has long been known; as the "poet lawyer" from the facility with which he sometimes pleads in court in rhyme, illuminating the tedium of legal proceedings by putting his argument or
briefs into graceful and often satirical verse.

He was born in Russell County, Alabama, in 1852, the scion of an old American family. His father was a well-known man in his home section; his mother sprang from another noted family, Rose by name.

He received his preliminary education in Atlanta, Georgia. Then, at the age of fourteen, he went to Berlin, Germany, where he entered the Frederick William Gymnasium, presided over by a brother of Von Ranke, the famous historian. it was reckoned one of the best schools in that city and in that generation. After a considerable stay he went on to Tubingen University, where he graduated as
Doctor of Laws. Finally he put in a couple of years in Vevey, Switzerland, studying French and Italian, attaining to an enviable amount of polished culture, broad and cosmopolitan.

Mr. Towns scarcely had reached to his twenty-first year when he returned to his home in Georgia and was admitted to the bar. He found at that time Georgia to be somewhat provincial. Iit gave little praise to such talents as he had
so assidiously cultivated. His literary attainments and his taste for wit and poetry were "literally thrown away upon the desert air."

He concluded to come North, settled in Brooklyn, adapting himself to the congenial surroundings in that "city of churches," and became almost at once one of its best-known and most popular citizens.

When he first came to Brooklyn there was a very successful lawyer there of the name of Ludwig Semler, a German by birth and a Democrat in politics.

The two men were attracted to each other. Mr. Towns, by his education gained principally in Germany, was just like a native in those higher things which are pleasing to the German character. They formed a partnership which continued till he was elected City Comptroller. Since that time Mr. Towns has been in practice alone. Mr. Semler's practice has principally been in the police courts, a work which Mr. Towns found quite profitable; but he was after higher things, in a legal sense. Reaching out for them, he soon had an extensive practice in
nearly every department of legal action.

In politics he is a Democrat. He is a believer in extending the suffrage to women and in the stricter regulation of the operations of combined capital. He has had no political preferment, probably because his views are too extreme, so radical as to verge on socialism. He was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, 1894, in which body he made his mark as a fearless and earnest debater. He has established a number of legal precedents, notably that a woman can sue and recover damages from another woman for the alienation of her husband's affections.

Mr. Towns is a member of the Montauk Club, the Royal Arcanum, and other organizations. His home is on Eighth Avenue, Brooklyn, where he dispenses a lavish hospitality.