Jeter Conley Pritchard, U. S. senator, was born on July 12, 1857, the son of William H. and Elizabeth Pritchard in Jonesboro, Tennessee. William H. Pritchard, despite being seven years older than the established maximum age of enlistment in the Confederate army, enlisted as a substitute for Henry Cone, the father of Moses Cone. The elder Pritchard died of disease contracted during the Siege of Vicksburg. Young Jeter Pritchard went to work to support his widowed mother as a newspaper apprentice for the Union Flag and Commercial Advertiser.
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In the late 1860s, Pritchard began attending Martins Creek Academy in Erwin, Tennessee, but maintained his employment with the newspaper. In 1873 he moved to Bakersville, North Carolina and became an associate editor of the Roan Mountain Republican. Four years later he moved to Madison County and ended his newspaper career to practice law.
As a young attorney, Pritchard entered politics, serving in the General Assembly in 1884, 1884, and 1890. In 1888 he was the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor and ran unsuccessfully for the United States Senate in 1892. Two years later, however, he took the Senate seat vacated by Zebulon B. Vance and embarked on a congressional career that lasted until 1901. His final term was marked by a bitter political campaign against his opponent Marion Butler. While in Congress, Pritchard introduced the bill that made possible the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Pritchard a Federal district judge in 1903. Shortly after taking the position, Pritchard delivered a writ of habeas corpus in the trial of newspaper editor Josephus Daniels who had been judged in contempt of court by the district court in Raleigh. The decision was lauded both in the domestic and foreign press. Pritchard remained a judge until his death on April 10, 1921. He was buried in Riverside Cemetery in Asheville.
Pritchard was married in 1877 to Augusta Ray, with whom he had three sons and a daughter. Augusta died in 1886, and one of his sons, William, was killed fighting in the Filipino Insurrection of 1904. Pritchard then married Melissa Bowman, with whom he had a son, although she died shortly thereafter, after which he married his third wife, Lillian E. Saum, in 1903.
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, V, 148-149—sketch by Joe L. Morgan
Asheville Citizen, April 11, 1921; May 1, 1949; May 9, 1967
John L. Cheney, Jr., ed., North Carolina Government, 1585-1979 (1981)
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774-1989 (1989)
Jeter C. Pritchard Papers, Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina