As I mentioned in an earlier post, Arthur Seligman’s son Otis ran into trouble with the law in 1932 when he was indicted for embezzling money from the First National Bank of Santa Fe, where he worked as an assistant cashier and where his father, the governor of New Mexico, was the president. It could have been a scandal that cost his father the election, but it did not.
Rather than retelling the story in my words, I am going to let Arthur Scott, my cousin and the son of Otis Seligman, tell his father’s story. His biography of his father is found on the vocesdesantafe website here, and I am also linking to it in pdf format at Otis_P_seligman I will quote just a bit here to establish the background:
On September 12, 1932 Time Magazine noted “A Federal Grand Jury indicted Otis Perry Seligman, cashier of the First National Bank of Santa Fe, N. Mex. for an alleged shortage of $25,941 in his accounts. Said his father, Governor Arthur Seligman, president of the bank, after making good the shortage: “He will have to take his medicine.” Nine other bank employees were also indicted. The total amount missing was reported by Bank Examiners as $72, 941.23.
He and eight others pled guilty. One pled not guilty. Otis was sentenced to a total of 30 years but the sentences ran concurrently so that the maximum time served would be five years. In addition he was fined $10,000 payable to the US prior to release. He received the harshest sentence because, as an assistant cashier, he was considered a supervisor and officer of the bank.
On September 8, 1932 he and six others were sentenced to terms in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas. Two were given suspended sentences and one (Trujillo) was tried, found guilty and sent to La Tuna Federal Prison in Texas. My father began serving his sentence in Leavenworth on October 8, 1932. His father, mother, wife, and group of friends saw him off at the Albuquerque train station while he was in custody of US Marshals.
I hope that you will all read the whole essay to get the full picture of Otis Perry Seligman. There are also some wonderful photographs included with the essay. It is a powerful essay written with heart but with objective eyes. To get a sense of the impact this had on the family of Otis Seligman, I also recommend reading Pete’s essay about his mother’s life at Doris_Lillian_Gardiner
Otis Perry Seligman was a man who made mistakes. He, his wife, and his children all paid for those mistakes, and yet their story is a story of forgiveness.
It’s interesting that his son wrote about it. Most people ‘brush’ something like this ‘under the rug’ hoping the situation will eventually be forgotten. It’s nice that the family came to terms and were able to forgive him.
Yes, I agree. That’s why I wanted to link to his words. I was impressed by how honest he was about his father and his whole family.
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Interesting story–I have to wonder what happened at the funeral that made his son never want to attend another one.
Well, I didn’t ask him. But he was only five years old, and he had lost his father. It must have been awful.
Yes, absolutely, and then a lifetime of coming to grips with the history. It must have been very cathartic to write it all down.
Yes, I hope so. If you get a chance to read his essay on his mother, it makes it clear how hard his life was.
Very admirable to discuss a problem like this in the family on a family history blog, Amy. It really lends credibility to your whole project, especially with such esteemed relatives as Arthur Seligman.
Well, I am not so sure I would have if Pete, his son, had not already published these essays. It would have been a good test of my ethical guidelines. Since it is less than 100 years ago and there are still living children and grandchildren, I might not have felt comfortable publishing this on my own. As you may recall, I struggled with this kind of thing a while back, and for the most part the issues have been easy—either very long ago or way too recent to publish. This one is a tougher one.
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