The Governor Roberts Pen
With the stroke of his pen women could vote.
Albert Houston Roberts was born in Tennessee on July 4, 1868. Fifty years later, he was sworn in as the governor of the state of Tennessee. Governor Roberts played a significant role in the shaping of our nation's laws. One of his first acts as governor was to certify his state's ratification of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, otherwise known as the Volstead Act, which outlawed the production, possession, and sale of alcoholic beverages (except for medicinal purposes under the care of a physician) in the United States. During his first year in office, the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed a woman's right to vote, was in the process of being ratified by the states. To become law, a Constitutional Amendment must be ratified by 3/4 of the states; at that time there were 48 states. With Roberts' signature, Tennessee was the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment, and at that moment the Amendment became law.
Not too long ago we were contacted by one of Governor Roberts descendants about restoring the pen he used to sign the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. We were very excited about this opportunity and to restore this piece of history and eagerly awaited it's arrival. When the pen arrived it was a hot mess. But even more concerning was what the pen was.
The pen that we received was an Oversized Sheaffer Balance which was produced in 1929. Obviously this could not have been the pen he used to sign the Ratification in 1919. We contacted the owner and disclosed the information that we had. From our conversations our best guess is the story changed through the years as the pen was handed down through the generations. From: This was your Grandfather's pen, he was the one who signed the 19th Amendment. And years later to: This was your Great-Grandfather's pen he used it to sign the 19th Amendment. None the less, the pen did once belong to Governor Roberts and it was our honor and privledge to restore this family treasure.
An interesting side note to the research that we did on Governor Roberts. In June of 1919 Governor Roberts preformed the wedding ceremony of Alvin York to Gracie Williams. Alvin York was known as Sergeant York and was one of the most decorated Army soldiers of WW I, to include the Medal of Honor. According to family stories, Governor Roberts actually drove them on their honeymoon.