The Gilded Age Plains City

The Great Sheedy Murder Trial and the Booster Ethos of Lincoln, Nebraska


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Spatial Narratives

Interpretation and Narrative

Genio M. Lambertson

Genio Lambertson was one of the most prominent lawyers in Lincoln, Nebraska, and a familiar figure on or around Government Square.

His law offices were located in the State Block built on the southeast corner of Tenth and O streets in 1876, the same year the old Post Office across the street on the sqaure was finished. His law firm, Lamb, Billingsley, and Lambertson, had offices in rooms one, two, and three in the building. Every day he would walk there from his rooms in the Metropolitan Hotel at Eighth and O streets.

In the first half of the 1880s when Lambertson served as the United States District Attorney, he moved his offices across the street to the second floor of the United States Post Office located on the south side of Government Square between Ninth and Tenth streets and O and P streets.

The building was erected in the 1870s and still stands. It was a prominent landmark in photographs and post cards of the city. About the same time, Lambertson also maintained an office in the Lancaster County Bank Building on the west side of Tenth Street between O and N streets, just south of the square. In about 1882 he moved to a new residence out at Fourteenth and R streets.

Most residents in 1890 recalled when John Sheedy and Gus Sanders disingenuously sought to remove a corrupt police judge who refused to continue to arrange things with them in 1887; the city council responded by removing the judge. The judge then sued the common council and mayor and got a restraining order to prevent them from replacing him. When they went ahead and appointed a new judge, both were declared in contempt of court by a federal judge and arrested and imprisoned in the Federal Court House at Omaha.

Genio Lambertson gained considerable fame when he traveled to Washington, D. C. to argue that the federal court has exceeded its powers by incarcerating Mayor Sawyer and the city council before the United States Supreme Court. In a case that drew national attention, the Supreme Court agreed and ordered the mayor and council released. Lambertson returned to Lincoln in triumph.

Seen as a victory of sorts for the reformers, the episode reinforced the growing discord between reform bosters, such as Lamberston, John Fitzgerald, Andrew J. Sawyer and others of the mercantile and bench and bar booster elite, and traditional boosters like John Sheedy and Carlos Burr.

Around 1889 Genio Lambertson moved his offices to the newly erected Burr Block on the northeast corner of Twelfth and O streets. His office was in rooms fifty-five and fifty-six.

In the 1890s Lambertson joined with attorney Frank Hall to form the law firm Lambertson and Hall and moved offices to room eighty-two. He would continue to maintain his offices in the Burr Block until his death in 1902. In 1892, however, he moved to a new house at 1119 H Street amid a cluster of fashionable houses several blocks south of the heart of downtown.

Lambertson was an active member of the Union Club. Its members voted to accept him as a member in August 1895 during a period of declining memberships. At the time the club met in rooms at 141 South Twelfth Street. After 1897, when the Union Club consolidated with the Lincoln Commercial Club to form the Union Commercial Club, they moved their meetings to the Press Building on the southwest corner of Thirteenth and N streets. He remained a member of the organization the rest of his life.

Burr, Carlos C. [Narrative] [Brief Biography]
Fitzgerald, John [Narrative] [Brief Biography]
Hall, Frank M. [Narrative] [Brief Biography]
Lambertson, Genio M. [Narrative] [Brief Biography]
Sanders, August (Gus) [Brief Biography]
Sawyer, Andrew J. [Brief Biography]
Sheedy, John [Narrative] [Brief Biography]

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Directed by Timothy R. Mahoney, Plains Humanities Alliance, in collaboration with the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities.
Funded by the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities, the Nebraska Humanities Council, and the Plains Humanities Alliance.
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