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He did what? The story of a killer who became a public figure

John Willoughby: Greene Publishing, Inc.

Frank W. Pope, the son of Dr. John Pope, who was one of the most accomplished physicians in Madison County, was nominated as Governor of Florida in 1884. Pope had also served as Madison's mayor. Pope, who had an oratorical gift, had a small following outside of Madison County. Despite the lack of a following from Florida citizens, Pope had a following memory that haunted him.

It was March 27, 1867, when Pope and his teacher had a feud. Pope was a pupil of J.C. Bristow, the principal at St. John's Seminary of Learning. That day turned fatal for Bristow.

According to History of Madison County, by Elizabeth Sims, Bristow had brutally whipped Pope and had assaulted him with a heavy chair, then Pope had shot Bristow in self-defense. This account was put out by the Independent Party, so they would not keep the matter hidden.

Another account was given by someone who had claimed to have been an eye-witness. According to the "eye-witnesses," Bristow whipped Pope with a chinquapin switch. The witness claimed that Pope had returned later in the day and shot the teacher, who died within 24 hours.

An article made by the Edgefield Advertiser, a news source in South Carolina, supported this claim when the article was published on May 1, 1867, with little difference. "...Upon his return, [Pope] informed Mr. Bristow that he must get on his knees and beg his pardon, or he would shoot him. Bristow refused and was shot five times into various parts of his body, from the effects of which he has since died."

In Sims' book, there were claims that Pope left the state of Florida for many years, spending some time in Montana. When Pope returned to Madison, he was elected mayor, and later was elected as a state senator. Pope was never prosecuted for the incident.

Pope later moved to Jacksonville, joined the Democratic party (of which he had previously been a member) and became a noted criminal lawyer, where his oratorical abilities were put to good use. Pope died on Sept. 24, 1921. He and Bristow are both buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery.

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