Speaking Ill of the Dead

The town’s primary newspapers, the Courier and the Journal, both ran extensive obituaries of Carpenter and lengthy editorials. Both papers reviewed his life and career and praised his good works.

While neither paper spoke ill of the dead, they both reported that others had spoken ill of him. The Courier read, “No man in Evansville, living or dead, has had as many unpleasant things said of him…,” and the Journal reported, “Mr. Carpenter was not without his enemies.”

In his business dealings, Carpenter’s ethics were often quietly questioned. And he had been involved in so many deal-related lawsuits, that working to untangle them had been a way of life for him.

Some of his detractors, sadly, were within his own household, as would be detailed in testimony during a later legal proceeding involving the Library. While generous with the community, Carpenter was not reportedly generous with his own family. This driven businessman apparently had little constructive involvement with his three children, Louise, Marcia, and Albert. Later in his life, he determined they would receive very little inheritance from him. (In fact, he allegedly told daughter Louise and her husband that they would receive nothing.) Instead, he had determined to give his money to public charity. His wife had insisted that he give property to her before she would sign with him to deed the rest of it to the Library trustees.

This grand ornament Carpenter had built for the city—the Library—must have been a bitter reminder to those closest in his family tree that he loved the city and his own name more than he loved them. He had been one of the architects of Evansville, through his political and business dealings. And he had seen to it that he would be remembered—by designing, funding, and helping to build a monument to himself.

None of this, of course, would have been mentioned in the obituary of a community leader of such standing.