Hamilton Mitchell

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Hamilton Mitchell, 1879-1945, was an author, diplomat, and at least one-time actor who carried a wide influence in his home state of Arkansas.

Born in Petit Douche, Arkansas, in 1879, Hamilton was the son of a white sharecropping family who had political connections to Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America during its brief existence. Little is known about his childhood, other than his ambition to quickly regain his family's lost status amongst southern families. In 1905 he graduated with honors from Hendrix College and went to work for the office of the governor in Little Rock. He soon gained a reputation for his uncouth remarks and generally flippant attitude. Through luck- some suspect bribes, or worse- he managed to rise to the rank of Assistant Attorney General for the state of Arkansas in 1909, a position he held for only five months before being fired and briefly jailed for sodomy, then illegal in the state.

Virtually nothing is known about Mitchell's life from that point until 1914, when he attempted to enlist in the U.S. Army in Los Angeles after the outbreak of the first World War but was rejected for reasons unknown. Dejected, he found work as an extra in the unquestionably racist film Birth of a Nation, but as a Southerner, was seen as a valuable addition to the work and was promoted to the cast soon after.

Upon its 1915 release, Mitchell was a hero in his home state. He became a rabid xenophobe and leading opponent of U.S. involvement in what was thought of as an exclusively European war, and at times even expressed open support for the German government. It was said that he openly admired Kaiser Wilhelm II, to the point of breaking his own arm to imitate the Prussian's own disability.

After the war came an event astonishing to Mitchell and his followers: inexplicably, he was named ambassador to the Free City of Danzig (today the Polish city of Gdańsk). It has been speculated that his extensive knowledge of German and German culture were key in his naming, and that it was part of an overall strategy of the United States to tacitly endorse German domination of the city (and region). He held the post for two years, but was recalled in 1921 after public scuffles with Bolshevik sailors in the port and threatening the Soviet consul with "a thrashing to within an inch of (his) life."

His return to Arkansas was greeted with little enthusiasm, and he remained an obscure and solitary figure until his death on the first of May 1945, from massive liver failure.


Sources:

Hamilton Mitchell archives at the Petit Douche Municipal Library, Petit Douche, Arkansas.

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