By Mark Gutglueck
Raymond Earl Hodge was one of the leading attorneys in San Bernardino County during the first half of the Twentieth Century.
He was born on May 18, 1884 in Denver, Colorado, the son of Morgan Cooper and Emma J. (Wood) Hodge.
Morgan Hodge was a native of Ohio born in 1854, and Emma Wood Hodge, was a native of New York born in 1856. Morgan Hodge was a traveling salesman until he came out to California in the 1880s and located in Rialto as part of a Methodist group that planned to start a college in Rialto. Though the college was never built, Morgan Hodge did enter the scholastic field, becoming a teacher in the public schools of San Bernardino and Rialto, teaching for over a decade.
Raymond and his two brothers, Victor and Harry, were educated in the public schools serving Rialto. Raymond graduated from San Bernardino High School in 1903 and attended Stanford University in Palo Alto and was there during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. He graduated from Stanford in 1908, having earned a Bachelor’s degree. Having taken what were termed “pre-legal courses,” he became an employee of the law offices of W. J. and J. W. Curtis and passed his state bar examination in July 1908 and was admitted to the bar. He remained with the Curtis Law Firm nearly a year, when he was appointed deputy district attorney under Rex Goodcell. He remained in the office of the district attorney until January, 1915, and then formed a general law partnership with Samuel Brown Wylie McNabb, which continued successfully for many years.
In the meantime, in 1910, Hodge married, and in 1911, he became the first Rialto city attorney.
In June 1910, Hodge was betrothed to Bernice Anna Knoll, a daughter of Edward and Clara Knoll, of Riverside. Mrs. Hodge was born in Illinois, came to Riverside, California, as a child with her parents, and was educated in the public and high schools of Riverside. She was one of the first school teachers in Rialto and later became the first woman elected to the Rialto School Board. She was also a charter member of the Woman’s Club of Rialto.
Raymond and Bernice Hodge became the parents of two children, Robert E. and Geraldine E.
In 1911, when the City of Rialto incorporated, Raymond Hodge became that city’s first city attorney. He remained in that position for 41 years.
Hodge was a Republican and in religion a Methodist.
Among his fraternal connections were those of San Bernardino Lodge No. 836, B. P. O. E., and the San Bernardino Lodge No. 348, A. F. and A. M. He was a member of the San Bernardino Bar Association, the
Delta Chi college fraternity and the Progressive Business Club, National. He was the first president of the Kiwanis Club of San Bernardino when it was organized in 1922
John Brown, Jr. and James Boyd in their 1923 tome, The History of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, said of Hodge, “One of the younger generation of attorneys in San Bernardino, Raymond E. Hodge has already established himself as second to none in legal acquirements and as a master of the law. He has created confidence in himself by his handling of cases given to him and his increasing patronage shows that the public recognizes his skill. His recreation seems to be hard work and research and, blessed with fine intellect, educational advantages and a determination to succeed, he is well known as a worthwhile man. His friends predict many honors in store for him in the not distant future.”
In 1925 he was handling divorce cases.
In 1930, Hodge represented Albert E. Cunningham, who had been charged with operating an illicit liquor plant on property adjacent to his Highland Avenue ranch near San Bernardino, approximately one mile west of Mt. Vernon Avenue. On the night of January 31, 1930, deputy sheriff J. A. Larson and other deputies went to Cunningham’s ranch located on the south side of Highland searching for a still. Aided by Cunningham, the deputies searched the ranch for about forty minutes, finding nothing. The next morning, Cunningham came to the sheriff’s office and told Larson, “I think I have found what you were looking for.” Cunningham led the deputies to small dwelling in an orange grove west of his property, where they found a 200-gallon still ready for operations. The following day Cunningham was arrested and charged with possession of the still. When the matter went to trial before Superior Judge Charles L. Allison and a jury consisting of Carlos A- Grimes, A P. Tillen, Thomas M. Hatchett, O. G. Maltsberger, Flores H. Barnum, Marion Jones, Winnie H. Duncan, E. M. Dodson, William C. Maguire, H. A Hickman, Kittie Cram and Khoda V. Williams, Cunningham testified that he had obtained consent to use the screen porch of the house where the still was located as a poultry brooding room. He said that he and his brother had boarded the screen porch up about the middle of January to keep the wind away from the incubators he planned to install. The incubators had not been installed at the time the still was confiscated. Cunningham insisted that he had heard automobiles leave the vicinity of the house at night and declared he had no knowledge of the location of the apparatus in the house. The prosecution contended that the still, because of its size, must have been in the house before the screen porch was boarded up, there being no other entrance large enough to get the still through. Cunningham was prosecuted by chef deputy district attorney C.O. Thompson. The jury deliberated for 26 hours before returning a verdict of guilty against Cunningham at 2:15 p.m. on Saturday, April 5, 1930.
In 1931, Hodge represented P.M. Palmer, an associate of R. L. (Curly) Thompson, who on the night of November 11, 1931 was arrested at Palmer’s home along with Palmer and F.M. Hutchens. Thompson gained considerable notoriety in December 1929, when he was arrested as the suspected murderer of Bert A. Whipple, whose charred body was found late one night in his burned motor car in the San Antonio Wash to the west of Upland. When a coroner’s jury failed to find that Whipple had been murdered, Thompson was released. He was rearrested, however, when it was learned that he had furnished the liquor for a drinking bout in which he, Whipple and others had indulged shortly before Whipple’s death. He was convicted on the liquor charge at that time and sentenced to jail. On November 11, 1931, the long arm of the law descended on Palmer’s home and discovered Thompson, Palmer and Hutchens in the company of Maudle Scanlon, a 16-year-old girl. All three men ended up in the courtroom of Judge George R. Holbrook. Thompson had originally demanded a jury trial after entering a plea of not guilty. He withdrew that plea, however, and pleaded to liquor possession. He was given 180 days in jail. The district attorney’s office pressed forward with cases against Palmer and Hutchens. Hutchens was with the girl at the time of the raid on Palmer’s home. Hutchens waived his right to a preliminary hearing. Hodge insisted that Palmer be provided with a preliminary hearing, and he succeeded in extending the preliminary hearing against Palmer to December 1, 1931, when Miss Scanlon failed to appear at the preliminary hearing on the matter on November 25, 1931.
In April 1944, Hodge represented two African-American women, Helen Fox and her daughter, Gary Lee Fox, who were charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The two women were being prosecuted by chief criminal deputy district attorney Theo G. Krumm. Despite Hodge’s best efforts, both women were convicted by Superior Judge Charles L. Allison on April 20, 1944 on a charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
In 1952, he retired from the post of Rialto city attorney. Failing health caused his retirement as an attorney in 1954. Death found him on December 19, 1957. His widow, Bernice Anna Knoll Hodge, lived until 1977.
By Mark Gutglueck