www.mybaycity.com February 22, 2009
Rotary Article 3595

Saginaw's Mudd Family Snared by "Catch 22" Federal Court Decision

February 22, 2009
By: Dave Rogers

Last Weeks Meeting - February 17, 2009

Dr. Samuel Mudd, a civilian, was improperly tried by a military court.

But, since Dr. Mudd was not in the military his conviction as a conspirator in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln cannot be appealed to a military court.

That is the "Catch 22" that embroils the family of Dr. Samuel Mudd, still seeking to clear their ancestor after 143 years. Dr. Mudd was the rural Maryland physician who treated John Wilkes Booth for a broken leg after Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln.

The latest twist in the 143 year long saga occurred in 2002, said Thomas Mudd,of Saginaw, a retired teacher, at the Rotary Club of Bay City last Tuesday.

Tom Mudd, the great-grandson of the famous Dr. Mudd, told Rotarians the case took the weirdest twist after a mock trial reviewed the facts.

For the defense were celebrity attorney F. Lee Bailey and Thomas Ewing, the great-great grandson of the lawyer who represented Dr. Mudd in 1865, Maj. Gen. Thomas Ewing.

The ruling handed down by a federal appeals court judge has created an impossible impasse in the case, according to Tom Mudd.

Dr. Mudd had met Booth twice "unintentionally," says Tom Mudd, now retired, who taught school in several nations during his career.

Tom Mudd and the Mudd family asserts that Dr. Mudd did not recognize Booth when he came to the doctor's door early morning April 14, 1865, after the assassination.

Dr. Mudd was convicted of conspiracy after Gen. Ewing, fresh off the battlefield, had been unable to avoid a trial in a military court. "That was a big issue in the Mudd case," said Tom Mudd. "He wanted the trial to be held in Maryland and that was the proper venue since Washington, D.C. was not then under threat of invasion."

Dr. Mudd was sentenced to life in prison for conspiracy and served time in Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas. In 1867 Dr. Mudd became a hero for treating people who had contracted yellow fever. A petition for his pardon to President Andrew Johnson was signed by 300.

Although President Johnson pardoned Dr. Mudd, the conviction still stands, leading the family on its endless quest.

The facts of that fateful night have been argued nearly a century and a half and have been the subject of many best-selling books like "Blood on the Moon," "The Hunt for John Wilkes Booth," and "His Name is Still Mudd."

Among the many actions taken in the Mudd case came in 1980 when a request by U.S. Rep. Bob Traxler, of Bay City, for a Dr. Mudd stamp was denied.

The Army Board of Corrections of Military Records, after studying the case for a year, and hearings at the Pentagon, ruled that Dr. Mudd's rights had been grossly violated and the records should be expunged. However, an Assistant Secretary of the Army ruled the historical record could not be changed, according to Tom Mudd.

One of the strangest twists of fate occurred before the Civil War when a Mudd ancestor, Mary Mudd, was wed to Mordecai Lincoln, brother of Abraham, thereby becoming the future President's aunt.

Another Dr. Mudd, Dr. Thomas Mudd, the father of teacher Tom Mudd who spoke to Rotary, died recently in Saginaw at age 101. He had become a widely-recognized family spokesman for the Mudd side of the story.


  • The Thesaurus shipment has arrived and are ready for delivery to the schools. See Chuck Cusick if you'd like to participate in the great project.
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  • GSE Team from Thailand is scheduled to be here April 5 through 10. Contact Hratch for more information.

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  • March 3: Vocational Day First of two job shadowing day for high school students.

  • March 24: Vocational Day Second of two job shadowing day for high school students. Pat McCormick will speak about the Michigan Lottery and how funds support our schools.

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