The Pardon O. Henry Campaign Marches On

423px-William_Sydney_PorterA second formal pardon application has been sent to the Department of Justice on behalf of the long-deceased William Sydney Porter, better known as O. Henry.

P.S. Ruckman, Jr., editor of the PardonPower blog, has posted the submitted application materials in PDF along the sidebar of his site, along with this post reprinting the cover letter he sent to U.S. pardon attorney Ronald L. Rodgers.

The famed short story writer’s first stint of Austin residency included work as a teller at the First National Bank in addition to running a newspaper part-time. He was charged with embezzlement in 1894 and soon left to report the news in Houston.

Porter was on track (literally on a train between Houston and Austin) to return and attend his trial, but he got scared and fled to New Orleans and then Honduras. It has been contended that the missing $1153 was eventually accounted for several months after Porter resigned from his position, and history has shown that there was little actual evidence of an embezzlement crime. In addition, it is well known that bank-keeping practices had large margins of error at the time.

175px-O_henry_at_first_national_bank_of_austinPorter, pictured on the left as a teller in the bank, put up little defense to show his innocence when he later returned to Austin to face the music—a choice he made so that he could tend to his terminally ill wife.

In a plot twist reserved for a writer who clearly had chops of his own in plot twists, the very Sixth Street Historic District building that O. Henry was (allegedly falsely) convicted in, was named after him.

The Internet campaign to pardon O. Henry has been led by Austin blogger Scott Henson in addition to Ruckman, though the first pardon denial for O. Henry was issued in 1985. The denial stemmed from a request made by Senator Jesse Helms following his involvement with the O. Henry Festival, original home of the Pun-Off World Championships.