By Stephen D. Bowling
When The Jackson Times first started rolling off the presses in 1910, a quiet and brilliant man at the helm as its editor. His tremendous influence in Breathitt County and across eastern Kentucky had been all but forgotten today.
Ryland Christmas Musick was a native of Virginia but always called Breathitt County home. He came to Jackson in the early decades of the 20th Century and settled here primarily because of the flourishing opportunities for a legal practice that our highly litigated society afforded.
He settled here with his family, soon made his way into the most prominent circles, and was a regular at social functions in the city. He reopened the local paper calling it The Jackson Times rather than its original name, The Jackson Hustler. Musick operated the paper for some time before the stress and demands of legal success called him away to his practice. He was tragically killed while on a vacation/business trip in Virginia and Tennessee. With his death and the passage of time, the bright light of this once highly influential man has dimmed.
The following is an article reprinted from the August 29, 1925 edition of The Jackson Times describing the events of his death as well as the manner in which his family received the news.
This community was horrified on Thursday evening of last week when Mrs. Ryland C. Musick received a telegram stating that her husband had been badly injured in an automobile accident and was lying unconscious in a hospital in Lebanon, Virginia. Mrs. Musick started on the morning train for Fleming and speedily reached Lebanon but not until her husband had passed away. Mr. Musick left Jackson Thursday morning at 4:00 o’clock on a business trip to make depositions in a case to be tried at Whitesburg and went to Fleming where he employed a young man named Young to drive him through the country to Lebanon, Virginia, and then to Tazewell, intending before returning to take depositions in Huntington, W. Va., but a short distance out of Lebanon, the driver lost control of his car, which turned over several times and pinned Mr. Musick beneath it. Persons living along the road, who came quickly to the assistance of the two men, removed the car and rushed Mr. Musick to the hospital. All medical aid was unable to save him, however, and he died without regaining consciousness. His injuries consisted of a fractured skull and a broken hip. The driver of the car escaped without serious injuries, according to the report received from Lebanon. Persons who witnessed the accident declared that the car must have been going at a speed of fifty miles an hour, and when the brakes were put on, the car, a new Dodge, turned in a moment and threw the occupants out together. A native of Jonesville, Virginia, Mr. Musick came to Jackson a number of years ago to practice law and soon became one of the leading attorneys in Eastern Kentucky. He was a law partner of J. L. Stidham. He was a strong Democrat and active in politics. Possessed of a genial disposition and an unusual ability in public speaking and as a counselor, he soon took a prominent position at the bar and engaged in a number of important cases, being one of the best-known attorneys in the mountains and active in Democratic politics. In 1919, he was a candidate for Attorney General but was defeated by Frank E. Daughtrey. In 1923, he was defeated again for the same place by the same man. In both cases, his defeat was by a small margin. He was a member of the Legislature in 1918. Defeated for the Democratic nomination for Congress to succeed Governor William J. Fields before the Democratic Committee last year, he was beaten again by the same man, Congressman Fred M. Vinson, in the August primary. Mr. Musick was a member of the Knights of Pythias, Junior Order, and the Baptist Church. He is survived by his widow, three sons, Arthur, Walton, and Dalton Musick; a brother, Judson Musick, of Pennington Gap, Virginia, and a sister Miss Ruth Musick, of the same address. Funeral services were held Sunday afternoon in Jonesboro, Tennessee conducted by Pastor Rev. Wilson, in the same church where he was married.”
Musick served in numerous capacities. He was President of the Kentucky Fuel & Oil Company and was instrumental in the development of the oil and gas fields in the mountains. He published several newspapers and a state-wide illustrated magazine called “The Kentuckian.” Musick headed the mountain chapter of the Kentucky Press Association. He was an ardent activist for the “free Textbook” movement in Kentucky schools as well as a respected attorney in addition to his time in the Kentucky House of Representatives.
Today, Ryland C. Musick and his legacy have faded with the passage of time. The once-influential lawyer, politician, and newspaperman is only occasionally mentioned in histories of the area. His efforts on behalf of the people of Breathitt County and the mountains will live on unnoticed and unappreciated in the pages of the newspapers and the magazines he helped found.
© 2022 Stephen D. Bowling
I could not agree more! This guy was incredible!
He defended my great-great grandfather Elihu Allen who was accused of killing Deputy Grover Cleveland Blanton in Breathitt co in 1915. I am producing a podcast on the story set to air April 2023. I’m hoping to write a book as a keepsake for my extended Allen family.