Adela Rogers

As the daughter of Earl Rogers, who at the height of his legal career was a Los Angeles celebrity, Adela Rogers got used to the limelight at a young age. In that era, it was uncommon for young women to attend college. Adela was educated by tutors, with brief stays in private schools, and studied music in Germany. Yet the most serious portion of her education was received in her father’s law office and watching him in the courtroom.  As a result, Adela was mature beyond her years.

Rogers’ had confidence in his daughter and while still in her teens, she was frequently present in court during his trials, and sat in on meetings with many of his clients. One of those occasions was the Darrow bribery trial. Adela recalled the first time that she and her father met with Ruby and Clarence Darrow. It was following conclusion of a dramatic courtroom hearing during a trial in Northern California involving a dispute between heirs to an estate. Such matters can become intense and emotions run high.  Ruby and Clarence were in attendance at this trial, observing Rogers cross-examining a witness before a jury.  Following the trial’s conclusion, the four of them met in a hotel where they all were staying.

As recalled by Adela, “That night Clarence Darrow, like many another desperate man before him, came to discuss the possibility of Earl Rogers for the defense.” The four of them -Clarence, Ruby, Rogers and Adela- met late into the evening in the small hotel in Hanford where everyone was staying. “Later Ruby Darrow said she never wanted Rogers from the start.”  Adela believed that Ruby’s dislike of Rogers was two-fold; she thought Clarence was the only great lawyer in the country, and that Rogers “…was too theatrical… He wasn’t a lawyer; he was just an actor.” Ruby believed that there was no equal to her husband in a courtroom and worried that Rogers’ ego might interfere with the defense Clarence was planning. Despite Ruby’s visceral opposition, Darrow and Rogers met late into the night.

Morning came, and as Adela Rogers put it, “…when the chips were down, Clarence wore the pants.” Upon awakening, Darrow went to the hotel lobby looking for Rogers, only to be greeted by Adela. When he asked for Rogers, she told him that her father had been called back to Los Angeles in the early morning hours, and that Darrow would have to meet with him at the office the next morning. Regarding her father’s whereabouts that morning Adela “knew no more than Darrow did,” and had lied to protect her father. As he was wont to do, Rogers was inexplicably missing, in parts unknown to his daughter, or anyone else, tending to his unspoken demons. Rogers was on one of his unseemly drinking binges which often ended at Pearl Morton’s bordello. Adela was one of the few people who knew where to find her father and helped get him ready for meeting with his new client.

(Note: featured photo from Women Film Pioneers Project https://wfpp.columbia.edu/pioneer/ccp-adela-rogers-st-johns/)

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