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December 10, 2013

Carson Gray Frailey

Roy Meachum

Before moving here 30 years ago, I knew Emmitsburg. A friend called me Saturday asking if I was up to taking the new road (I-270) to his home town.


Carson Gray Frailey’s family came from Frederick County. One uncle joined the Union; the other went southward to the Confederacy.


From his playground young Carson watched the president of the United States walk the short distance to the vaudeville theatre that occupied the same building as his father's law offices. His "playground" was Lafayette Square with virtually the identical equestrian statue I admired, as a boy, when visiting the French Quarter. The sculpture captured Andrew Jackson, hero of the Battle of New Orleans and later an occupant of the White House – directly across Pennsylvania Avenue from Carson’s playground. The president during his childhood was Woodrow Wilson.


The Fraileys were from the last stop before Gettysburg. The Lutheran Seminary still boasts guns from the famous battle. Carson spoke of "squiring" the daughter of the seminary's dean. His warm, brown eye twinkled when he mentioned the artillery pieces out front; he joked about being afraid that if he offended the young lady, or her father's morals, he would be the target of red-hot cannon balls from the guns, unfired since 1863.


Carson was ever a rumpled bear; his suits slightly awry; his tie-points rarely where they were supposed to be. He shopped Baltimore, at Joseph A. Banks, before the rest of the world cottoned to discounts posted on price tags. In this regard he was a true Maryland gentleman.


In his later years, Carson compensated for giving up cigarettes with food. High on his list were Toddle House pies of several flavors. Fortunately for his gustatory passion, the chain had a restaurant close to his house in the District's Spring Valley neighborhood.


Nobody enjoyed pastry more; he sang the praises with voice and eye; he combined discrete lip-smacking. At receptions, I have yet to see anyone who works the buffet better. Scarcely bothering to pause, he fingered food with mind-numbing efficiency, chatting all the time.


Mr. and Mrs. Frailey complemented each other. If she were not FFV (First Families of Virginia), New World nobility, I would have been surprised; but, of course, it was very bad form to ask. A St. Catherine girl and Richmond native, she was Anne, a name borne also by her elder daughter. They had two other children: young Carson and Becky. They met during the war when he served in her area as an officer at nearby Petersburg's Fort Lee; they wooed and wed, as gossip columns said then. They made a captivating couple.


Her looks belonged to the classic Southern beauty mode. He tended toward the Quasimodo strain, including a rather large mole on one cheek. He was saved from ugliness by a formidably warm nature, an almost precocious intelligence and a deep and passionate interest in whoever crossed his path. His enthusiasms left lesser humans floundering in his wake.


We met in the former Broadcast garage. He visited my early television show to sell tickets for the National Symphony Orchestra. He admired my public relations skills, employing me for the NSO and the Washington National Ballet Foundation. He died of his heart going aflutter, shortly before the White House Festival of the Arts, in June 1965.


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