The most remarkable case, however, was that of the appointment of an ex-convict as bank examiner and receiver. Previous to his appointment this man called in person upon Mr. Eckels and presented letters of recommendation from a number of the leading public men of his State. He was a man of good appearance and address, and he made such a favorable impression upon Mr. Eckels that he concluded to avail himself of his services. He appointed him a national bank examiner, and assigned him to duty in charge of a failed bank, of which he was later appointed receiver. After he had been in the service several months, Mr. Eckels received a communication from a party in the city where the bank was located, stating that this man was an ex-convict, having served a term of five years in the penitentiary. He looked up the recommendations on which he was appointed and refused to believe that the accusation could be true. He wired the receiver in cipher informing him of the charge that had been made against him and requested an immediate reply by wire confirming or denying the accusation. He was astounded upon receiving a reply acknowledging the truth of the charge and stating that a full explanation by mail would follow. The mail promptly brought the explanation, in which this man candidly admitted that several years previously he had been convicted of a criminal offense, stated its nature, and had been sentenced to and served a term in the penitentiary. He stated further that he was quite a young man when he went astray, had paid the penalty of his wrongdoing, and after serving his sentence had returned to the same city in which he was tried and convicted determined to start life anew and re-establish himself in the confidence of his friends and the community. He invited the closest scrutiny into his life before his conviction and his career subsequent to his release from the penitentiary, and also his acts as examiner and receiver. He advised the Comptroller that the party who informed on him was an applicant for appointment as attorney for his trust, but as he did not believe that it would be for the best interests of the receivership to appoint him, he declined to recommend the appointment, thereby incurring his displeasure and resulting exposure.
Mr. Eckels made careful inquiry into the history of this receiver and with the exception of the offense for which he was convicted learned nothing to his discredit. He also made a thorough examination of the receivership and found everything satisfactory and the books in excellent condition.
The friends of this man, among whom were some men of prominence, had absolute confidence in him and the sincerity of his declared purpose to redeem himself if given an opportunity to do right, and stood by him. They urged Mr. Eckels to continue him in office and he did so for several months thereafter. Finally he concluded that he was assuming too great a responsibility in continuing a man in a fiduciary position whom he knew to have served a term in the penitentiary, and would be justly subject to censure if anything went wrong. He therefore reluctantly, as he said at the time, requested his resignation. The resignation was promptly forwarded and a successor was appointed. All the assets of the trust were carefully checked up, every dollar that came into the hands of the receiver was fully accounted for, and everything found to be in a satisfactory condition. During the brief period of this man's connection with the Treasury Department there was not a fault to be found with his record. He discharged his duty honestly, faithfully and efficiently, and it was with great regret that Mr. Eckels felt constrained to request his resignation.
In later years it was learned at the office of the Comptroller that he went wrong again. He became involved in other questionable transactions, and the reports concerning him were to his discredit.
Those who were connected with the Comptroller's office at that time and were familiar with this man's history always entertained the opinion that perhaps if he had been trusted and encouraged he might have developed into an honest and reputable citizen. Who can tell? But the exposure of his penitentiary career and his removal from office in consequence sent him out into the world again broken in spirit and discouraged, like Bob Brierly in the "Ticket-of-Leave Man," with the brand of an ex-convict barring the way to his making an honest living in any position of trust. The way of the transgressor is hard and this man was forced to realize it.