William C. Folkes was born in Lynchburg, VA, and was the son of Edward J. Folkes (1820-1894), a Virginia state senator, and his wife, Sarah A. Winston (b. 1824).
When the Civil War began, Folkes was 16 years old, and he enlisted in Capt. Shoemaker’s Company, Virginia Horse Artillery (the Lynchburg Beauregards) and fought in the first battle of Manassas (Bull Run) in July 1861. He was severely wounded in that battle, but recovered and returned to the Virginia Lynchburg Light Artillery Battery, CSA. He lost a leg in the battle of Malvern Hill in July 1862. He attended the University of Virginia in sessions 40-42 (1863-1866), and graduated from the law department.
[N.b., The contemporary biographies and obituaries state that Folkes remained on active duty in the CSA throughout the war, in spite of his injury, and that Folkes earned a degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before attending the University of Virginia. I can find no corroboration of these assertions, and it seems unlikely that they are true, considering the tight timeline. — JLC]
Folkes then moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where in 1869 he married Mary Wright, and joined her father, Judge Archibald Wright, and her brother, Luke Wright, in the law firm of Wright & Folkes. He served as President of the Bar Association of Tennessee in 1885. He continued his full-time law practice until 1886, when he was nominated as judge of the Supreme Court of Tennessee, a position in which he served until his death in 1890 in Memphis.
When Edward J. Folkes, William Folkes’ father, died in 1894, he directed in his will that two scholarships be created called the William C. Folkes Scholarships. The renewable scholarships were to be awarded to residents of Lynchburg or Campbell County, VA, to attend the University of Virginia. These scholarships are still in existence, and were most recently awarded in 2011.
- Historical Data Systems, comp.. U.S. Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009.
- McFarland, L. B., “Judge Wm. C. Folkes–his life and character.” Proceedings of the seventh annual meeting of the Bar Association of Tennessee. Nashville, TN, 1888, p. 253-261.
- National Park Service. U.S. Civil War Soldiers, 1861-1865 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007.
- “William C. Folkes.” The green bag. v.5, no.6 (June 1893), p. 280-281.
- “William C. Folkes Scholarships.” Alumni Bulletin of the University of Virginia, v.6, no.5 (Oct. 1913), p. 634-636.