The Madness of Count Louis
History says little about the famous A.I. du Pont’s younger brother, and what it does say is often wrong. Here, the authors attempt a more accurate account of his life and death. Yet the mystery surrounding his suicide remains.
(page 5 of 9)
HURRIED TO THE CEMETERY
James dismisses all the theories as unfounded, and even from today’s distance the claims seem far-fetched. Yet the author offers no theory of his own. And despite the attention James gives to Louis, he errs when he claims Louis did not receive a diploma from Yale.
The possibility that Louis was murdered was hazarded from the day of his death. A cuckolded husband seems a more likely suspect than a club employee, but Louis had only recently joined the club, so infuriating one of the staff or finding a pretty wife to charm do not ring likely.
Of course, the last person to see the victim alive is always a “person of interest.” Willard Hall Porter was some 14 years older than Louis. Porter was a Princeton graduate, an old friend to some du Ponts, and a Wilmington Club member since 1879. He was also Delaware’s commissioner for the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.
Marquis James writes that Porter, in the last conversation Louis had, asked for his help in organizing a club dance. Louis replied that he “could be of no help, that he was going a long distance away.”
The source of this exchange had to be Porter himself, and Louis’ last conversation is mentioned in several newspaper accounts. Louis’ refusal to help was certainly no reason to shoot him, and no one has ever hinted that there was any animus between the two men. Moreover, Porter was as upstanding a gentleman as one could imagine. Further, he had left the club before the gunshot.
Or so the inquest found. The coroner’s jury—lawyers and members of the Wilmington Club—met on December 3. They found the deceased “came to his death from a gunshot wound inflicted by himself.”
The coroner’s report of December 5 gives suicide as the cause of death. In the line below the word “suicide,” the deputy coroner who completed the certificate drew a long, slightly squiggly line, which implies either that there is nothing more to be said or that the death was something of a mystery.
The timing of the coroner’s jury and subsequent death certificate indicate that there was not a lengthy investigation into Louis’ death, which suggests that there was some hurry to inter Louis in the du Pont cemetery and put this regrettable matter behind the grieving family.
Page 6: But Why?