|Naval Historical Center/Don Farrell|
One of his most controversial laws was to prohibit Americans from marrying Chamorro women.
It was his belief that the two races were incompatible.
James Holland Underwood, originally from North Carolina, didn't agree. Underwood was married to one Ana Martinez, Chamorro, and sister of Pedro Martinez, a prominent businessman. Underwood himself was U.S. Postmaster of Guam. Backed by Spanish Bishop Joaquin Olaiz, who opposed Gilmer's law, Underwood worked his connections in the States.
One such stateside figure was the former Naval Governor of Guam, Robert Coontz, who was governor from 1912-1913. In 1919 he was Chief of Naval Operations in Washington, DC. He, and Assistant Secretary of the Navy, the future President Franklin D. Roosevelt, exerted pressure to have the law rescinded. It was.
One Spanish Capuchin, Pale' Roman, quietly approved of Gilmer's law, not in the interest of the American party, but of the Chamorro. Unlike Bishop Olaiz, Pale' Roman believed that, Underwood and a few other exceptions notwithstanding, many Chamorro women were getting the short end of the stick. Pale' Roman claimed that not a few American husbands packed their bags and left island, leaving their Chamorro wives and children bereft.