Alfred M. Craig was born in Edgar County Illinois on January 15th, 1831. His father was originally from Pennsylvania and his mother originally from Kentucky. The couple moved to Illinois and became invested in the farming business, which was the life Craig was raised in. He attended Knox College, and graduated with honors in1853. He immediately chose to practice law out of College, and opened a successful private practice in Knoxville, Illinois.
In 1856 Illinois’ Governor at the time, Governor Mattison, appointed Craig to be state’s attorney. In 1860, he was elected to be a county judge. At the time, county judges were allowed to keep their private legal practices in conjunction with their judicial position. Craig continued to act as prosecutor, and in 1861 he was elected county attorney, and served in this position for four years.
In 1869, Craig was elected as a representative of Knox County to the 1870 Illinois Constitutional Convention. This was significant, because although Craig was a Democrat, Knox County was an overwhelmingly Republican district. Despite a Republican majority of 2000 votes, Craig was elected by a margin of 600 votes. At the convention, Craig served as chairman of the Constitutional Committee of Counties. As chairman, Craig was responsible for drafting the portion of the Illinois Constitution relating to counties.
Craig was elected to the Illinois Supreme Court three years later in an upset victory. In the 1873 Illinois Supreme Court Justice Election, Craig ran against Chief Justice Lawrence. Judge Lawrence was expected to win by a landslide vote; not only was Judge Lawrence the incumbent and Chief Justice, but also a Republican in an overwhelmingly Republican district. Despite the odds, Craig won the district by 3200 votes. He was re-elected in 1882 by a majority of 3,000 votes, and again in 1891 with 5,500 votes. Craig’s political success in a Republican district caused many to consider him a strong Democratic candidate for the 1892 Presidential Election. Craig, however, expressed little desire in running. Although Craig had successfully survived as a Democrat in a Republican district, in 1900 he was voted out of office by Republican candidate Judge Hand.
On the Illinois Supreme Court, Craig became known as a “Farming Judge.” He owned several large farms, and was known to protect the rights of farmers, largely do to his rural upbringing. He also had interests in several banks in the area. Craig had a wife and two sons. One of Craig’s sons became a doctor, while the other, Charles C. Craig, followed in his footsteps and was elected to the Illinois Supreme Court as a Democrat in 1913.
All of Craig’s immediate family members survived him. Alfred M. Craig died in Galesburg, Illinois from pneumonia on September 6th, 1911.
Next: Frank K. Dunn
- “Craig for President.” Chicago Daily; Feb. 16, 1892, pg 1; ProQuest Historical Newspapers Chicago Tribune (18492-1985). Northwestern University, Evanston, IL.
- “Democrat Elected to the Supreme Court.” Chicago Daily Tribune, Oct. 21, 1913, pg 2. ProQuest Historical Newspapers Chicago Tribune (1872-1963). Northwestern University, Evanston, IL.
- “Noted ex-Jurist dies In Galsburg.” Chicago Daily Tribune Sept. 7, 1911, pg 5. ProQuest Historical Newspapers Chicago Tribune (1872-1963). Northwestern University, Evanston, IL.