John M. Scott was born on August 1, 1824 in St. Clair County, Illinois. John’s father, Samuel Scott was born in Virginia but came from a family of Irish immigrants. John’s mother Nancy Biggs was born in Illinois. As a boy, John attended public schooling; however, his parents concurrently provided him with private instruction as well. In his private instruction, John excelled in the study of Latin which would help him in his later study of law. He also exhibited much skill in mathematics which he considered his favorite subject.
Scott began his study of law under the Honorable William C. Kinney in Belleville, Illinois. In 1847, Scott was admitted to the bar, and in the following year moved to Bloomington, Illinois to set up his own practice. After only four years of private practice, Scott was elected to be Judge of the County Court in McLean County. He held this position until 1862 when he was elected Judge of the Circuit Court. In 1867 he was re-elected to the Circuit Court. After eight years of service on the Circuit Court, Judge Scott stepped down in 1870 and ran successfully for the Illinois Supreme Court, beating his opponent, Judge Terry, thus becoming the first native-born person from Illinois to be elected to its supreme court. He was re-elected to the supreme court in 1879, and served three terms as chief justice of the court. In 1888 Judge Scott chose not run again for the supreme court, and stepped down from his position.
While still serving as a Circuit Court Judge, Judge Scott married Charloette A. Perry who was the daughter of a minister in Bloomington. The couple had two children, both of whom died in infancy. Judge Scott had personal contempt for politics, and never sought any office beyond his position as judge. Although he had personal distain for politics he did not resent politicians. As a member of the Masonic order, much of the company he kept were politicians.
After stepping down from the supreme court at age 64, he dedicated the remaining years of his life to local history. Shortly before his death, Scott wrote a 300-page volume on legal history in Illinois entitled Supreme Court of Illinois, 1818: Its First Judges and Lawyers. On January 21, 1898, John M. Scott died in his home, reportedly from a carbuncle on the back of his neck.
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Sources: - Chicago Legal News 30(1886-1898):217 - City of Bloomington, Illinois http://www.cityblm.org