Carter, Orrin Nelson

Orrin Nelson Carter was born on January 22, 1854 in Jefferson County, New York. His father was a sailor on the Great Lakes, who died when Orrin was only two years old. When he was ten years old, he moved to Illinois with his family, and his mother remarried. Carter attended Wheaton College and graduated in 1877. During this time, he paid his way through college by teaching school and working as a janitor.

After graduating, Orrin decided to stay in Illinois and keep teaching. He taught in the counties of Bureaus and Grundy and studied law on the side. He didn’t attend law school, but rather studied under Judge Murray A. Tuley and General I. N. Stiles. He was then admitted into the bar of Illinois in 1880. For two years he served as a superintendent of one of the districts he taught in but resigned when he was appointed to be a state attorney for Grundy County, one of the counties he had served as a teacher. He held this position in Grundy County for five years while keeping his own private practice running. In 1888 he moved to Chicago where at first he solely practiced private law. Later, he served as general attorney for the Chicago Sanitary District from 1892-1894. In 1881 he married Janet Stevens and had son and a daughter.

In 1894, he was nominated by the Republican party to serve as a county judge in Cook County. He was re-elected in 1898, and then again in 1902 without opposition. In 1900 he unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for Governor. There was a three-way dead-lock tie in delegates, until one of the candidates dropped out and threw his support to Richard Yates. After eleven years as a county judge, Carter stepped down from his post and was elected to the Illinois Supreme Court in 1906. He ran opposed in his re-election in 1915, but was endorsed by every major political party leader and enjoyed a landslide victory.

Despite his active career as a judge, Judge Carter also held a number of other prominent public positions. From 1912-1913 he served as President to the American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology. He was chairman of the judicial section of the American Bar Association, a position he held from 1913-1916. The Chicago Bar Association unanimously endorsed him for a vacancy on the United States Supreme Court; although nothing came of this endorsement, it was a considerable honor that elevated his prestige as a judge. He received two honorary Doctor degrees of Law, one from Wheaton College in 1889, and the other from Northwestern University in 1925. He was also one of the trustees to the estate of Joseph Medill, the former editor of the Chicago Tribune.

When he finally retired in June of 1924, he had served on the Supreme Court of Illinois for 18 years and wrote over 1,000 decisions. Shortly after stepping down in 1924, Carter suffered from a stroke and never fully recovered. In the last years of his life, he moved to a suburb of Los Angeles, California where he died on August 15th, 1928.

Next: James H. Cartwright


  • Crossely, F. B. “Editorial Notes: Orrin Nelson Carter 1854-1928.” Illinois Law Review. Volume 23. December (1928): pg. 371-374.
  • “Orrin Carter, Former State Justice, Dead.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1963); August 17th, 1928; ProQuest Historical Newspapers Chicago Tribune (1849-1986) pg. 1
  • “Orrin Nelson Carter.”

Cartwright, James H.

James H. Cartwright was born on December 1, 1842 in a log cabin in the Iowa territory. The cabin was one of three log cabins, which sat on what today is the location of the city of Maquoketa. His father was a Methodist preacher, and James was one of six children. As a boy, James was weak and fragile, and was not expected to live an exceedingly long life. However, as time went on he overcame his physical weakness. His family later moved to Mt. Morris, Michigan where he attended grammar school, and began to follow in his father’s footsteps by attending Rock River Seminary.

Cartwright’s was not able to finish seminary, as his attendance was infrequent due to the work he was required to do on the family farm. He had made, however, enough of a impact on his teachers, that he was recommended by the faculty for a position as a teacher in a nearby school.

Cartwright was 19 years old at the outbreak of the Civil War, and he enlisted in the 69th Illinois Regiment. After serving for three months his enlistment expired and he chose to return home to take care of his family, as his father had taken a commission as a Chaplin under General Sherman. In June of 1864, however, Cartwright reenlisted in the 144th Illinois Infantry which was intended to relieve some of the veteran troops until the end of the war. Although he was only 22, Cartwright was elected Captain of the regiment. Due to his young age, however, his superiors asked him to resign to make room for a more experienced officer. Cartwright resigned, but, nevertheless, his troops voted him Captain again, the position which he held until the end of the war.

His role as a Captain gave him enough money to return to school, and Cartwright entered into the University of Michigan Law school in 1865. At the time law school only took two years, and in 1867 he returned to Illinois and was admitted into the bar. In 1868 Cartwright was selected general attorney and solicitor for the building of a Chicago and Iowa railroad. This gave him extensive litigation experience, and he held this position until 1876. In 1873 he married Hattie L. Homles from Oregon, Illinois. The couple would have six children over the course of their marriage.

After leaving his position of general attorney to the railroad, Cartwright took up the practice of Law in Oregon, Illinois. He maintained his private practice in Oregon until 1888 when he was elected circuit court judge. In 1891 he was re-elected and began serving as an appellate judge in the 2nd district at Ottawa. In 1895, Cartwright was elected to fill a seat on the Illinois Supreme Court after the death of Justice Bailey. In the first year after his election, Cartwright wrote a remarkable 66 opinions, a number which only increased in subsequent years. He was later re-elected in 1897, 1906, and 1915. In total, he served 28 years on the Supreme Court and authored over a thousand opinions. Although he was active in the Republican Party, he never sought political office himself. Despite his hard work he kept a large hobby farm he used for relaxation, and was also a student of political history. His tireless work on the bench contributed to the fact that he died in office at age 81. On May 18, 1924, James H. Cartwright died less than a month before he was up for election for another nine-year term.

Next: George A. Cooke


  • DeWitt, Clyde F. “Editorial Note: James H. Cartwright,” Illinois Law Review. Volume 15, November (1920): pages 271-277.
  • “J.H. Cartwright, Justice, Is Dead: Supreme Court Member Taken While Arising.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1963); May 19, 1924; ProQuest Historical Newspapers Chicago Tribune (1849-1986) pg. 1

Cooke, George A.

In 1869 George A. Cooke was born in New Athens, Ohio. Sadly, when he was 11 both of his parents died, and Cooke moved to Mercer County Illinois. He attended Knox College, and graduated in 1892. He was then admitted to the Illinois bar in 1895. He set up his own practice in Aledo, Illinois and continued his practice until he was elected to the Illinois Supreme Court in 1909.

While he practiced law, however, Cooke was also a member of the Illinois House of Representatives. He was elected in 1902, representing the 33rd district, and served two terms in that capacity. He chose not to re-run for the legislature because the death of Justice Scott had opened up a position in the Supreme Court of Illinois, representing the 4th district. He was originally elected to fill the former Justice Scott’s unexpired term, and in 1912 he was re-elected to a full term. In all, Judge Cooke served on the Illinois Supreme Court from 1909-1918. During this time he served as Chief justice for two consecutive terms in 1913 and 1914.

Cooke chose to step down from his position on the Illinois Supreme Court in order to pursue law in the private sector. He was made chief counsel for the People’s Gas Light and Coke Company, and served in this capacity for the remainder of his life.

In 1932 Cooke’s wife, Sarah Blee, died. The couple had had four children. On December 6th, 1938 George A. Cooke died in his home at the age of 69.


Craig, Alfred M.

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.

Dunn, Frank K.

Frank Kershner Dunn was born in Mount Gilead, Ohio on November 13, 1854. Frank’s father, Andrew Kershner worked as a lawyer in Ohio. Frank received his education at Kenyon College in Ohio. In 1873, Frank graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree, and decided to follow in his father’s footsteps by attending law school. Frank would later follow in his father’s footsteps not only to the bar, but also to the bench, as Andre Kershner also had served as a judge on the court of common pleas.

Dunn graduated. from Harvard Law School in 1875. The same year he graduated from Harvard, Dunn was admitted to the bar in Ohio. At this time, Dunn moved back to Mount Gilead, Ohio and went into legal practice with his father. After three years of partnership with his father, Dunn moved to Charleston, Illinois where he would remain for most of his life.

In Charleston, Dunn started his own practice and was readily accepted into the community. In 1897, Dunn was elected to the Circuit Bench. Dunn only served one term on the Circuit Bench and after its expiration, he returned to his private practice of law. His time away from the bench was short lived. In 1907 he was elected to the Supreme Court after the death of Judge Wilkin. Dunn, was re-elected in 1915, and again in 1924. Judge Dunn resigned from the bench in 1933 at the age of 79.

Next: William M. Farmer


  • Ed. John M. Palmer. The Bench and Bar of Illinois: Historical and Reminiscent. Volume II. Lewis Publishing Company: Chicago, 1899.
  • “Frank K. Dunn.” Illinois Supreme Court Justice Archives.