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History of Iowa From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century/4/John F. Dillon

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[John F. Dillon]

JOHN F. DILLON was born in Montgomery County, New York, December 25, 1831. His parents removed to Davenport in 1838, then a frontier village in the new Territory of Iowa. Here the son was educated in the common schools and when seventeen began the study of medicine with Dr. E. S. Barrows. He attended medical lectures at the Keokuk Medical College but finally concluded to study law. He entered the office of John P. Cook and pursued his legal studies until admitted to the bar in 1852. Soon after he was elected Prosecuting Attorney and rose rapidly in the profession until, in 1858, he was elected judge of the Seventh District. He served with distinction four years and in 1863 was nominated by the Republican State Convention for Judge of the Supreme Court. He was elected and in 1868 became Chief Justice. In 1869 he was reëlected for six years but before qualifying was appointed by President Grant United States Circuit Judge for the Eighth Circuit, consisting of the States of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Nebraska, Minnesota and Colorado. In 1869 he was made lecturer on Legal Jurisprudence in the State University of Iowa. He was the founder and editor of the Central Law Journal and author of a “Digest of the Decisions of the Supreme Court of Iowa,” as well as five volumes of United States Circuit Court Reports from 1871 to 1880. In 1879 he resigned the Circuit Judgeship (a life appointment) and removed to New York City where he had been chosen Professor of Real Estate and Equity Jurisprudence of the Law Department of Columbia College. In 1891-2 he was Lecturer on Municipal Law in Yale College. In 1892 he was chosen president of the American Bar Association. He has long had charge of the legal business of the Union Pacific Railroad Company, the Western Union Telegraph Company and the Manhattan Elevated Railroad Company. He has found time to continue his law writing as the author of a “Commentary on the Law of Municipal Corporations,” published in 1872, which has run through four editions; “Removal of Causes from State Courts to Federal Courts,” published in 1876, which has passed through three editions; “Laws and Jurisprudence of England and America,” being a series of lectures delivered before Yale University, published in Boston in 1895. Judge Dillon's works have had a large sale in England as well as in America, some editions having been published in London. In this country they were from the first recognized as standard legal authority. He is the author of many pamphlets on legal and historical affairs, and one of the most elegant memorial volumes that has appeared in this country, in memory of his wife and daughter who were lost at sea in July, 1898. His wife was the accomplished daughter of Hon. Hiram Price, long member of Congress from the Second Iowa District. From a boyhood of poverty and obscurity, but endowed with remarkable intellectual powers and untiring energy, John F. Dillon has by force of character, during a life of continuous work, reached the summit of the American Bar.