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History of Iowa From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century/4/Samuel F. Miller

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SAMUEL F. MILLER was born at Richmond, Kentucky, on the 5th of April, 1816. He was educated in the common schools and village academy and when eighteen years of age began the study of medicine. He attended medical lectures at Transylvania University, received a diploma and began practice at Barbersville in 1838, where he remained eight years. In 1845 he read law with Judge Ballinger, was admitted to the bar, and decided to change his profession to the practice of law. From a boy he was a fearless advocate of emancipation of the slaves, but realizing that it could not be accomplished he determined to make his home in a free State. He therefore removed to Iowa in May, 1850, locating at Keokuk, where he entered upon the practice of law. He had been a Whig in politics but when the Republican party was organized united with it. Mr. Miller was a member of the law firm of Rankin & Miller and in a few years became one of the leading lawyers in the State. When the United States Supreme Court was reorganized in 1801 such was his fame that the Congressmen and bar of Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota and Wisconsin united in recommending Samuel F. Miller for one of the new Justices. President Lincoln, who was personally acquainted with the Iowa jurist, and recognized his high qualifications for the place, in July, 1862, sent his nomination to the Senate where it was immediately confirmed. During his long term of service on the highest judicial tribunal of the Nation, it became his duty to join in the adjudication of some of the most important and far-reaching problems that have ever arisen under our Government. The vital issues involved in the Civil War, the amendments to the Constitution and the whole plan of reconstruction came before that court for final settlement. During the period so fraught with peril to the Republic the opinions of Judge Miller show the mental caliber of the great jurist who is regarded as the peer of Marshall and Story. A high authority has said:

“Some other judges had greater learning but none possessed more legal wisdom. After delivering judgments whose influence will outlive the granite walls of the court room and after deciding cases that involved millions of money, he died poor in gold, but rich in fame. Morally his great characteristic was simplicity; mentally it was logically a rugged vigor of reasoning.”

In religion he was a Unitarian and for many years was president of the American Unitarian Association. He died at Washington on the 13th of October, 1890, after serving twenty-eight years in the Supreme Court. Funeral services were held in the Supreme Court room in the presence of the highest officials of the Government. Iowa has never given a greater man to the public service.