GEORGE W. DOWELL.
Lovers of the romantic say we have no heroes in these days, that the courage that attempts the impossible is dead; they forget that the heroes of modern times often fight their battles in their own homes, that there is no list upon which their prowess might be displayed, save the lists of the modern business world, in which the struggle is as much more terrifying than that between Ivanhoe and Front de Boeuf as the refinement and civilization that shudders at the thought of a mortal combat is greater than that of the time of Richard Coeur de Lion. In these days the fall of a man means not only his own ruin, but usually the hurt of all those dependent on him. Those that do not believe that we have modern heroes, read the story of George W. Dowell. This man was just one among hundreds of other grimy toilers, each day that he spent under the ground stifling more and more the power of initiative that burned within him, but each day his ambition to become something more than a miner increased. He was a grown man, too old to enter the high schools, too poor to go to even the most inexpensive colleges, had he had the education that would permit him to enter. Did he sit down in front of this problem and say, “It is impossible, nothing but a miracle could make me anything but what 1 am.” He did not, he ground his teeth together and said, “I will,” with the result that today, after only four years of practice, he is one of the most successful lawyers in DuQuoin and his popularity is growing every minute.
George W. Dowell was born in Williamson county, Illinois, on the 18th of August, 1879. He is the son of William J. Dowell, who was born in Tennessee. The latter acquired a fair education, and when his father, David Dowell, went to Arkansas in ante-bellum days the son accompanied him. David Dowell was a merchant and a race-horse man, and died near Salem, Arkansas. William J. separated from his parents before the outbreak of the Civil war and came to Southern Illinois. On the 26th of August, 1861, he enlisted in Company E of the Thirty-first Illinois Infantry, which was General Logan's old regiment. He became color bearer of the regiment and when his three year term of enlistment expired he re-enlisted and was in the service nearly five years. He was one of the few who took part in the fighting in the heart of the Confederacy and escaped both wounds and captivity. He returned home in the fall of 1865, with the consciousness of having performed a patriot's part in the preservation of the Union. He is now one of the rapidly thinning band that compose the Grand Army of the Republic, and is the only member of his family that fought on the side of the Union. He married Mary E. Robinson, a daughter of John Robinson, who came to Illinois from Kentucky, having previously lived in the state of Virginia. The children of Mr. and Mrs. Dowell are: John L. S., who is general manager of the Moke and Impson Mine; Clifford, who died in infancy; W. L., who is a contractor at Elkville, Illinois; James, who died in babyhood; A. B., living in Carbondale; Sarah, the wife of John Lounsberry, of Texarkana, Arkansas; Maggie, who married John Cox and lives in
Centralia, Illinois; Thomas, who died in his youth; George W.; L. N., of Caidwell, Washington; Nannie and Mary, who passed away as little children. Mr. Dowell is a Republican, but has never entered very prominently into politics, preferring to work in a quiet way for the party to which he owes allegiance.
George W. Dowell grew up in Marion, Carterville and Elkville, Illinois, learning something of farm life and later taking his place in the ranks of the miners. His home was that of a man of toil, for his father had followed the butcher business, farming and mining, and in consequence the dinner pail became a close companion of the son as soon as he left the common schools. As the lad grew to manhood his soul revolted at the thought of spending all of his days down in the depths of the earth, the miner's cap became the symbol of all that was hateful to him and he did not even wish to be connected with the mines in the capacity of a superintendent, which position he would surely have reached in time. He had the mind of a lawyer and the eloquence of a lawyer, he possessed the power of concentration and the ability to reason logically. Even in those days it was evident that the professional world was the one for which he was naturally adapted. But, how to get past the portal? Since he could not enter high school because he was too old, he decided to attempt a high school course of his own. Therefore every night he would come home from the mines, weary from the physical labor, and after his often meagre supper, for it took so much money to buy books, would sit down close to the lamp and there in the company of his young wife would labor over knotty problems in algebra and geometry, and try to understand what Chaucer was talking about, or why “Equal volumes of gas at the same temperature and pressure contain equal numbers of molecules.” Think of the struggles we ourselves had with the best of teachers and the most modern apparatus, studying at a time when our brains were most receptive and when facts found an easy lodgment therein, and compare our comparatively easy time with what this man had to contend with. With no scientific apparatus, no teacher to straighten out tangles, and with a brain that had passed the stage when it resembles a sponge, yet he determined that he would conquer, and he did. He completed all the work required in the curriculum of the high school and passed the examination on questions given to him by the superintendent of schools. He had now taken the first and longest step. While he had been toiling over his school books he had also been poring over the massive tomes of legal knowledge that lay near by on his table. So he was ready to begin at once on his professional work. His first work was done by correspondence, in the Sprague Correspondence School of Detroit, after which he read under the instructions of Judge Ellis, of Carbondale, and later entered the offices of Harker and Harker and Lightfoot in the same city. From Carbondale he moved to Herrin, and in 1907 took the bar examination in the Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois. He was one of fifty-two successful ones among more than two hundred applicants. He was admitted on the 23rd of June and was the first man to hand in his final paper to the examining commission, of which Judge George W. Wall, of DuQuoin, was president.
He now began to practice, having charge of the branch office of Harker and Harker and Lightfoot in Herrin. On the 5th of October, 1909, he came toDuQuoin, resigning his position with the above firm and entering the field for himself. His knowledge, having been won with so great difficulty, stayed by him better than if it had come to him easier, and the thoroughness with which he prepares his cases and the clearness and simplicity with which he puts.them before the jury have won him a reputation as one of the coming lawyers. He entered actively into politics
before he was admitted to the bar, and with his natural eloquence and his sincere belief in the power of right as against that of might, he won the confidence of all who heard him. In 1908 he made the race for state senator, but he was not yet well enough known, so was defeated for the nomination. The political party of his choice is the Republican. Mr. Dowell is a member of the Odd Fellows fraternity and is a Modern Woodman. In his religious affiliations he is a member of the Missionary Baptist church of DuQuoin. In this church he is clerk, and is a licensed preacher.
On the 16th of December, 1899, George W. Dowell was married to Miss Anna Midyett, a daughter of John H. Midyett. The latter was an architect and carpenter, who had come to Franklin county, Illinois, from Kentucky. Mr. Midyett died on the 4th of March, 1899. Mrs. Midyett was Rebecca S. Malory, a sister of Hon. O. R. Malory, of Benton, Illinois. Mrs. Dowell was one of nine children. Mr. and Mrs. Dowell have three children, Noble Yates, Clara V. and Reola Harker.