JUDGE WILLIAM C. JONES
is a citizen of whom any city might well be proud. In his long career as an attorney in Crawford county, Illinois, he has never brought anything but honor to the profession, and during his service as a dispenser of justice he was always able to deliver an unbiased opinion, a rare quality that is lacking in so many of our judges of today. He is not only a prominent member of the bar, but is a successful business man and a popular author. It is not often that one finds a man of so striking a versatility, and especially one who reaches a height far above mediocrity in all of these lines. The public has shown that they may be relied upon to appreciate true worth, for they elected Judge Jones to the bench of the circuit court of Illinois when he was the youngest judge of this court, and he was also the youngest member of the Twenty-seventh general assembly of Illinois. His ability therefore showed itself early in life and he has never ceased to sustain the reputation that he made for himself in those young days.
William C. Jones was born on the 15th of July, 1848, at Hutsonville, Crawford county, Illinois. He is the son of Caswell Jones, a well known merchant of that place, who died in 1853, when William was still a young boy. His mother, whose maiden name was Mary Barlow, after a time was married to the Honorable Ethelbert Callahan, and the family removed to Robinson, Illinois, in 1861. His education was obtained in the common schools of Crawford county, Illinois, the Ohio Wesleyan University, and the Law Department of the University of Michigan. He was admitted to the bar on the 9th of May, 1868, and in June of the same year he went into partnership with his step-father, the Honorable E. Callahan. This association continued for ten years, or until 1877, when he was elected county judge. During these first years of his active work as a lawyer he gained an invaluable experience in various branches of the law and had the inestimable benefit of the
wider experience and older head of his step-father. He had always taken a keen interest in politics and so in 1871, when he was elected a member of the general assembly, he was well qualified to fill the office. After his two years as county judge in 1879 he was elected to the bench of the Second judicial circuit of Illinois, for a term of six years. In 1885, when his first term expired, he was re-elected for another term of six years.
After the expiration of his term of service as judge he formed a law partnership with the Honorable E. E. Newlin, Judge J. C. Eagleton being admitted to the firm two years later. The fine training and practical experience that had been Judge Jones' had by this time been broadened and developed by his political work and by his judicial position, so that it is no wonder that the firm soon had all the cases they could handle. The Judge himself was extremely painstaking in the preparation of his cases, and it was next to impossible to detect him in an error or to catch him unprepared on an obscure point. This firm continued to do business until 1897, when Mr. Newlin was elected to a judgeship of the second judicial circuit, and the firm was reorganized under the name of Jones, Eagleton and Newlin. In 1900, Mr. T. J. Newlin retiring from the business, Mr. Edward S. Baker was admitted as a partner. This firm continued for a year, when it was again reorganized, as Jones, McCarty and Arnold, The new members of the firm were George D. McCarty and William W. Arnold. On the 15th of June, 1903, the senior member of the firm announced his withdrawal from active business, on account of failing eyesight, and since that time he has occupied himself solely with his private business affairs.
Judge Jones might have made a financier had he not turned lawyer, and he has always been interested in various financial institutions, notably in the First National Bank of Robinson, of which he was at one time vice-president. In 1897 he was appointed by Governor John R. Tanner judge of the court of claims, in which position he served for four years, his knowledge of business and of finance coming in very conveniently.
As a lawyer Judge Jones has a local or rather a statewide reputation, but as a writer of both prose and poetry his name has gone out through the whole country. Perhaps to no one as much as to the author is fame so gracious. We all know and revere the name of Washington Irving, but how many of us know even the names of the great lawyers who made up the supreme court of the United States of that time. On the other hand no one has less excuse for being than a poor author, but Judge Jones' books are full of meat and contain food for thought. His first publication was while he was county judge and was done in collaboration with Judge Cunningham. This book was “Practice in County Courts,” Flood and Company of Chicago being the publishers. This work has passed through three editions and is still regarded as a standard reference work on the subject. In 1893 his second volume appeared, and one more different from his first could not be imagined. Its title was “Elements and Science of English Versification,” and it immediately caught the public attention, and is still a popular book. This same year he published a small volume of poetry that appealed to many people in all parts of the country, for in “Birch Rod Days and Other Poems” there was a spirit of freshness and a sympathetic insight into the feelings possessed by humanity as a whole that could not fail to win the interest of the reader.
Judge Jones was married on the 25th of November, 1869, to Mary
H. Steel, a daughter of James H. and Emily J. Steel, and they have three children. The eldest of these, Caswell S. Jones, is vice-president and director of the First National Bank of Robinson, Illinois. The daughter, Dorothy J., is the wife of Stewart L. Crebs, who is the cashier and one of the directors of the National Bank of Carmi, Illinois. Both of these children would seem to have inherited their father's taste for finance and financiers, while the third, William C. Jones, inherited his business ability, and was the organizer of the Jones Clothing and Shoe Company, of Robinson, in 1903.
Judge Jones is a member of the Masonic order, Gorin Commandery, No. 14, Knights Templars of Olney, Illinois. He is also a member of the Robinson Lodge of Elks, No. 1188. In his religious affiliations he is a member of the Presbyterian church. Politically he upholds the standards of the Democratic party, and has always been much interested in local politics and in the civic life of his home town.
In addition to the literary work which has been mentioned above, Judge Jones was an associate editor of the “History of Crawford County,” which was published in 1909 by the Munsell Publishing Company. It will be seen that Judge Jones is not only a many sided man but a many sided writer. What a combination, lawyer, business man and author, poet, scientist and historian!