Biography of Hon. John B. Simmons

Hon. John B. Simmons, whose writings were valuable contributions to legal literature and whose career as a member of the bar has reflected credit and honor upon the profession, has engaged in practice in Racine since 1898, being now senior partner in the firm of Simmons & Walker. He was born in McHenry County, Illinois, October 26, 1S51, a son of James and Catherine (McCotter) Simmons, both of whom were natives of Vermont. Upon removing to the middle west in 1842 James Simmons resided for a time at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, but afterward took up his abode in McHenry County. Illinois, where he lived for a few years. He then returned to Lake Geneva, where he remained until his death, continuing an active and prominent member of the bar at that place. His father, John Simmons, was also a lawyer, practicing in Middlebury, Vermont, and was of English descent. The family was established in Connecticut in early colonial days and representatives of the name have since been residents of New England. John Simmons, the grandfather, was a member of the first class that was graduated from Brown University at Providence, Rhode Island, and subsequently he removed to Vermont. Both the Simmons and McCotter families were represented in the American army in the war for independence.

Although born in Illinois, John B. Simmons was largely reared in Wisconsin and obtained his public school education at Elkhorn. Following his graduation from the high school at that place he took up the study of law in the office of his father at Lake Geneva and was admitted to practice before the circuit court at Elkhorn in 1873. He was then associated with his father in the active work of the profession until 1896, when he formed a partnership with Franklin J. Tyrrel, of Lake Geneva, that association being maintained until 1898, when Mr. Simmons removed to Racine. Here he entered into partnership with H. A. Cooper and Peter B. Nelson under the firm style of Cooper, Simmons & Nelson, and when Mr. Cooper retired the firm continued as Simmons & Nelson until the junior partner was succeeded by M. E. Walker in 1907. They are legal representatives of several manufacturing and financial corporations. For eighteen years Mr. Simmons has occupied a conspicuous and enviable position at the Racine bar. He continues in the general practice of law, in which field he has now been active for forty-three years. Not only has he won success in the work of the courts but has also gained distinction through his contributions to legal literature. He is the author of a work of three volumes, Simmons’ Wisconsin Digest, which is accepted as authority throughout the state. This work in its general plan followed the lines of a previous work issued by his father, who was long known to the profession as the author of the first Wisconsin Digest that proved of practical value. John B. Simmons exercised all the care and judgment of his legal mind in the preparation of the three volumes, which are now regarded as probably the most indispensable standard reference books on state decisions to be found in Wisconsin.

In 1876 was celebrated the marriage of Mr. Simmons and Miss Sarah B. Sturges, a daughter of George W. Sturges, a valued resident of Lake Geneva. Two children have been born of this marriage: John E., a naval architect now residing in Chicago, who was the designer and builder of Disturber IV for James A. Pugh, of Chicago. this proving to be the fastest boat in its class in the world; and Katharine, who is a graduate of the Racine high school and of the University of Chicago and is now the wife of Ralph W. Bailey, of Waupaca, Wisconsin. The son is a graduate of Beloit College and of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at Boston. The wife and mother passed away in 1914.

Mr. Simmons resides at No. 1013 Lake Avenue, where he has an attractive home. He attends the Presbyterian Church and gives his political allegiance to the Republican Party. While in Lake Geneva he filled the office of mayor and he ever maintains a progressive attitude in public affairs, supporting all plans and measures which promise to be of value in upholding civic standards. He is a member of the Public Library board and a trustee of “Sunny Rest,” a tuberculosis sanatorium, is generous in his support of philanthropic and benevolent projects and his influence along many lines has been a potent force for good.



Racine County Wisconsin History: Racine Belle City of the lakes and Racine County Wisconsin a record of settlement organization progress and achievement. SJ Clarke Pub Co. Chicago. 1916. 1216 pgs.

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