Biography of Hon. Winfield Scott Pope

For many years Winfield Scott Pope was rated as one of the most highly respected residents and most prominent attorneys of Jefferson City. As lawyer and lawmaker he left the impress of his individuality upon the history of city and state when he was called to his final rest at the age of seventy-four years. He always held to the highest standards and ethics of the profession, his success being attributable at all times to his marked capability and merit. The story of his professional rise and progress is an interesting one. He was born in Davidson county, North Carolina, July 20, 1847, his birthplace being a farm near Thomasville. His parents, Thomas and Mary Ann (Hale) Pope, were also natives of the Old North state, where their ancestors had lived for several generations. His grandfather in the paternal line was a noted Baptist preacher of North Carolina, while his great-grandfather Pope was a native of England and on coming to America landed at Nantucket, Rhode Island, but gradually made his way southward into Virginia. W infield S. Pope of this review was a descendant of George Whitefield Pope, who was a famous Baptist preacher at the time of the Revolutionary war, and of James Pope, a cousin of Alexander Pope. George Whitefield Pope was a very outspoken man who before the colonies entered upon armed conflict with England was condemned to be shot for treason because of his utterances against the British government. He strongly advocated American independence and it was because of this that he was condemned. However, he escaped and thus managed to save his life. The Hale and the Hunt families, from whom Mr. Pope was descended in the maternal line, came of Quaker ancestry. The great-grandfather of Mrs. Mary Ann (Hale) Pope was the noted Nathan Hunt, the Quaker preacher who was famed in this country and in England as one of the eminent divines of his faith. He established or founded the first industrial school in the United States, located at New Garden, Guilford county, North Carolina. This step was made possible by Joseph Gurney, a wealthy banker of London, England, and a great friend of Mr. Hunt, to whom Gurney gave five thousand pounds with which to start the school-a large amount in those days. Hon. Joseph G. Cannon, congressman from Illinois and dean of the house of representatives at Washington, was named in honor of Gurney, Mr. Cannon’s father having been physician of that pioneer industrial school. The names of both Hunt and Gurney were held in great esteem among the Quakers and for a long time one of these names was used in all Quaker families of good standing in naming their children. W. S. Pope was descended from two most distinguished ministers of pioneer times Nathan Hunt, Quaker, and George Whitefield Pope, Baptist.

Thomas Pope, father of W. S. Pope, was a farmer who took an active part in all public matters and for many years was magistrate of his county. As such he was the officer in command of all town and county matters and head of the court.

In his youthful days W. S. Pope attended the Davidson Academy and afterward became a student in the Hillsboro Military Academy at Hillsboro, North Carolina, situated thirty-nine miles west of Raleigh, where he was a cadet during the Civil war period. When hostilities were over he started for Missouri and was in sight of Sherman’s army. He traveled by rail to Rolla, Missouri, and afterward across the country to Marshfield, Webster county, where many former residents of North Carolina were located. It was this that induced him to take up his abode in that part of the state. He was then but nineteen years of age. He taught school there for the first six months of his residence in Missouri and while teaching he devoted his leisure hours to the study of law, just as he did throughout his entire life, thus keeping in close touch with legal principles and the development of the legal science. In February, 1867, he was admitted to the bar by the circuit court at Marshfield when but nineteen years of age. He entered upon the general practice of law at Hartville, Wright county, Missouri, and was elected to the legislature from that county in 1872, so that in early manhood he took helpful part not only in interpreting but also in framing the laws of the state. Following the expiration of his term of office in 1875 he removed to Jefferson City, where he entered upon the general practice of law. Here again the recognition of his ability secured for him election to the general assembly, in which he served for two terms-in 1897 and again in 1899-as member from Cole county. He was likewise a member of the commission that made the revision of the Missouri statutes in 1899. He always continued in general practice but following the trend of the times specialized to some extent. Following the Civil war he gave his attention in considerable measure to the matter of collecting on defaulted bonds and debts of war. He always practiced in both the state and federal courts and his ability was widely acknowledged, for he proved himself capable of handling many intricate and involved legal problems. He built up a large practice not only in Cole but in every county in his judicial circuit. He was active in pioneer times when lawyers went from county to county on horseback and under most trying conditions. His extensive practice brought to him a most gratifying measure of success and gained him a wide acquaintance that made him one of the well known men of Missouri. When he passed away Congressman D. W. Shackleford, in the midst of his remarks at the funeral of Winfield Scott Pope, said in part as follows: “No lawyer ever more keenly appreciated than did Mr. Pope that his profession is one of the members of the body politic, whose primary function is the promotion and protection of the public weal. True, he prospered at his profession. That was but an incident. The ox that treadeth out the corn is not to be muzzled, yet the primary and supreme duty of the ox is to tread out the corn. Few men have ever been more active and energetic in the practice of the profession than was Mr. Pope, and be it said to his memory that none ever more conscientiously observed its obligations and its ethics. He came to the bar a few years before the adoption of the constitution of 1875 and was active in the practice during the formative period following its adoption. He devoted his ability, his learning and his untiring energies in concert with other talented lawyers of the state in the development of that splendid system of jurisprudence which is the pride of our people. On several occasions I have heard him say that only at work in the performance of duty can happiness be found and that he hoped Providence would permit him to die with his harness on. This was granted to him. After a long, busy, useful life during which he never shirked a duty and never complained at the weight of any task his spirit has gone back to the God who sent it.”

Mr. Pope was married twice. On Christmas day of 1869, in North Carolina, his first marriage was celebrated. but his wife lived for only a few months. His second marriage occurred in Jefferson City, June 19, 1873, when Lucy Miller became his wife. Her people were pioneer settlers of Missouri, the families moving from Kentucky to this state at an early date. Her father was Hon. George W. Miller, who was judge of the circuit court of Cole county for a quarter of a century prior to his death. Mrs. Pope passed away February 27, 1910. By her marriage she had become the mother of three daughters. Mary Louise, the wife of Horace B. Church, Jr., of Jefferson City, and the mother of two children, Elizabeth Kennedy and Mary Louise; Lucy Winfield, the wife of A. L. Hawkins, who is with the Graham Paper Company of St. Louis and has one child, Scott Pope Hawkins; and Miller Chappell, who married F. M. Cockrell, a son of United States Senator Cockrell. Her death occurred in October, 1919.

It has been said that fortunate is the man who has back o1 him an ancestry honorable and distinguished and happy is he if his lines of life are cast in harmony therewith. In person, in talents and in character W. S. Pope was a worthy scion of his race and made for himself a distinguished position among the men of eminence and of learning in Missouri by reason of his legislative service and the prominence which he gained as a representative of the Jefferson City bar. All recognized his pronounced ability and for many years he occupied a foremost position in the ranks of the legal profession in Missouri. To know him was to esteem and honor him, for in every relation of life he measured up to the highest standards of manhood and citizenship.


Stevens, Walter B. Centennial History of Missouri (The Center State) One Hundred Years In The Union 1820-1921 Vol 6. St. Louis-Chicago: The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company. 1921.

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