Biography of Marion Francis Mulkey

Marion Francis Mulkey was born in Johnson county, Missouri, November 14, 1836, and was a son of Johnson Mulkey. At the age of ten years he accompanied his parents across the plains to Oregon. The family settled on a donation claim in Benton county and here amid the scenes of the frontier the boyhood of our subject was passed. From his parents was instilled in him a desire for an education and after a brief experience in the log school house, under the tuition of such men as Senator J. H. Slater and Hon. Philip Ritz, he pursued higher studies at Forest Grove, under the guidance of the late Doctor S. H. Marsh. This assistance he supplemented by labors of his own, teaching school during vacations. It was while at school that the Indian war of 1856 broke out; and although then but a boy of eighteen he joined one of the military companies and remained in service until the Indians were subdued and peace was secured. In 1858, he entered Yale College, having as a companion J. W. Johnson, now president of the University of Oregon. Graduating in 1862, he returned to Portland and commenced the study of law with Judge E. D. Shattuck. While pursuing his legal studies, in 1863, he acted as assistant provost marshal and aided in making the enrollment of that year.

In 1864, he was admitted to the bar, and for some years thereafter was associated as partner with W. Lair Hill, under the firm name of Hill & Mulkey. For his profession he was well equipped, both by thorough preliminary study and a naturally logical and accurate mind, and he at once took rank among the old and leading attorneys of the city. So soon did he acquire a reputation in his profession that in 1866 he was elected as prosecuting attorney of the Fourth Judicial District, while confidence in his fitness for public duties was early manifested by his election in 1867 to represent the third ward in the city council. In ‘1872, he was elected city attorney for Portland and was re-elected in 1873. Upon retirement from the latter office he became associated with Hon. J. F. Caples in the practice of the law, filling the position of deputy during the three successive terms of his partner’s service as attorney for the district.

As a lawyer Mr. Mulkey’s reputation steadily advanced, and but a short time elapsed after he began practice until he occupied a place among the ablest men of his profession in the State. Not only was he well versed in the law and possessed a mind broad and quick in its grasp of difficult legal problems, but as a speaker his talents were of a high order compelling the attention of the jury by his earnestness, perspecuity and graceful diction. A legal friend of many years has left the following tribute to his memory which in a measure reveals the esteem in which he was held by his professional brethren of the bar: “He was a man of tireless energy and perseverance, resolutely and patiently working until his object was attained. He had consistency of purpose, prudence and common sense to balance and guide the energy that impelled him. There was no frittering away of his powers upon alien pleasures or pursuits. In court he was a troublesome antagonist, and one to be feared; for if there was a weak point in the case or a flaw in the logic he would mercilessly expose it. I cannot recollect any act of discourtesy on his part, or any word spoken, even in the heat of conflict that left aught of bitterness behind.”

Coming to Portland before it had outgrown the proportions of a good sized hamlet he had the business sagacity to foresee that its geographical position and natural advantages would ultimately cause it to become a great and populous commercial centre. His faith in the place induced him at an early day to make acquisitions of property in and about the city, which he subsequently improved with substantial edifices. These improvements added not a little to the development of the city and have since largely increased in value. They show the practical side of Mr. Mulkey’s nature and the soundness of his business judgment.

The death of Mr. Mulkey occurred February 25, 1889, at a time when he was in the full meridian of his powers and usefulness and at the height of his successes both in his professional and business career. Throughout the State and the Pacific Northwest, where he was well and so favorably known, his death was indeed lamented.

His life had been marked by unswerving rectitude in every position he had ever filled in public and private and the public press and the bar of which he had so long been an honored member, expressed in feeling terms the loss of this high minded, public spirited citizen.

He was married in 1862 to Miss Mary E. Porter, of New Haven, Connecticut, who still resides in Portland. They had two sons, Frank, the elder, is an alumnus of the State University and has finished the first year at the law school connected with the University; while the younger, Fred, is being prepared to enter college.


Biography, History,

Harvey Whitefield Scott. History of Portland, Oregon: with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Prominent Citizens and Pioneers. Portland, Oregon. D. Mason & Company, 1890.

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