Biography of Hon. William P. Lord

HON. WM. P. LORD. – Judge William P. Lord of the supreme court was born in the city of Dover in 1838. He was carefully trained for his education in the private schools of his native place until his twentieth year, when he matriculated in Fairfield College, New York. In less than three years he graduated from that college with the highest honors, being the valedictorian of his class. he at once began the study of the law in his native city; but, before he had time to complete the course of study necessary to his admission to the bar, the Civil war was upon us. The young student found that his devotion to the Union was stronger than his desire to early acquire that knowledge necessary to fit him for the discharge of those duties which his chosen profession would devolve upon him; and, acting on the impulse of his patriotism, he volunteered “to fight his country’s battles.”

Soon after his enlistment in a battalion of Delaware cavalry, which was in the spring of 1862, he was elected captain of the company to which he was assigned, which rank he held until the great campaigns of the Army of the Potomac, whither he was sent for duty, with the rank of major. he served with gallantry and distinction to the close of the war, actively participating in many of its most important battles.

Endowed by nature with a strong, vigorous, physical constitution, he came out of the service without any visible evidence of injury, save such as the tragic events of war are liable to leave impressed on the body of the soldier. During the period of his first enlistment he reported for duty at Baltimore as judge-advocate under command of General Lew Wallace, of literary fame. The ability and impartiality with which he discharged the duties of this high office made him the recipient of frequent expressions of favor at the hands of his superior officers.

At the close of the war he eagerly resumed the study of law at Albany Law College. In due time he graduated form that institution with the intention of beginning the practice of his profession; but, being offered by his old army comrades a permanent lieutenancy in the regular army, he accepted, and was assigned to the Pacific slope. He first reported for duty at Alcatraz, and subsequently at Steilacoom. It was form this latter point that he was sent to Alaska, being in the command that took formal possession of that immense territory for and in the name of the United States government, the purchase thereof from Russia, having been consummated but a short time previous.

When he had performed this duty, he carried into effect his early intention of resigning from the army and taking up the practice of law. In looking for a location, he met at Salem his old classmate and companion-in-arms, Colonel N.B. Knight. The latter gentleman being also a lawyer, the two formed a partnership for practice in the Capital city. The partnership lasted until Judge Lord’s accession to the bench, and was highly successful. It was in this field that Major Lord, as he is still familiarly called by his many friends in and around the place he is pleased to call home, won the respect and esteem of the men who discovered and asserted his qualifications and fitness for places of the highest honor and responsibility. His career as a practitioner was the supreme period of his life. His gentlemanly deportment on all occasions; the natural grace and dignity with which he appeared before court and jury; the deference with which he treated his adversaries; the patience and able consideration he gave to the cause and interests of his clients, – brought him reputation, and opened to him new fields of honor and usefulness.

In 1878 he was elected to the state senate from Marion county, as a Republican, to which political organization he has always adhered with faithfulness and consistency. He served one session as senator, and resigned on receiving the nomination of the Republican state convention for judges of the supreme court, to which office he was elected by the people in 1880. This was the first election of judges under what is known as “the act providing for the election of judges of the supreme court in distinct classes.” Under the act the judges then elected cast lots for the long, intermediate and the short terms, which were for six, four and two years, respectively. The short term fell to the subject of our sketch; and he thereby became chief justice. The same year he went to Baltimore and married Miss Juliette Montague, and returned with her to their home in Salem. They have three bright and promising children. In 1882 he was nominated by his party as his own successor without opposition, and received a clear majority of the votes cast, and took his seat as the junior member of the court for the term of six years. At the expiration of Judge Waldo’s term, he again became chief justice, and presided as such until his third election, which took place in June, 1888. At this, his last candidacy, he received the greatest number of votes ever cast for a candidate at a single election in Oregon.

Personally, Judge Lord sustains a deserved reputation for probity and candor. He is affable and polite to his friends and acquaintances, but never yields the character which nature and his early training gave him, for the sake of popular favor, or to gratify the wish or serve the personal interest of his dearest friend.

A man of such decided characteristics must have indeed incurred animosities and hostilities of a personal nature; but, while his personal critics are few; they do not asperse him with motives derogatory to his usefulness in the public or private walks of life.

As a judge, his writings are his best recommendation, and will serve to portray the character, and the legal and literary acumen of the man who, by his untiring efforts, has placed himself high in the estimation of his fellows, and associated his name with the permanent history of our young and growing commonwealth. As a law writer, Judge Lord is seldom equaled. He is terse and pointed in his diction, always stating the substance of the facts before him, to serve as a thesis for his argument. The reader thus comprehends at a glance the appreciation of each and every sentence used by him bearing on the subject under discussion. The grammatical construction of his sentences, and the orthographical arrangement of his words, prove his scholarly attainments.

The value of his opinions to the profession of which he is a pillar and an ornament is known from the fact that his accession to the bench of this state marked a new era in its jurisprudence, and also in the repute in which the decisions of our courts are held in the older states of the union. His logical analysis of the subjects, and clear application of the principles of the law to the cases he has decided, make his opinions very frequently selected form among those of the leading judges of the country, by competent critics who have made those selections for publication, as the select and leading cases in our American jurisprudence.

The incumbency of his present term will expire July, 1894.



History of the Pacific Northwest Oregon and Washington. 2 v. Portland, Oregon: North Pacific History Company. 1889.

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