Biography of Albert H. Tanner

ALBERT H. TANNER. – Albert H. Tanner was born in what was at one time a part of the Oregon Territory; but, when Congress cut the territory in two and made Oregon and Washington Territories, it left him in Washington Territory, with the mighty Columbia between him and his now much-loved Oregon. His birthplace was on what is commonly known as Cape Horn Mountain, some fifty or sixty miles below the Cascades. In a little log cabin, the favorite habitat of the early settler of this Western country, on the 9th of September, 1855, the subject of this sketch first saw the light. His father was Benjamin F. Tanner, a native of Kentucky; and his mother was Sarah Turner, a native of Missouri.

When Albert was about eight years of age, they separated and were divorced; and he went with his father to Sheridan, Yamhill county, where he moved about from place to place a homeless lad, until he became of sufficient age to be of assistance to his father, who was a carpenter by trade, when we went to work with him with a boyish purpose of following the trade of his sire. He continued in this employment, working in the summer and attending the district school during the winter months, until he had attained the age of sixteen years. He was industrious at his work, and a faithful and diligent student in school. About this time Professor T.F. Campbell, the President of Christian College, at Monmouth, Oregon, visited Sheridan in the interest of the college, delivering lectures on the subject of education. Young Tanner attended those lectures, and was inspired with an enthusiastic desire for an education, and to rise above the obscure station which he seemed at the time destined to fill. He set about at once to get together what money he had earned; and, borrowing some form friends, he started for Monmouth, and was matriculated as a student of that institution, then considered the best in the state. He attended this college for three years, graduating in 1874, sharing the first honors of the class with Mr. T. Jay Graves, of McCoy, Polk county, Oregon.

In the fall of 1875 Mr. Tanner came to Portland, Oregon, with the avowed intention of studying law and becoming a lawyer, and entered the law office of the then well-known firm of Messrs. Dolph, Bronough, Dolph & Simon, as a law student, where he devoted himself with great diligence to the study of the law and general literature. He suspended his reading during a part of 1876 and taught a term of school. He returned to the reading of law, and was admitted tot he bar in 1878. He immediately entered upon the practice of his profession in Portland, and has been in active practice ever since, growing in strength and experience, and in the estimation of the public, as the years go by.

He soon began to look into politics with an interest natural to a rising young lawyer. In the presidential campaign of 1880 he was an enthusiastic advocate of the election of Garfield and Arthur, making speeches in various parts of the state. he also assisted in making a canvass of the state in the last presidential campaign.

In 1882 he was nominated by the Republicans of Multnomah county as a candidate for the legislature, and was elected by a large majority. At the session of the legislature, he was appointed chairman of the judiciary committee of the house, which position he filled with success, and otherwise proved himself an active and useful member of the house.

In 1884 he was the Republican nominee for district attorney of the fourth judicial district, having as a competitor for the office John M. Gearin, the Democratic nominee. They both made a thorough canvass of the district; and, though the best of feeling prevailed between them and between their mutual friends, the race was hotly contested. There was a fusion ticket, the beginning of a labor agitation that two years later swept the state over to the Democracy.

The Democratic candidate, by working this for all there was in it, and with a solid Democracy pulling for him, was enabled to overcome the Republican majority, defeating Mr. Tanner by a hundred and ninety-four votes. It was openly charged at the time that the Republican candidate had been counted out, and that the machinery of the party had been used against him. It is believed, however, that Mr. Tanner never joined in those assertions, but took his defeat manfully and without complaint.

In January, 1885, he was appointed city attorney of the city of Portland, and served in that capacity until July, 1887. He attracted wide attention in that office by his successful management of important city cases, some of which involved many thousand dollars to the city in money or property, and retired with the best wishes of the entire community. He is at present associated with Senator John H. Mitchell in the law business.

As a lawyer, Mr. Tanner ranks among the ablest at the Portland bar. He has assisted in the trial of many important cases, and has fine tact in handling witnesses and getting in evidence. He prepares his cases with care and research, having the law and the evidence thoroughly in hand, and can, when interested and aroused in a case, make a stirring and powerful speech to the jury.

In 1880 Mr. Tanner was marred to Miss Marcella Kelly, daughter of Hon. John Kelley, ex-Collector of Customs of Portland, Oregon; and they have three bright children. Their domestic life is of the happiest kind. Mr. and Mrs. Tanner ware devoted to each other and to their children.

There is no better example of a self-made man than the subject of this sketch. Born of poor parents, in the obscure wilds of the West, left by domestic trouble at a tender age without a home, knocked about from “pillar to post” in his younger years, he struggled on through adverse circumstances, by his own efforts acquired an education, and has a place in the legal profession that even older men might well feel proud of. He is still comparatively a young man, not having yet reached his thirty-fifth year. As the old pioneers fall from the ranks, leaving places for the new generation, Albert H. Tanner is bound to take a high place in the public estimation, and in useful public service.



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

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