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Hon. John F. Dillon

DILLON, PRICE

Posted By: Annette Lucas (email)
Date: 7/14/2021 at 13:52:44

SOURCE: Biographical History and Portrait Gallery of Scott County, Iowa. American Biographical Publishing Company, H. C. Cooper, Jr., & Co. Proprietors. 1895

HON. JOHN F. DILLON, one of the most distinguished members of the American Bar, widely known as the attorney of the Jay Gould estate and general counsel of the Union Pacific Railroad Company, was for many years a member of the Davenport Bar. He was born in Washington County, New York, on the twenty - fifth of December, 1831. His father was Thomas Dillon. His paternal and maternal grandfathers were each born in Ireland , and emigrated to this country at an early age and settled in the State of New York, whence his father immigrated to Iowa.

In 1838, when he was little over seven years old , his parents removed from Herkimer County, New York, to Davenport, in the then Territory of Iowa, in which city he has resided constantly ever since . He commenced the study of medicine at seventeen years of age, under the direction of Egbert S. Barrows, M. D., then the leading physician of Davenport. He attended two courses of medical lectures at the Keokuk Medical College, and graduated at the age of twenty- one years. He entered upon the practice of his profession, but finding, after a trial of a few months, that it did not accord with his tastes, he commenced reading law in the office where his sign as a physician was displayed . He was licensed as an attorney in Scott County, Iowa, in 1852, and at once commenced the practice of his profession, being soon afterward elected prosecuting attorney of the County.

In 1858, when twenty-seven years of age, he was elected by a majority greatly exceeding the majority of his party as the Republican candidate for Judge of the Seventh Judicial District of Iowa, a district then composed of the four populous Counties of Scott, Muscatine, Jackson and Clinton . The first work he did after his election was the giving of a close, critical study to all the then reported decisions of the Supreme Court of the State. This resulted in the preparation of his first legal work, " A Digest of the Decisions of the Supreme Court of Iowa. In 1862 he was reelected without any opposition, the bar of the district, without distinction of party, uniting in a request to him to continue in the office . During the year following his second election he was nominated by the Republican party of his State for one of the judges of the Supreme Court, and was elected for a term of six years, taking his seat on the first of January, 1863. In 1869 he was unanimously renominated and reelected for another term of six years without any considerable opposition , but before he qualified under his second election, and while still holding the office of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, he was nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate as Circuit Judge of the United States for the Eighth Judicial Circuit, embracing the States of Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas, and later, also, the State of Colorado.

During the time he was on the Supreme bench of the State he commenced collecting data for a work on Municipal Corporations, and having become bound to the publishers to prepare the treatise, he was compelled to write it out after his accession to the Federal bench. The work had an extraordinary sale. The first edition of twenty - five hundred copies, published in the year 1872, was exhausted in a few months, and the second edition, expanded into two volumes, was soon gone. The royalty to Judge Dillon on the published editions amounted to several thousand dollars.

In 1872, seeing the necessity for the publication of a first - class law journal in the Valley of the Mississippi, he was instrumental in setting on foot the publication of the " Central Law Journal, himself sketching out the plan and for a time contributing much of the material. Having given it a fair start, and being unable longer to give it supervision , he committed the management of it to Seymour D. Thompson, Esq. , of St. Louis.

While holding thirteen terms of court every year in seven judicial districts and six States, he edited and published several volumes of Circuit Court Reports, mostly his own opinions.

Judge Dillon's opinions while on the Supreme bench of the State may be found in the twelve volumes of " Iowa Reports, " from the fifteenth to the twenty-eighth volumes. During this period the judges adopted and rigidly maintained the habit of consulting thoroughly upon every case before the opinion was written. These consultations extended to an agreement upon the facts of the case, upon the judgment to be rendered, and upon the grounds on which the judgment should be placed . This system of voluntarily enforced discipline could not fail to be productive of important results, and the decisions of the Supreme Court of Iowa naturally acquired a high standing throughout the Union and carried with them at home the additional weight which attaches to the understanding that an opinion of the Court was not merely the opinion of a single judge.

After serving with distinction several years on the United States Circuit Bench, Judge Dillon resigned to accept the position of general counsel of the Union Pacific Railroad Company, and removed to New York City. Becoming intimately associated with the late Jay Gould, he has, since the death of that noted financier, sustained the relation of attorney to Gould's successors in the management of his vast estate.

Judge Dillon's wife, to whom he was married in 1853, was a daughter of Hon. Hiram Price, for many years a Representative in Congress from the Second Iowa District.


 

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