Billings, Henry W.

Born: 1814-07-11 Conway, Massachusetts

Died: 1869-04-19 Alton, Illinois


Henry W. Billings entered Amherst College at the age of sixteen, graduating at twenty. He studied law with Judge Horace Foote of Cleveland, Ohio, earning admittance to the Cleveland bar two years after commencing his studies. After two years practicing law in Cleveland, Billings moved to St. Louis, Missouri, and then to Cairo, Illinois, where he practiced for five years. In 1843, he married Elizabeth S. Olney, with whom he had five children. In 1845, the Alexander County Commissioners Court appointed Billings to referee a dispute with Pulaski County. The Alexander County Commissioners Court retained Billings to represent the county in a subsequent suit against its neighbor to the east. In 1845, Billings and his family moved to Memphis, Tennessee and then to St. Louis before settling in Alton, Illinois. In 1851, Alton voters elected Billings mayor. In 1859, voters elected him as the first judge of the Alton City Court. Billings served in this capacity for six years, returning to private practice after his term ended. Originally a Whig, Billings eventually joined the Democratic Party, supporting Stephen A. Douglas against Abraham Lincoln in the 1858 senatorial campaign. Billings was a Presbyterian.

William Henry Perrin, ed., History of Alexander, Union and Pulaski Counties, Illinois (Chicago: O. L. Baskin, 1883), 464, 516; The United States Biographical Directory and Portrait Gallery of Eminent and Self-Made Men: Illinois Volume (Chicago: American Biographical, 1876), 432-33; Allen C. Guelzo, Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates that Defined America (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008), 255.