Koerner, Gustave P.

Born: 1809-11-20 Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Died: 1896-04-09 Belleville, Illinois

Koerner graduated with a law degree from the University of Heidelberg in 1832 and began to practice law. Wounded in a revolutionary conflict, Koerner fled to France and then, in 1833, to the United States, where he settled in St. Clair County, Illinois, among other German immigrants. He studied English and entered the law school at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, in 1834. The next year, Koerner gained admission to the bar in Illinois and began to practice in Belleville, where he formed a law partnership with James Shields. In 1836, Koerner married Sophie Engelmann, with whom he had eight children. Koerner was naturalized in 1838 and quickly entered into politics, becoming a member of the Democratic Party. Voters elected him to the Illinois House of Representatives in 1842 and, in 1845, Governor Thomas Ford appointed Koerner to the Illinois Supreme Court to fill the vacancy created by Shields's resignation. The General Assembly elected Koerner to the Supreme Court that same year. He resigned from the court in 1848, when the new state constitution reorganized the judiciary. Koerner won election as Joel Matteson's lieutenant governor in 1852 and held office for one term. Koerner joined the Republican Party in 1856. He was a personal and political friend of Abraham Lincoln and campaigned for Lincoln's election to the U.S. Senate and to the presidency. After Lincoln's election, Koerner assumed responsibility for some of Lincoln's law cases and, in 1862, Lincoln appointed Koerner minister to Spain. Koerner returned to America in 1864.

James M. Bergquist, "Koerner, Gustave Philipp," American National Biography (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 12:860-61; John M. Palmer, ed., The Bench and Bar of Illinois: Historical and Reminiscent (Chicago: Lewis, 1899), 1:47-50, 405. Illustration courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, IL.