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Purple, Norman H.

Born: 1806-03-29 Litchfield County, Connecticut

Died: 1863-08-09 Chicago, Illinois

Flourished: Peoria, Illinois

Purple moved to New York and then to Pennsylvania, where he studied law in Wayne and Tioga counties. Admitted to the bar in 1830, he married Ann Eliza Kilburn in 1831. Purple moved to Peoria, Illinois, in 1836, and continued to practice law. From 1840 to 1842, Purple served as state’s attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court of Illinois, consisting then of Peoria, Kendall, Kane, DeKalb, Ogle, Bureau, Stark, Marshall, Putnam, and LaSalle counties. In 1844, he was a presidential elector on the Democratic ticket. The following year, Governor Thomas Ford appointed Purple as a justice of the Illinois Supreme Court. During his tenure on the Supreme Court, Purple was a justice in fifty-four cases in which Abraham Lincoln was an attorney. While on the Illinois Supreme Court, he presided over the Fifth Judicial Circuit in the western part of the state and lived in Quincy. After the adoption of the 1848 state constitution, he resigned from the bench and returned to Peoria to practice law. Purple published several works on the law including A Compilation of all the General Laws Concerning Real Estate in 1849 and A Compilation of the Statutes of the State of Illinois in 1856. The latter became known as the “Purple Statutes.”

Gravestone, Springdale Cemetery and Mausoleum, Peoria, IL; Newton Bateman and Paul Selby, eds., Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Peoria County, ed. by David McCulloch (Chicago and Peoria: Munsell, 1902), 2:538-39; John M. Palmer, ed., The Bench and Bar of Illinois: Historical and Reminiscent (Chicago: Lewis, 1899), 1:45-46; Peoria Weekly Transcript (IL), 13 August 1863, 2:1; Norman Purple, A Compilation of all the General Laws Concerning Real Estate, and the Title Thereto, in the State of Illinois (Quincy, IL: N. H. Purple, 1849); Norman Purple, A Compilation of the Statutes of the State of Illinois (Chicago: Keen and Lee, 1856); The United States Biographical Dictionary and Portrait Gallery of Eminent and Self-Made Men: Illinois Volume (Chicago: American Biographical, 1876), 674-75. For material on Abraham Lincoln's cases before Justice Purple, search "Purple, Norman H.," Martha L. Benner and Cullom Davis et al., eds., The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition, 2d edition (Springfield: Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, 2009), http://www.lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org/Search.aspx. Illustration courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, IL.