Thomas, William

Born: 1802-11-22 Allen County, Kentucky

Died: 1889-08-22 Jacksonville, Illinois

Flourished: Jacksonville, Illinois

Thomas received a basic education in the frontier schools of Kentucky and at 18, his father appointed him as his Deputy Sheriff. Soon after, Thomas served as the Deputy Clerk of the Allen County Court and later the Warren County Court. He studied law and was admitted to the Kentucky bar in 1823. In 1826, he moved to Illinois and settled in Jacksonville, where he continued to practice law. He volunteered for service in both the Winnebago War in 1827 and the Black Hawk War in 1831-32. In 1829, Governor Ninian Edwards appointed Thomas as the state’s attorney for Morgan County, and in 1831, he served as that county’s school commissioner. Voters elected Thomas to the state Senate in 1834. He resigned in 1839, when Governor Thomas Carlin appointed him as judge of the First Judicial Circuit. Thomas served on the bench until 1841. Voters again elected Thomas to the state legislature, where he served from 1846 to 1848, and again from 1850 to 1852. In 1861, the Illinois Governor and Senate appointed Thomas to the Board of Army Auditors, which required him to procure funds from Washington, DC, to equip the Illinois soldiers. Between Thomas's time on the bench from 1839 to 1841 and his long career as an attorney in Jacksonville, he and Abraham Lincoln encountered one another frequently in the courtroom.

Charles M. Eames, Historic Morgan and Classic Jacksonville (Jacksonville, IL: Daily Journal Steam Job Printing, 1885), 323-26; John Palmer, ed., The Bench and Bar of Illinois: Historical and Reminiscent (Chicago: Lewis, 1899), 1:337; 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.