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Thornton, Anthony

Born: 1814-11-09 Bourbon County, Kentucky

Died: 1904-09-10 Shelbyville, Illinois

Flourished: Shelbyville, Illinois

Anthony Thornton was an attorney, militia officer, state legislator, and U.S. representative. Born near Paris, Kentucky, Thornton received his early education at local common schools. He attended high school in Gallatin, Tennessee, and thereafter enrolled in Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. Thornton completed his collegiate studies at Miami University, graduating in 1834. He read law in Paris and earned admission to the Kentucky bar. In 1836, Thornton left Kentucky for the west, intending to settle in Missouri. Arriving in Shelbyville, Illinois, he received admission to the Illinois bar, and began practicing law. In addition to his law practice, Thornton served as a major in the Illinois State Militia. In 1847, he represented Shelby and Moultrie counties at the Illinois Constitutional Convention. In August 1850, Thornton won election, as a Whig, to the Illinois House of Representatives, representing Shelby County in that body until 1852. In September 1851, Thornton married Mildred Thornton, with whom he would have two children. When the Whig Party disbanded, Thornton gravitated to the Democratic Party, and in June 1856, he made his first speech for the Democrats, answering Abraham Lincoln at a Democratic rally in Shelbyville . In September 1856, Mildred Thornton died, leaving Anthony a widower with two children. In the presidential election of 1856, Thornton cast his ballot for James Buchanan. In 1860, he was practicing law in Shelbyville and owned real property valued at $8,000 and had a personal estate of $1,400. In 1862, he served as a delegate to the state constitutional convention, and in 1864, he won election, as a Democrat, to the U.S. House of Representatives, serving in that body from March 1865 to March 1867. After his term in Congress, Thornton served as an associate justice on the Illinois Supreme Court and as the first president of the Illinois State Bar Association.

Portrait and Biographical Record of Shelby and Moultrie Counties, Illinois (Chicago: Biographical, 1891) 240-42; Biographical Directory of the American Congress 1774-1996 (Alexandria, VA: CQ Staff Directories, 1997), 1945-46; Newton Bateman and Paul Selby, eds., Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Shelby County, ed. by George D. Chaffee (Chicago: Munsell, 1910), 2:729-30; Arthur Charles Cole, ed., The Constitutional Debates of 1847, vol. 14 of Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library, Constitutional Series (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1919), 2:979; John Clayton, Illinois Fact Book and Historical Almanac 1673-1968 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1970), 218; Illinois Statewide Marriage Index, Shelby County, 9 September 1851, Illinois State Archives, Springfield, IL; Illinois State Register (Springfield), 11 September 1904, 1:5; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census of the United States (1860), Shelbyville, Shelby County, IL, 173; Gravestone, Glenwood Cemetery, Shelbyville, IL. Illustration courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, IL.