John Milton Williams (1807-1871)
Excerpt taken from:
The History of Warren County Ohio
Part III. The History of Warren County by Josiah Morrow
Chapter VIII. The Distinguished Dead
This distinguished member of the bar was born at Lebanon December 17, 1807. His father, Enos Williams, was an early teacher of Warren County, and held several important civil offices, and among others, that of County Recorder for a period of fourteen years. John Milton received a good English education. In his boyhood, he assisted his father in the Recorder's office, and also wrote in the office of the Clerk of Court. His handwriting was legible, bold and rapid, and the training he received as a copyist at the court house was of benefit to him in his future profession. He studied law with Judge George J. Smith, and, before he had reached the age of twenty-four years, on the 7th of June, 1831, was admitted to the bar at a term of the Supreme Court held at Lebanon, with Judges Peter Hitchcock and Charles R. Sherman on the bench. Gen. Robert C. Schenck, who had completed his legal studies under Thomas Corwin, was admitted at the same time and place.
Young Williams was poor, and was compelled to rely wholly on his own exertions. In after years, he wrote: "When I went out into the wide, wide world in business, on my own hook, I had two dilapidated shirts and a poor suit of clothes to match them. I opened my office in a cellar, with three musty old Ohio statutes, given me by my old father, which he had held as a public officer. This was my entire stock in trade." He soon acquired distinction at the bar. Not long after he began practice, he became Prosecuting Attorney —a position he held for twelve consecutive years. He was candid with his clients, and never misrepresented a case in consultation to encourage litigation. He charged lower fees for his services than other lawyers of the same rank. His popularity and personal influence with the masses were very great. For several years, he had a larger number of cases on the dockets of the courts than any other lawyer of the county, and was the attorney on one side of almost every important case. He could readily sway the minds of jurymen, and in the examination of witnesses he exhibited consummate skill. In 1850, he was elected a member of the convention which framed the second constitution of Ohio, and in 1857 he was elected Representative in the General Assembly of Ohio as an independent candidate over the regular Republican nominee. He was Major of the militia, and was uniformly known as Maj. Williams. In politics, he was a Whig, and afterward a Republican.
The last years of the life of Maj. Williams are a sad history, over the details of which it is best that the mantle of oblivion should be drawn. Habits of intemperance separated him from his wife and family, and brought him to misery and want before he was yet old. He saw the extremes of life. He rose from poverty and obscurity to wealth and distinction; he sank again to obscurity and poverty. When possessed of considerable means, accumulated by his own energy and ability, he erected for his residence one of the finest mansions which had, up to that time, been constructed in the county; he died without a home. When the legal proceedings were commenced which took from him the ownership and control of his property, he wrote and read in the court in which he had practiced with eminent success: "God help me! I am a miserable and ruined man! Let the curtains of oblivion rest over the whole affair until that great day when all things shall be brought into judgment." He died July 21, 1871, aged sixty-four years, and was buried in the Lebanon Cemetery.
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