BYRON PAINE


From History of Dane County, Wisconsin, publ. by Western Historical Company, Chicago, 1880, page 543-544

BYRON PAINE was born at Painesville, Ohio, October 10, 1827. His first attended the common schools in his native village, becoming afterward a pupil of the Painesville Academy, where he graduated with distinction. He then read law with his father, James H. PAINE, who, in November 1847, settled in Milwaukee. About this period, the son commenced the study of German, pursuing it until he could read the language fluently and speak it readily. He was admitted to the Milwaukee bar in 1849; and on the 20th of June, 1854, to the bar of the Supreme Court of the State. He was industrious in his profession, and soon became an able and powerful advocate.

In 1853, he acted as Madison reporter of the Milwaukee Free Democrat. On the 19th of May, 1584, he made an argument before the Supreme Court of the State in the celebrated Booth case, involving the appellate jurisdiction from State to United States courts, and the constitutionality of the fugitive slave law. His effort was directed against the validity of the enactment. This placed him at once in the front rank of the leading lawyers of Wisconsin and gave him a widespread reputation. He received congratulations from eminent men in various parts of the country. It was, indeed, the foundation of his legal reputation. It was regarded not only as one of the ablest efforts of his life, but one of the best arguments ever made on that side of the question. On the 7th of October, 1854, he married Miss Clarissa R. WYMAN, of his native place. He addressed the young men of Waukesha College at the commencement, 1855, of that institution; and, in the fall following, canvassed a part of the State, speaking on the Republican side during that contest. In January 1856, he was elected Chief Clerk of the Wisconsin Senate. On the 10th of November following, he was appointed County Judge of Milwaukee County, and was elected to the same office in April following. This was a very strong evidence of the high esteem in which he was held by the people. He retained the position until June 21, 1859, when he was called to the office of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin, being elected the April previous, as the successor of Justice A. D. SMITH. As it was a question when the term of the latter ended, whether on the 31st day of May, 1859, or on the first Monday in January, 1860, he went through with the formality of resigning his office, and the Governor appointed Judge PAINE as his successor on the 20th of June.

Judge PAINE held his position on the bench of the Supreme Court until the 15th of November 1864, he having resigned on the 10th of August, previous, to take effect on that day, to enter the army. He enlisted in the Forty-third Regiment Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, and was appointed Lieutenant Colonel. His post was in Tennessee, where he remained until May, 1865, when the death of an only and much-loved brother called him home. On returning to civil life, Judge PAINE again entered on the practice of his profession in Milwaukee. This he continued until reappointed, on the 16th of August 1867, to the Supreme Court of the State, to succeed Justice DOWNER, resigned. In April 1868, he was elected to fill the term expiring June 1, 1871, holding the office until his death, January 13 of that year. During his practice at the bar, he was associated with his father and brother, and for a time with Halbert E. PAINE. While on the bench, he worked hard, and justified the most sanguine expectations of his friends. His published opinions show patient and careful examination, laborious research and investigation, a proper deference to authorities, just discrimination of adjudged cases, a clear and firm grasp of sound principle. His mind, in a legal way, was critical but not revolutionary. He laid no violent hand upon the long-established systems of equity and common reasoning and clear, persuasive argument. He was liberal in his views, and as a citizen, humane and benevolent, frank and open-hearted. He had, in private life, a large circle of friends. He continued his law lectures in the university with general acceptance, until stricken down by the disease which terminated his useful career. In 1869 the University of Wisconsin conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws.


Transcribed and contributed to this site by Carol

 

 

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