WILLIAM C. GOUDY

Source: Album of Genealogy and Biography, Cook County, Illinois with Portraits 3rd ed. revised and extended (Chicago: Calumet Book & Engraving Co., 1895), pp. 119-122

WILLIAM CHARLES GOUDY.  To be a leader in any profession in a city the size of Chicago, means to be the possessor of large intellect, of close application and happy fortune; to be in the front rank of contemporary lawyers in a metropolis whose courts decide as many cases as the combined judiciary of all Great Britain, is a mark of pre-eminence indeed.  Such pre-eminent distinction has been already noted by the Muse of History in her vast temple of fame, where, chiseled in conspicuous recent strength, we read the sterling name of William Charles Goudy.

Mr. Goudy was born near Cincinnati, Ohio (but “across the line” in Indiana), on the 15th day of May, 1824, unto Robert and Jane (Ainslie) Goudy.  His father was a native of North Ireland and of Scotch-Irish ancestry, of that virile blood which has already played so thrilling a part in American history on sea and land.   The name is spelled Goudie in Scotland, where the poet Burns immortalized it in song in that stanza of a poem wherein occurs the line, “Goudie, terror of the Whigs!”  The family continues to hew true to the block, for who ever heard of any Goudy who was anything but a Democrat in the United States?  His mother, who was of English birth, was residing in Pennsylvania when taken to wife by Mr. Goudy’s father.

Robert Goudy was a carpenter in early life, later changing, as do so many of our citizens, his calling to printing, in which craft he was busied for some years at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  But when the future Judge Goudy was a boy of ten years, his father moved to Jacksonville, Illinois, a most fortunate field, as afterwards developed, for all the family.  Here, in 1833, he began the publication of Goudy’s Farmers’ Almanac, the first annual of its kind to be printed in the Northwest, which, filling a greatly felt need, grew speedily into the deserved prominence it maintained for the many years during which it was a household word.  Later, he embarked in a newspaper of fair proportions for that era; in which connection let it not be overlooked that it was the first press to call pointed attention to that rising young star, Stephen A. Douglas.  The son also did his share of battling for this candidate during that heated campaign when Douglas defeated Lincoln in the memorable congressional contest.

The subject of this sketch graduated at the Illinois College of Jacksonville in 1845, an alma mater made proud time and again by the grand deeds of her hero pupil, whom she has twice honored with her post-graduate degrees, namely, Master of Arts and Doctor of Laws.  Suffice to say, that none of her myriad graduates ever won such special favor more fairly than he of whom we are writing.

While reading law thereafter, Mr. Goudy taught school in Decatur.  Later he went for a time into the office of Stephen A. Logan, partner of Lincoln.  In 1847 he was admitted to the Bar at Lewistown, Illinois, entering directly into partnership with Hon. Hezekiah M. Weed, of that place, where he rapidly rose in public notice and favor.  Taking an active part in politics, he was partially rewarded in 1852 by being elected States Attorney of the Tenth Judicial Circuit, which position of trust he resigned in 1856; and from 1857 to 1861 was twice returned as State Senator for the Fulton-McDonough district.  In 1859 fame and rapidly growing practice invited him to Chicago, the great Western center, which, like Athens of old, calls annually for its tribute of talent and oratory from its outlying territory.  For about the next thirty-five years his reputation and his wealth grew with amazing rapidity, until none throughout the entire Mississippi Valley was better or more favorably known in his profession than Judge Goudy.  His learned skill was demonstrated in the higher courts all over this western county, from which, in frequent triumphs, he went to more honorable laurels achieved before that tribunal of dernier resort, the Supreme Court of the United States.  His specialty was the law of real property, in which branch of learning he was recognized as a leader all over the vast domain his talents dominated; indeed, there have been expressed on more than one occasion sincere regrets that Judge Goudy left no published work upon this broad field of judicature, of especial application in the newer West, for the guidance of future brothers.  It would indeed have been the labor of a legal giant, gigantically performed.  During all this later period, not a volume of Illinois Reports, and they number into the hundreds, but bears his name as attorney or counsel in cases of gravest import and representing questions and corporations of greatest magnitude.

As illustrating the thoroughness with which he worked and the minuteness of inquiry and research to which he would voluntarily go, rather than admit he was beaten or acknowledge there was no redress (in his opinion) for his client, we must digress sufficiently to call attention to that case (the Kingsbury-Buckner), perhaps most famous of all his many noted cases, which involved the question of the fee of that splendid piece of central real estate upon which now stands the Ashland Building, the great law office resort, corner of Randolph and Clark Streets, in our city.   This case long looked hopeless for the party in whose interests Judge Goudy had been retained.  Conviction of the fact that the grantee, who seemed to own the fee, was really a holder for cestuis qui trust was sincerely entertained, but in support of such hypothesis not a scintilla of evidence seemed possible to be introduced.  Early and late, far and near, in and out of season, our lawyer toiled to find some slight link, so vital to support such a much-sought chain of title.  In short, almost at a standstill, sufficient proof was at last unearthed from a letter written as casual correspondence to a relative of the writer in the Down East.  This became the turning-point of the case.  For his services the Judge is said to have been paid the largest fee known in the West.  How many thousands is not known, but surely it was earned in such a manner as to be gladly paid by a client who would have lived and died in ignorant non-assertion of rights, but for the untiring researches of his lawyer.  Let every young attorney ponder well the significance of the story; just such opportunities time and again have made in an instant the name and fame of the energetic hero.  The ability to win cases is the crucial test of lawyers; and a still greater test is the ability to effect a desirable compromise, as the subject of this sketch often did; for example, in the notable Wilbur F. Storey will case.

During the later years of his exceedingly active career, the firm of which he was senior member was styled Goudy, Green & Goudy, and for a considerable period prior to his demise he was chief counsel for the Chicago & Northwestern Railway, in which position he had the exceptional fortune of holding his former private clientage.  It is worth recording that the reasons for his being retained by that railway were found in numerous suits brought against it by Mr. Goudy for clients, who usually won.

Mr. Goudy married, August 22, 1849, a most estimable and cultured lady, Miss Helen Judd, of Canton, Illinois, a daughter of Solomon Judd, quite a distinguished Abolitionist.  His father was Solomon Judd, Sr., of Westhampton, Massachusetts, coming of excellent ancestry, tracing back to the pride of all Yankees, the “Mayflower” of 1620.   Mrs. Goudy’s mother was Eleanor Clark, born of an old Northampton, Massachusetts, family.

Two children cheered their most happy wedded life.  Clara Goudy (an adopted daughter), born in October, 1857, married, in 1887, Ira J. Geer, of this city, a practicing lawyer of superior repute, by whom she has one child, William Jewett Geer.  Judge Goudy left an only son, William Judd Goudy, who was born in 1864, for an extended sketch of whom vide other pages herein.

Mrs. Goudy was born on the 21st of November, 1821, at Otisco, Onondaga County, New York, was educated at the Aurora Academy of that State, after which she taught school for about nine years.  She then removed to Canton, Illinois, where she had been teaching her own private school for young ladies about two years at the time Judge Goudy won her undying affections.  She survives her deeply mourned husband, and, while not in perfect health, yet for her mature age well preserved; and it is the earnest wish of all her myriad friends and recipients of generous benefactions that she may long continue in a sphere of wisely contented usefulness.   She is unostentatiously conspicuous for her many works of charity, formal recognition of which was made some years since in her elevation to the position of President of the Board of Managers of the Half Orphan Asylum.  Truly may it be said in simple, modest truth, her life has been a model for imitation.

The old Goudy homestead, one of the choicest, most elegant of its time, was located in what has since become a very public neighborhood, about No. 1140 North Clark Street.  In the early days it stood in a magnificient grove of trees some acres in extent, whose retirement received a continual benediction from the murmurs of the lake near at hand.   Later operations have subdivided and covered with many dwellings this lovely property.  “And the place thereof shall know it no more.”  Anticipating growing encroachment upon that privacy in which Mr. Goudy so much delighted, he finally built a solid, ornate mansion of gray granite at No. 240 Goethe Street, than which none of our citizens can boast of a more complete or elegant home.   In full view of the lake (but a block distant), contiguous to a beautiful private park, within easy access of business haunts, and yet enjoying the stillness of a veritable country seat, Judge Goudy with his wife there found the oasis of existence, his seat of recuperative rest, his scene of domestic bliss, for he was emphatically, notwithstanding the grandeur and publicity which cast a halo about his character, a domestic man.  Though a valued member of the Union and Iroquois Clubs, he was not an habitue of their inviting halls, save on rare special occasions.

In politics, like all his lineage, he was a sturdy Democrat; not particularly aggressive, but full of wise counsels and dictator of winning courses to be pursued in accomplishing certain political ends.  His first vote was cast for Lewis Cass in 1848; he had much to do with the nomination of President Cleveland to his last term of office; and might have passed away in occupation of the most dignified seat of judicial honor within the gift of our country, i. e., the Supreme Bench of the United States, had not his ever honorable principles decided him to withdraw in favor of his old friend, the present Chief Justice, M. W. Fuller.  He was at one time President of the Lincoln Park Board of Commissioners, as he had been among those most actively valuable in laying out the bounds and bringing into being that most beautiful of all our resorts.

Judge Goudy was a “gentleman of the old school,” always courteous and scrupulously honorable; the possessor of a frankly-bright, prepossessing face, brimful of character.  A very broad forehead surmounted features all finely chiseled; his figure was but of medium height and physical weight, but capable of expressing great dignity upon occasion.  Though rather sickly in youth, by abstemious habits he had grown for many years to be quite robust, in which condition he was maintained by studious attention to all his habits, save that of work.  In this, he reminds one strongly of the great Caesar, who, sickly in youth, by careful regimen grew to endure incredible labors.  Indeed, it was from over application, following too speedily a season of malady, that Judge Goudy met his end April 27, 1893; which found him suddenly, like the lightning flash, seated in his chair by the office desk, whither he had injudiciously repaired upon important business.   His tough, perennial thread of life, which had been vexed and tugged at time and again by his response to urgent demands, was strained beyond endurance; it snapped, and the heroic melody of a noble life became forever instantly silent.  He was buried under the auspices of the Fourth Presbyterian Church, in which he had always had a vital interest, and now sleeps the peaceful sleep of the just in the family lot at Graceland Cemetery, which spot will long continue to be marked by the dignified memorial now rising over his remains.

He left a supremely honorable name.   Out of the many illustrious heroes found herein, none need doubt that the memory of the greatest will not survive that of Hon. William Charles Goudy.