DOWNING, Hon. FINIS E. - Among the citizens of Virginia, Cass County, Ill., who have become prominent in statewide and national politics and have rendered their constituents and the general public efficient service in important offices, in Hon. Finis E. Downing of the city of Virginia, and formerly state senator, member of Congress and secretary of state of Illinois. He is a native of Cass County, Ill., and his birth took place at Virginia, August 24, 1846. His father, Nathan Downing, was born in Kentucky, and when a young man, was a student in Knox College, in Missouri, where he studied theology and became a minister of the Presbyterian church. In 1842 Nathan Downing was married in Missouri, to Eliza J. Head, and then established himself in the town of Virginia, Ill., where he brought about the building of the first Presbyterian church. Of this he was pastor until 1852, when he resigned the pastorate, dying the following year. Rev. Nathan Downing was also instrumental in the erection of Union Seminary, of which he became the first president. The children of Nathan and Eliza J. (Head) "Downing were as follows: John C., who died in the Union army during the Civil war; Finis E.; and Lucy J. (Mrs. R. D. Middleton), who died in 1902.
In boyhood Finis E. Downing attended the district schools and a seminary, after which he took a college course. He continued to make his home with his mother until January 8, 1868, when he was married to Susan Payne, a native of Kentucky. They had one son, Harry F., who lives in Virginia, Cass County. Mrs. Nathan Downing died in 1893, and Mrs. Finis (Susan Payne) Downing passed away July 16, 1900.
On August 12, 1902, Mr. Downing was united in marriage with Missouri Reel, who was born in Jacksonville, Ill., and was the widow of Judge Griggsby of Pittsfield, Ill. They had one daughter, Edith, who died at the age of seven years.
After his first marriage Finis E. Downing went into the mercantile business selling dry goods, boots and shoes, etc., which he conducted until 1870. In that year he sold out and went to Butler, Mo. where, with a Mr. Boggs, he kept a general store. This they sold out in 1875 and Mr. Downing returned to Cass County, Ill., and for four years was engaged in the dry goods trade in Virginia.
Politically long active in the Democratic party, in 1880 he was elected, on a ticket, circuit clerk of Cass County, in which office he served one term. He was then elected to the state senate, of which body he was secretary during former Governor Altgeld's administration. In 1894 Mr. Downing was elected to Congress from the Sixteenth Illinois Congressional District, serving until 1896, when he was elected secretary of state of Illinois.
Mr. Downing was admitted to the bar in 1888. In 1891 he purchased the Virginia Enquirer, which he conducted until 1901, when he transferred the paper to his son. Mr. Downing adheres to the Christian Science belief. Fraternally he is affiliated with the A.F. & A.M. and is a Knight Templar; the I.O.O.F.; and the M.W.A. In his long and busy life Finis E. Downing, has served his countrymen well and his ears are now met with the cheering utterance - "Well done, good and faithful servant."