N. W. BRANSON, secretary of the state board of law examiners of Illinois and prominent in legal and political circles, is a native of Jacksonville. His father, William Branson, was born in North Carolina and his mother, whose maiden name was Jane Cooledge, was a native of Kentucky. They were married in the latter state and almost immediately removed to Jacksonville, Illinois, where Mr. Branson continued to reside until his death, being a factor in the business life of that city as a furniture dealer. In his political views he was a Republican, interested in the work of the party and doing everything in his power to promote its growth and insure its success. He exercised considerable influence in political affairs, his opinions carrying weight in the councils of the party and at one time he efficiently served as mayor of Jacksonville. Both he and his wife have passed away. In his fraternal relations he was an Odd Fellow and he belonged to the Presbyterian church.
N.W. Branson, the eldest of a family of five children and the only one now living, began his education in a subscription school and afterward attended the high school of which Newton Bateman was teacher. Later he continued his studies in the Illinois College and was graduated on the completion of the classical course. Desiring to enter upon the practice of law, he studied with David A. Smith, a well known attorney of that day, and, having mastered many of the principles of jurisprudence, successfully passed the examination required for admission to the bar.
Mr. Branson chose Petersburg as the scene of his professional labors and coming to this city entered upon the practice of his chosen profession. He has since resided here, enjoying a large clientage, which has been accorded him in recognition of his comprehensive understanding of the law, his close application, his fidelity to the interests of his clients and his strict regard for the high ethics of the profession. He has been connected with much of the important litigation tried in the courts of his district. He belongs to the Illinois State Bar Association and he owns a very valuable law library with the contents of which he is largely familiar.
In his political views Mr. Branson has always been a Republican since age conferred upon him the right of franchise and his labors in behalf of the board have won public recognition as to their value and importance. He has twice been a member of the state Republican central committee, was once a delegate to the national Republican convention and was twice an alternate to the national conventions of his party. He also served as presidential elector and was register in bankruptcy under the bankruptcy law of 1867, being appointed to the position by Chief Justice Chase. He held the office during the time that the law was in force, having jurisdiction over all of southern Illinois, including sixty counties, with offices for several years in Springfield. He was twice elected a member of the state legislature and served for three sessions. While serving in the twenty-eighth general assembly he was chairman of the committee on state institutions and a member of the committees on judiciary and state penitentiaries. During the twenty-ninth general assembly Haines was speaker of the house and the legislature was Democratic. During that term Mr. Branson served also on the judiciary and penitentiary committees and some others. There were two sessions called for the twenty-eighth general assembly, a special one being convened for the purpose of revising the laws. Other political honors have been conferred upon Mr. Branson. He was master commissioner of the United States courts in Springfield and Chicago for a number of years and during that period he had control of the legal departments of several railroad receiverships. Several roads were sold under decrees of United States courts during that period and his operations in this connection involved millions of dollars and many legal technicalities. His course, however, was ever sustained by the United States appellate and supreme courts. He was the representative of the court during the time of these railroad receiverships and was thus connected with thousands of legal points, on which he gave expert legal opinions, his decisions always being sustained by those higher in authority. The federal courts would foreclose the receivership of the railroads and Mr. Branson would then have in charge the sale of the roads in order to satisfy the creditors. During his term of office there was an unusual amount of this business to be transacted and his course awakened uniform commendation because of its justice.
Aside from his more specifically political duties Mr. Branson has done much in behalf of the public service, occupying positions of trust and responsibility wherein he has ever been found faithful to his duty. He was a trustee of the Illinois institution for the blind for eighteen years and he was appointed by the supreme court a member of the state board of law examiners upon its creation in 1897. He is yet connected with the board and is now serving as its secretary and treasurer. He is vice-president and director of the Old Salem Chautauqua Association and is a member of the Masonic fraternity, having been made a Mason in Jacksonville, Illinois. He now belongs to Clinton lodge, A.F. & A.M., of Petersburg.
Mr. Branson was married to Miss Fannie Regnier, of Menard county, and they have two children: Edward R., who is telegraph editor of the Springfield Journal; and Ella R., who resides with her parents. Notwithstanding his extremely active life he is a man of remarkable vitality, actively connected with important and extensive legal and political interests. He has a statesman's grasp of affairs and in matters of deep political concern he has always kept well informed, exerting strong influence in support of the measures and movements which he has deemed would prove of value in promoting the welfare of state and nation.