MORRISON, (HON.) ISAAC L. , (deceased, for nearly half a century one of the ablest and most highly reputed lawyers at the Illinois bar, was born near the village of Glasgow, Ky., January 26, 1826, the son of John Organ Morrison, his mother before marriage being a Miss Welborn, of North Carolina, and his father a native of Virginia. At the commencement of the Revolutionary War, his grandfather, Andrew Morrison, who was from the North of Ireland, lived with his family in the vicinity of Orange Court House, Va. He was a soldier in the Continental army and met his death at the battle of Brandywine. Mr. Morrison's maternal grandfather was Samuel Welborn, of North Carolina, who also served in the Revolutionary War in the campaigns of Gen. Greene against Cornwallis. In 1793, at the age of twenty-one years, John Organ Morrison left Virginia and settled in Kentucky, where he pursued his vocation of farming. He departed this life when his son, Isaac L., was fifteen years old, and the latter being the eldest of the sons at home, assumed the management of the farm, in the meantime reading historical works and endeavoring to acquire knowledge from all possible sources. Thus he spent the time until he reached his twentieth year, when he pursued a two years' course of study in Masonic College, Kentucky. He then entered upon the study of law, for eighteen months reading in the office of a prominent attorney in his vicinity. In 1851 he left Kentucky and located in Jacksonville, Ill., where he spent the remainder of his life. As a lawyer, he speedily gained a conspicuous standing which he ever afterward maintained. He was particularly skillful as a special pleader and in the examination of witnesses. He was thoroughly versed in corporation law, and among his clients was the Jacksonville Southeastern line. He was a man of broad and varied information, a profound student of history, and a rare Shakesperean scholar.
For the first few years of his law practice, Mr. Morrison was associated with Cyrus Epler. After the dissolution of that firm, about 1870, Judge H. G. Whitlock and William G. Gallaher successively became his partners, and on the death of the latter J. P. Lippincott was admitted to the firm. On the retirement of Judge Whitlock from active practice, Hon. Thomas Worthington entered the firm, and subsequently in 1899, John J. Reeve became a member. Mr. Morrison practiced in the State and Federal Courts, and was generally regarded by the bench and bar as among the most forceful of Illinois lawyers. His office was the law school from which were graduated a number of prominent legal practitioners, including Richard Yates and the late Judge R. D. Russell, of Minneapolis. To young struggling lawyers Mr. Morrison was ever helpful, and he never hesitated to give the worthy poor gratuitous advice and service.
Mr. Morrison was among the organizers of the Jacksonville National Bank, chartered in 1872, and was a member of its first Board of Directors. To that position he was reelected every year during his subsequent life, acting also as Attorney for the institution. At the time of his death he was the last survivor of the original Directors.
On July 27, 1853, Mr. Morrison was married to Anna R. Tucker, of New York City, a daughter of Jonathan and Miriam (Weeks) Tucker. Two children resulted from this union, namely: Alfred T., and Miriam M., wife of Thomas Worthington, a distinguished lawyer, whose sketch appears elsewhere in this volume, and who for many years was United States District Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois.
In politics, Mr. Morrison was a strong Republican, and a potent factor in the councils and campaigns of his party. He was a clear, impressive and convincing public speaker, and his services on the stump were of high value. The first Republican State Convention held at Bloomington in 1856, as also that of 1860, included him among its members. He was a delegate to the Republican National Convention, in 1864, and during that year served as a member of the Republican State Central Committee. In 1876, 1878 and again in 1882 he was elected a Representative in the Illinois Legislature from the Morgan district, and during the session of the last named year was the recognized leader of his party on the floor of the Lower House. He was Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and as such was instrumental in shaping all the important legislation of the session, including the famous Harper Bill. In 1880 he was his party's candidate for Congress, and largely reduced the ordinary Democratic majority in the district. Mr. Morrison was an active member of Trinity Episcopal Church, of which he was Vestryman, and to which he was a liberal contributor. His busy, dutiful and useful life came to a deeply lamented end February 27, 1901.