SPRINGER, (HON.) WILLIAM McKENDREE , son of Rev. Thomas B. Springer, was born in New Lebanon, Ind., May 30, 1836. At the age of twelve years he removed with his parents to Jacksonville, Ill. He graduated from De Pauw University, at Greencastle, Ind., in 1858, and the same year located at Springfield, Ill., and commenced the study of law. He also engaged in newspaper work, both at Springfield and Lincoln, Ill. He was admitted to the bar in 1859, and began the practice of law at Springfield. In 1861 he received the degree of A. M. and in 1866 that of LL. D. from his alma mater, the latter being conferred upon him by Illinois College in 1890. Mr. Springer was married December 15, 1859, to Miss Rebecca Ruter, daughter of Rev. Calvin W. Ruter, a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and author of an able work on church history. Mrs. Springer was a rarely gifted woman, and became widely known as author of a large number of magazine articles, and having written "Beechwood," "Self," "Leon," "Songs by the Sea" (poems), and "Intra Muros." It is said that the several editions of the last named book amounted to 300,000. Mrs. Springer died soon after her husband's death. An only son, Captain Ruter W. Springer, who is a Chaplain in the United States Army, survives his parents. Judge Springer was Secretary of the Illinois State Constitutional Convention of 1862. In 1870 he was elected a member of the Twenty-seventh General Assembly from Sangamon County. That Legislature was principally engaged in the revision of the laws of the State, and in that work he took a prominent part. He was elected a member of the Forty-fourth Congress, from the Twelfth (Springfield) District in 1874, and was reelected successively until 1892, making a record of twenty years of continuous service in Congress. During his first year in Congress he introduced a resolution declaring the precedent of retiring from the Presidential office after the second term had become a part of our republican system, and that any departure from that time-honored custom would be unwise, unpatriotic, and fraught with peril to our free institutions, which was adopted-yeas,233; nays, 18.
In 1875 he was appointed Chairman of the Committee on Expenditures of the State Department, and was a member of many other important committees, as the Potter Committee, which investigated the Presidential election of 1876, and of the joint committee which reported the Electoral Commission bill of 1876-77. From 1882 to 1884 he delivered numerous speeches in Congress on the establishment of the tariff commission, and the revision of the tariff. He introduced a large number of notable bills in Congress, including the famous Springer bill, under which the Territory of Oklahoma was organized, and which created a judicial system for the Indian Territory; also the bill for the admission of Washington, Montana, and North and South Dakota into the Union as States. Among the notable bills introduced by Mr. Springer was the amendment to the bill granting $1,500,000 to the Centennial Commissioners, and his successful efforts in recovering the amount through the United States Supreme Court, a procedure which won him a wide reputation. From time to time he was Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means, Territories, Banking, Currency and other important committees in Congress. On his retirement from Congress after twenty years of faithful and valuable service, on March 20, 1895, he was appointed by President Cleveland as United States Judge of the Northern District of Indian Territory, and Chief Justice of the United States Court of Appeals in Indian Territory. His term expired December 12, 1899. During his incumbency in that office, he made his home at Muskogee, Indian Territory. On his retirement from the judicial bench he removed to Washington, D. C., and there engaged in the practice of law. He was general attorney for the National Live Stock Association, and general attorney for two of the tribes in the Indian Territory.
When the controversy between the States of Missouri and Illinois came up over the alleged pollution of the waters of the Mississippi River, at St. Louis, by reason of the sewerage from the Chicago Drainage Canal, which resulted in bringing suit by the State of Missouri in the United States Supreme Court against the State of Illinois and the Chicago Drainage District, he was retained as general attorney for the Chicago Drainage District. He contracted a cold during his last visit there on that business, to which he had devoted himself almost wholly, having made a deep and thorough study of the case, and had the matter completely in hand for final arbitrament. (By a decision rendered by the Supreme Court of the United States, since Judge Springer's death, the ground which he maintained on this issue has been sustained.) Judge Springer was a man of plain and unassuming manners, and in his wide acquaintance, and official intercourse with people of all classes and parties, all were alike to him, whether rich or poor; whether of his own or another political party. He died at the family residence in Washington, D. C., December 4, 1903, after a short illness of pneumonia. His burial was in Springfield, Ill.