WORTHINGTON, (Hon.) THOMAS, one of the prominent citizens of Jacksonville, Morgan County, Ill., and for several years United States District Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, was born in Spencer, Tenn., June 8, 1850, the son of Dr. Thomas and Amelia J. (Long) Worthington, natives of Tennessee and Maryland, respectively. Dr. Thomas Worthington was descended from the Worthington and Calvert families, both eminent in the early annals of the State of Maryland. Although his birthplace was on Southern soil, and he was a slaveholder by inheritance, he was convinced of the fundamental injustice of the institution of slavery, and was largely influenced by this conviction in his removal to Illinois. He was a man of broad capacity and high culture, and as a physician and surgeon enjoyed an enviable reputation. He was an active partisan, and in public addresses was lucid, forceful and impressive. Originally a stanch Whit, he was elected as such from Pike county to the State Senate, serving in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth General Assemblies, in which he strongly supported the "two-mill tax," which saved from tarnishment the financial reputation of the State. He also rendered important aid in establishing the Institution for the Deaf and Dumb in Jacksonville. His political zeal lent added impetus to the organization of the Republican party in Illinois, and he was a delegate to the first Republican convention in the State, held in Bloomington, in 1856. He was a personal friend and ardent supporter of Abraham Lincoln. He passed the latter part of his life at Pittsfield, Pike County, Ill., and was a very prominent man in that county, dying at Pittsfield in 1888. Mr. Worthington's mother was the youngest daughter of Col. Kennedy Long, of Baltimore, Md., who was in command of the Twenty-seventh Maryland Regiment, which played a prominent part in the defense of Baltimore during the War of 1812.
In boyhood the subject of this sketch attended the public schools, and afterward fitted himself for college in the Pittsfield High School. In 1873 he graduated from Cornell University with the degree of Ph. B., and in 1877, from the Union college of Law, in Chicago. Together with four others he received the highest honors at Cornell, entitling them to membership in the Phi Beta Kappa Fraternity. In the fall of that year he was admitted to practice in the Supreme court of Illinois. Mr. Worthington practiced law in Pittsfield, Ill., and Baltimore, Md., until 1892, when he located in Jacksonville, Ill., and formed a partnership with Hon. Isaac L. Morrison. Later, J. J. Reeve, the present Postmaster of Jacksonville, was admitted to the partnership and the firm became Morrison, Worthington & Reeve, so continuing until the death of Mr. Morrison in 1901.
One of the first suits conducted by Mr. Worthington was brought to recover an interest in his grandfather's estate in Baltimore, nearly fifty years after it had passed into the possession of others. In this he was successful, after the case had tree times been taken to the Maryland Court of Appeals. His most important action at law was as attorney in behalf of a large number of land owners in a case known as Palms et al. Vs. Wheelock et al., to recover certain bonds, and interest, amounting to about two million dollars, from all the owners of lands in the Sny Island Levee District, which would have rendered the entire property in question valueless. In this litigation, the defendants, represented in part by Mr. Worthington, were successful. His associates for the defense were Ex-President Harrison, Ex-Attorney General Miller, Henry S. Green, Judge J. Otis Humphrey, Col. A. C. Mathews and Judge Higbee. The case was taken from the United States Circuit Court to the Unites States Court of Appeals, and finally decided for the defendants in the United States Supreme Court, Mr. worthington and Ex-Attorney General Miller, of Indiana, making the oral arguments for the defense.
On November 16, 1892, Mr. Worthington was united in marriage with Miriam M. Morrison, a daughter of his law partner, Hon. Isaac L. Morrison, a distinguished member of the Illinois Legislature from 1877 to 1883, and one of the Nestors of the Illinois bar, who died at his home in Jacksonville, February 27, 1901. One son, Isaac L. Morrison Worthington, resulted from this union.
Politically, Mr. Worthington has been for about twenty-five years, an earnest worker in the Republican party. In 1882 he was elected Minority Representative in the State Legislature, from the district comprising Pike, Brown and Calhoun Counties. During this term began his friendship with United States Senator Cullom, which has continued every since. Mr. Worthington was selected, together with Hon. W. J. Calhoun, to make a constitutional argument demonstrating Mr. Cullom's eligibility for the United States Senate, and out of this grew the cordial and enduring good will between the two gentlemen. Mr. Worthington served as Presidential Elector from the Twelfth Illinois District in 1888. He was appointed Supervisor of the Census in the same district in 1900, and in the fall of that year made the race for Congress in the Twelfth District, against an ordinary Democratic majority of from 5,000 to 6,000. On March 16, 1901, he was appointed, by President McKinley, United States District Attorney for Southern Illinois, in which capacity he served for more than four years with signal ability.
Fraternally, Mr. Worthington has been affiliated with the A.F. & A.M. for many years, and for periods of three years each, was Master of the Pittsfield Lodge, and Eminent commander of the Commandery of Knights Templar in that town. In Pittsfield he was identified with the Congregational Church. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of Illinois College. During his residence in jacksonville, Mr. Worthington has vigorously advocated all measures proposed for the best interests of the city. He is a man of high capacity and absolute reliability, and, as a lawyer, stands in the front rank of his profession.