Indiana has always been distinguished for the high rank of her bench and bar. Perhaps none of the newer states can justly boast of abler jurists or attorneys. Many of them have been men of national fame, and among those whose lives have been passed on a quieter plane there is scarcely a town or city in the state but that can boast of one or more lawyers capable of crossing swords in forensic combat with many of the distinguished legal lights of the country. While the growth and development of the state in the last half century has been most marvelous, viewed from any standpoint, yet of no one of her citizenship has she reason for just pride than her judges and attorneys. In Judge Deupree are found united many of the rare qualities, which go to make the successful lawyer and jurist. He possesses perhaps few of those brilliant, dazzling meteoric qualities which have sometimes flashed along the legal horizon, riveting the gaze and blinding the vision for the moment, then disappearing, leaving little or no trace behind; but rather has those solid and more substantial qualities which shine with a constant luster, shedding light in the dark places with steadiness and continuity.

William E. Deupree, judge of the eighth judicial circuit, comprising Johnson and Brown counties, was born on March 2, 1864, in Blue River township, Johnson county, Indiana. According to tradition, apparently reliable, the Deupree family is descended from old French Huguenot stock of northern France, where the family was wealthy and influential. However, at the time of the religious persecutions in that country, all the members the family were massacred excepting two brothers, who escaped and eventually came to America, one settling in Virginia and the other New Orleans. A descendant of the Virginia branch was William who became a large land owner and slave holder and a prominent man in community. He was a soldier in the Revolutionary war and lived to an advanced age, his death occurring in 1850. His son, Thomas J. Deupree, moved to Hardin county, Kentucky, and in 1820 came to Indiana, purchasing a tract of land in Shelby county, near Edinburg, where he lived until his death, which was caused by drowning in the Muscakitonk river, near Seymour. He married a Miss Hatchett and to them were born the following children: William, Abraham C., Matthew, Edwin, Parthena and two other daughters. This generation of the family were noted for their strong abolition sentiments. Of the above children, Abraham C. Deupree, of the subject of this sketch, was born in Kentucky, but was reared Indiana, having been brought by his parents to this state when but nine years old. He was ordained to the ministry of the Christian church at Edinburg and was a powerful influence for good wherever he went. In 1850 he came to Johnson county, where he remained until his death, which occurred in 1876, at the age of sixty-six years. He followed agricultural pursuits and became an extensive land owner. He married Hannah Carter, who was born in New Jersey in 1813, came to Bartholomew county in an early day with her parents, and her death occurred in 1903. To Abraham and Hannah Deupree were born six children, four sons and two daughters. On the maternal side, Judge Deupree is descended from William and Ellyza (Shipp) Sanders, the father of the former having been a pioneer settler of Johnson county, where he operated an extensive farm, reared a large family, and lived to a good old age. William Sanders continued to live on the same farm, which he purchased at about the time of his marriage, and there he reared a family of nine children. His wife, Ellyza, died in 1862, and he later married Margaret Barker. Among his children was Susan, the subject’s mother, who became the wife of Daniel C. Deupree, son of Abraham and Hannah Deupree. Daniel C. was born in Shelby county, Indiana, April 27, 1838, and in 1850, at the age of twelve came to Johnson county, where he remained until 1873, when he returned to Shelby county. While living in Johnson county he married Susan Sanders, whose death occurred in April, 1866, and to them was born one child, William E., the subject of this sketch. Later, Daniel C. Deupree married Anna Walker, and eight children were born to this union, one of whom died in infancy. The others were Hannah, who became the wife of Charles Thomas; Ella; Jesse; John; Araminta, the wife of John Stainbrook; Orpha and Elijah.

William Deupree was reared on the Shelby county farm of his father’s and received his education in the public schools of Johnson county. His first independent employment was as a school teacher, but, having decided upon the profession of law, he began its study under the direction of John C. Orr, at Columbus, Indiana, and in February, 1887, he was admitted to the bar of Bartholomew county. In the following month he opened an office at Edinburg, where he remained for six years, during which period he earned a splendid reputation as a lawyer of ability and successful the practice. On March 1, 1893, he came to Franklin and entered into a professional partnership with W. C. Thompson, which, however, was dissolved on June 1st of the following year. He was then alone in the practice until September 1, 1897, when he formed a partnership with L. Ert Slack, an association of unusual strength and popularity, which lasted until November 1, 1906, when Mr. Deupree was elected to the bench of the eighth judicial circuit. In the active practice Mr. Deupree stood admittedly in the front rank of his profession in this county, being one of the most successful lawyers before the local bar. In his present exalted position his career has been all that his previous record promised. His qualifications for the office of judge are unquestionable. First of all, he has the integrity of character, and then he possesses the natural ability and essential requirements, the acumen of the judicial temperament. He is able to divest himself of prejudice or favoritism and consider only the legal aspects of a question submitted. No labor is too however onerous; no application too exacting, however severe, if necessary to the complete understanding and correct determination of a question. These are, indeed, words of high praise, but the encomium is justified in every particular, for the Judge has proved him a distinct man in all the term implies, and implication is wide. His career on the bench and at the bar offers a noble example and an inspiration, while he has never been known to fail in that strict courtesy and regard for professional ethics which should ever characterize the members of the bar, his career reflecting credit upon the judiciary and dignifying the profession to which he belongs.

Judge Deupree has long been active in political affairs, having served six years as deputy prosecuting attorney, while for years the firm of Deupree & Slack served as county attorneys. Active in the ranks of the Democratic party, he served eight years as chairman of the county central committee and for two years as a member of the state executive committee of his party, while in 1900 he was a delegate to the Democratic national convention, which met at Kansas City. He is a good reader of men and is sagacious and far-sighted in his political judgment, so that his counsel and advice has been held in high regard by his political associates.

Fraternally. Judge Deupree is an enthusiastic member of the Free and Accepted Masons, holding membership in Franklin Lodge No. 107; Franklin Chapter No. 65, Royal Arch Masons: Franklin Commandery No. 23. Knights Templar; Indianapolis Consistory, thirty-second degree, Scottish Rite: and Murat Temple, Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. He is also a member of Hesperian Lodge, Knights of Pythias, at Franklin, and to Johnson Lodge No. 76, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and Encampment No. 40. In the last-named order the Judge has passed through the principal chairs of both subordinate lodge and encampment and is now a member of the grand lodge of the state, and for a number of years has served as district deputy grand master for Johnson county. Religiously, he and his wife are earnest members of the Christian church at Franklin, to which they give earnest support.

On January 12, 1902, William Deupree was married to Ada M. Pruitt, the daughter of Alexandria and Sarah A. (Miller) Pruitt, and to them have been born five children, namely: Hazel; Grace, who died at the of ten years; Ada, who died in infancy; Ralph and William Ert.

Personally, Judge Deupree is genial and easily approached, possessing to a marked degree those qualities, which win and make a pleasing companion. He has always stoood [sic] ready to identify himself with his fellow citizens in any good work and extend a co-operative hand to advance any measure that is calculated to better the conditions of things the community.

Branigin, Elba L. History of Johnson County. Indianapolis, IN: B. F. Bowen & Co., Inc., 1913. pp 561-564

Transcribed by Lois Johnson