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By Joseph Wallace, M. A.
of the Springfield Bar
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago, IL

Transcribed by Mary Ann Kaylor

Page 287

JOHN J. BRINKERHOFF - Among the public officials of Illinois none have been more loyal to duty, more capable or more deserving of the confidence so uniformly tendered than has John J. Brinkerhoff, of Springfield, who for a third of a century has been actuary of insurance in the department of state. Over the record of his official career there falls no shadow of wrong or suspicion of evil and among the distinctively representative men of the capital city he may well be numbered.

Born in the beautiful mountainous district of southern Pennsylvania, he is a native of Gettysburg, his natal day being September 20, 1848. His parents, John and Sarah Ann (Walters) Brinkerhoff, were also natives of the Keystone state, and in their home, amid the encircling hills which lie about Gettysburg, the subject of this review was reared. In the common schools he pursued his preliminary education and then matriculated in Gettysburg College, in which was graduated with the class of 1869. The same year witnessed his arrival in Springfield and soon afterward he accepted a clerical position in the insurance department of state under General Charles E. Lippencott, who was then auditor. For two years Mr. Brinkerhoff acted in that capacity and then became a law student, later entering the law department of the Union University of New York, located at Albany, at which institution he was graduated in 1874. Soon afterward he returned to Springfield and entered the insurance department of state, with which he has since been connected, with the exception of a brief interval when there occurred a change in the political administration, Governor Altgeld being elected chief executive of the state. Mr. Brinkerhoff, who is a stalwart Republican, then resigned, but it seemed impossible to find any one who could capably fill his position and he was recalled to the office by the Democratic administration and has since remained in the position. He acted as actuary until the Republicans again came into power, when he was appointed expert actuary, and in that important office he is now serving, his connection with this department of the state service covering altogether thirty-three years. In the discharge of his duties he is prompt, methodical, systematic and far-sighted, and has introduced many measures of improvement and reform in the control of the insurance business which is under the supervision of this office. Mr. Brinkerhoff is secretary of the National Convention of Insurance Commissioners and is also a member of the Actuarial Society of America.

In 1877 was celebrated the marriage of Mr. Brinkerhoff and Miss Cornelia Sayre Cowgill, of Springfield, a daughter of William Cowgill, of Petersburg, Illinois. Three sons have been born unto them: William J., who is now an attorney of Springfield; Richard Sayre, who is now a student at Princeton, and Albert David, who is now a student in Cornell University, of New York.

With the Republican party Mr. Brinkerhoff has always affiliated, laboring for its welfare and success, and though he has long held office his official service has rather been conferred upon him than sought by him. In reviewing the history of one who has been long in the public service we are reminded of the words of Lincoln, "You can fool some of the American people all of the time, all of the American people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the American people all of the time." The truth of this honest but forcible saying is again and again demonstrated in public life. An unworthy may gain office, but he can not for years hold a position in which he is not true to the trust reposed in him. Public opinion is too powerful and public investigation too keen to permit of an incompetent or unworthy man to be retained long in positions of public responsibility and therefore when an official service has continued through long years it is a guarantee of the reliability and business skill of the incumbent. Those qualities contain the secret of Mr. Brinkerhoff's thirty-three years in the office of the actuary of insurance, and his incorruptible integrity, his loyalty to duty, his unfailing courtesy and his high principles of manhood are qualities familiar to those who know aught of his life and work.

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