J. OTIS HUMPHREY - J. Otis Humphrey, United States district judge, was born in Morgan county, Illinois, December 30, 1850, and is a son of William and Sarah (Stocker) Humphrey, who were natives of Ohio and came to Illinois in 1849. They located in Sangamon county in 1855. The father was descended from English ancestry and representatives of the name resided in Rhode island and Massachusetts at an early period in the colonization of the new world. Major William Humphrey, the great-grandfather of Judge Humphrey, won his title as commander of a division of the fourth Rhode Island regiment in the war of the Revolution. Later generations of the family established homes in the west and the parents of the judge came to Illinois, where the father died in 1893.
Upon a farm in Auburn township, Sangamon county, Judge J. Otis Humphrey was reared. He attended the district schools and afterward spent two years as a student in the Virden High school in Macoupin county. He was for five years a student in Shurtleff college, in Upper Alton, Illinois, and for two years he engaged in teaching school. Desiring, however, to direct his energies into another field of professional labor, he took up the study of law in the city of Springfield with the firm of Robinson, Knapp & Shutt, and was admitted to the bar in June, 1880. He worked in the office of the supervisor of census that year under Hon. John A. Chestnut for the eighth district of Illinois, and for two years thereafter was a law clerk in the office of the railroad and warehouse commissioners. In January, 1883, he entered into a partnership with Hon. H. S. Green, one of the most distinguished attorneys of the west, with whom he was connected until 1899. He enjoyed a large and lucrative clientage. He was a strong advocate with the jury and concise in his arguments before the court. His is a natural discrimination as to legal ethics, and he never neglected to give a thorough preparation. His pleas were characterized by a decisive logic rather than by flights of oratory, and it was ever his aim to secure justice and not to enshroud his cause in a sentimental garb or illusion which will often thwart the principles of law and equity involved. He was called from the private practice of law to official service in the line of his profession.
Judge Humphrey was recognized as one of the leading members of the Republican party in Springfield and is still a stanch supporter of his party, although he does not enter into active political work while holding a judicial position. He served the Republican party for four years as chairman of the Republican county central committee and is a thorough organizer, so organizing and controlling the party forces as to bring the strongest and most satisfactory results. His organization was the central one of the seventeenth congressional district, which was always Democratic. His activity in Republican ranks began in 1876, under the tutelage of United States Senator Cullom, who was that year elected governor of Illinois, and in 1884 he was a presidential elector on the Blaine ticket, while in 1896 he was a delegate to the Republican national convention in St. Louis. He was appointed United States attorney July 1, 1897, for the southern district of Illinois by president McKinley, and in 1901 was appointed United States district judge for the same district, so that he is now sitting upon that bench, where his fair and impartial decisions, based upon a comprehensive and accurate knowledge of the law and a correct application to the points involved, proves that the favorable opinion which the world passed upon him at the outset of his legal career has been fully justified and substantiated by his course as lawyer and jurist.
In 1879 Judge Humphrey was married to Miss Mary E. Scott, a daughter of Rev. A. H. Scott, then pastor of the Baptist church at Auburn. They have five children, four daughters and a son: Mary, Maud, Grace, Scott and Ruth. The family, well known in Springfield, occupies an enviable position in social circles.