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History of the Judges of the Oregon Supreme Court, 1841-1946

Dr. Ira L. Babcock, M.D. 

        The Oregon Supreme Court and the State of Oregon Law Library are pleased to be able to make available Arthur F. Benson's History of the Judges of the Oregon Supreme Court, 1841-1946. This remarkable document of Oregon history, assembled in the mid-1940s by Benson -- then Clerk of the court -- consists of two leather binders containing biographical sketches and photographs of each member of the Oregon Supreme Court, from of the days of the provisional government, through the territorial period, and into statehood. 

        Benson likely began this "brief history of the Oregon judiciary," as he called it, in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the Oregon courts in 1941. He was uniquely suited to the task. Born in 1878 and raised in Grants Pass, Benson received his law degree from Willamette in 1905. His father, Henry Benson, was a member of the Supreme Court from 1915 until 1921, and Benson himself served as Deputy Clerk of the court from 1902 to 1918 and as Clerk from 1918 until 1953. At times dry and factual and at others charming and quaint, Benson's short sketches reflect the style of the 19th century and early 20th century directories of lawyers and important personages that he obviously drew upon for the earlier judges. Information that seems irrelevant to current sensibilities -- such as a judge's Masonic rank -- vies with touching anecdotes and close personal observations. We present the biographies here as Benson and Dorothy Cornelius (see Benson's introduction) wrote them, without additional editing or fact-checking. The result is an original and detailed portrait of the first century of the Oregon judiciary. Benson's work is an extraordinary trove of information that helps illuminate one corner of Oregon history. 

        We hope Oregon's citizens -- as well as judges, lawyers, and scholars -- will enjoy and make use of Arthur Benson's History of the Judges of the Oregon Supreme Court
                                                              -Chief Justice Thomas A. Balmer