William P. Lord Biography



        William Paine Lord was born at Dover, Delaware, on the first day of July 1839. He received his early education from private tutors and in 1860 he graduated with highest honors from Fairfield College, New York. In the autumn of 1860 he began the study of law. Before he had completed his legal studies he was commissioned a Captain in the First Delaware Cavalry, and in 1862 his command was attached to the Army of the Potomac, with which army he served two years, rising to the rank of Major. In 1864 he was appointed Judge Advocate on the staff of General Lew Wallace, whose headquarters were at Baltimore. At the close of the war he resigned this office and resumed the study of law. In 1866 he graduated at Albany Law College and was admitted to the New York Bar. As he was about to begin the practice of law he was tendered an appointment as Lieutenant in the United States Army. He accepted the appointment and served for two years. He was a member of the detachment which took formal possession of Alaska for the United States Government.

        In 1868 he resigned his Commission and began the practice of law at Salem, Oregon. He formed a partnership with Colonel N. B. Knight, an old friend and Companion-in-Arms. He remained at the Bar for twelve years, during which time he was successively elected City Attorney of Salem and State Senator from Marion County. In 1880 he was elected Justice of the Supreme Court, to which office he was re-elected in 1882 and 1888. During three periods of two years each he was Chief Justice of Oregon. In 1894 he was elected Governor by a highly flattering majority, and he served the State as its Chief Executive from 1895 to 1899. At the expiration of his gubernatorial term he was appointed by President McKinley Minister to the Argentine Republic, a diplomatic office he filled for four years. While in the Argentine he commanded the respect and won the friendship of her leading statesmen. One of his friends was Dr. Lewis Drago, Argentine's Secretary of State. When the fleets of France, Germany and Italy made their demonstration off the coast of Venezuela, threatening force to collect foreign debts, at Governor Lord's suggestion Drago wrote his protest to the United States Government, giving expression to the view that non-payment of private debts due foreign creditors did not justify armed interference with the debtor nation. This principle has since become famous as the Drago Doctrine, and has received the approval of many authorities on international law.
        At the expiration of his commission as Minister to the Argentine, Governor Lord resumed the practice of his profession at Salem, in which occupation he continued till his death, on the 17th of February, 1911.
        In 1880 he married Miss Juliet Montague of Baltimore, and to them were born three children, Elizabeth, Montague and William P. Lord, Jr., the latter of whom is a member of the bar of this court.
        The discharge of artillery during the Civil War impaired Governor Lord's hearing, and the infirmity grew on him with age. Notwithstanding this handicap, he loved the companionship of his fellow-men and he was so delightful a talker that any one thrown with him was amply repaid for the exertion necessary to make him hear.
        As an advocate at the bar, Governor Lord was always gentlemanly in his deportment, patient and diligent in his research, able, forceful and eloquent in his presentation of his cases, loyal to his clients and fair to his opponents.
        As a soldier, and as a civilian, Governor Lord was courageous, manly and faithful in the discharge of every duty. As a public official he was courteous, conscientious, independent and capable.
        His fame will rest chiefly on his career as Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court. He brought to the performance of his duties in this exalted office, a scholarly knowledge of the law, a mind receptive to truth and remarkably free from prejudice, a clarity of mental vision, which enabled him to grasp the salient points of every controversy, a knowledge of his fellow-men and a catholicity of sympathy which made him accurate and discriminating in weighing testimony, and a judicial eloquence which enabled him to clothe his decisions in apt and precise language, which has done much to clarify the law and make it certain in this jurisdiction.
        Governor Lord believed in the genius of hard work. He realized that as judge he could not afford to do any man injustice, and he spared no effort to understand and correctly decide every case.
Arthur F. Benson's Original Biography Document