Biography of John W. Kern
Howard County, IN Biographies





JOHN W. KERN, one of the first lawyers of this Eleventh Congressional District, and one of the most brilliant lawyers of his age in the State, was born at Alto, Howard County. He was born on the 20th day of December, 1849. When he was still very young, his parents moved to Warren County, Iowa, where John lived the life of many another farmer's lad, who afterward achieved success and fame in his chosen calling in after life. Here John attended his first term of school, in a schoolhouse alike in all things to the average schoolhouse of the pioneer period. He attended school in the winter and aided upon the farm in the summer. When he was fourteen years of age, his parents returned to Alto, and since that time Mr. Kern has always been a resident of this county. About this time, John became fired with an ambition, always pleasant to see; he determined to become educated. For two years, he attended the school in this city, coming from his home each morning, and back again in the evening, on horseback. When but fifteen years of age, he taught his first term of school, at the home schoolhouse in Alto. His second and last term of school was taught at the Dyar Schoolhouse in the winter of 1866 and 1867. It has been said that poets are born, not made by study; whether true or not, it is true that the subject of this sketch was a lawyer by nature. We do not mean by this that he did not prepare himself thoroughly for the success he has since obtained, but we mean that he naturally drifted into the legal profession. He entered the University of Michigan in the spring of 1867, and took a special course of study; in the fall of the same year, he entered the law department of the same university as a junior, and was graduated therefrom in the spring of 1869. In May of the same year, before he was twenty years of age, he opened an office in this city and commenced the practice of his profession. While young in years, he offset any disadvantage because of his youth by superior diligence and energy in his practice, and he soon commanded a large business and took a leading place in his profession, which he has ever since maintained. While he is an antagonist to be feared in any cause in which he embarks, it is as a " criminal lawyer" that he especially excels; kind and sympathetic by nature, his heart goes out to those in trouble. He seems to divine by intuition the strong points of a defense, and this, together with his matchless oratory, makes him a redoubtable antagonist in the defense of persons charged with crime. Soon after he commenced practice, he was engaged to assist in the prosecution of Dougherty, who was indicted for killing Van Horn. The case was tried at Tipton. Col. Charles D. Murray, Col. N. P. Richmond and Charles E. Hendry were also employed in the prosecution. All were men of ability and experience. The defendant was represented by one of the most able corps of attorneys ever engaged in the defense of any man, Gov. Thomas A. Hendricks, Maj. Jonathan W. Gordon, of Indianapolis, Judge Linsdav, of Kokomo, and Hon. N. R. Overman, of Tipton. The defendant was acquitted, but the trial of this case showed, despite his youth, that Mr. Kern could cope successfully with the best men in his profession. From the time of that trial to the present, Gov. Hendricks has always been Mr. Kern's warm friend and admirer. Soon after this, Mr. Kern defended one Jones, for the killing of Miles Slyter; he was acquitted. He assisted in the defense of Garr and .Pratt for the killing of Warnick; both were acquitted. In the winter of 1880, he was employed to prosecute Doles for the killing of Perry White. The first trial came off in March, 1881, and the jury stood eleven for conviction and one for acquittal; thus they were discharged; the second trial took place in March, 1882, and Doles was sentenced to twenty one years in the penitentiary. Mr Kern's closing argument for the State was one of the most powerful arguments ever delivered before a Tipton County jury. When closing his argument, he summed up all the evidence against the defendant and closed with one of the most thundering perorations ever heard in a court of justice. Many other cases of importance in which Mr. Kern was employed might be given, but they would be superfluous. In 1871, Mr. Kern was elected City Attorney, by a Republican Council, and subsequently reelected twice, thus serving until 1877, when he refused longer to fill the office; he was elected at the last election, May, 1883, to fill the office of City Attorney of Kokomo two years. Each of these elections was by a Republican Council. In politics, Mr. Kern is a Democrat of the most pronounced character, but he is not an ultra partisan, and in local elections remembers his friends. In the fall of 1870, the Democrats nominated him for the Legislature, and he was beaten by less than 250 votes, when the county went Republican by 1,000; his opponent was Captain Kirkpatrick, then as now a strong man in his party. In 1874, Mr. Kern was defeated for Prosecutor by 234 votes, and in 1880 he was defeated by 505, when Garfield carried the county by 1,200 maj ority. It is very safe to say that the political life of John W. Kern has just commenced. Mr. Kern married Miss Annie Hazzard, in 1870. They have but one child, Fred. He is a member of the Methodist Church and is a Freemason and. Odd Fellow His mother died in 1859. His father, Dr. Jacob H. Kern, resides near IBotetourt Springs, Va. Mr. Kern is the only son: He has a sister, who also resides in Virginia.

From:
Counties of Howard and Tipton, Indiana
Historical and Biographical
Charles Blanchard, Editor
F. A. Bettey & Co.
Chicago 1883.


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