Biography of Judge William L. Day
Cuyahoga County, OH Biographies

WILLIAM LOUIS DAY. Soon after his appointment in 1908 as United States Attorney, Judge Day removed to Cleveland, and has since been a distinguished resident of this city. He is a native of Canton, Ohio, where the family has resided for fifty years. In the Ohio bench and bar the name Day has been one of the most distinguished through a period of four score years. Luther, founder of the Ohio family, was born at Granville, New York, July 9, 1813, of Revolutionary ancestry. The sudden death of his father stopped his education, and until he was twenty he worked to support the family. After his father's debts were paid he began teaching as a means of defraying his college expenses. He remained three years as a student in Middlebury College of Vermont, but in 1838, while visiting his mother at Ravenna, Ohio, he decided to remain in this state, and began the study of law under Rufus P. Spalding. He was admitted to the bar October 8, 1840, in 1843 was elected prosecuting attorney of Portage County, and in 1851 was elected judge of the Court of Common Pleas, serving two terms. He was a democrat until the Civil war. Early in the war he was appointed judge advocate general on the staff of General Todd, in 1863 was elected a member of the State Senate, and resigned in 1864 to become a judge of the Supreme Court of Ohio. He was reelected to the Supreme Bench in 1869, and was again a candidate in 1874, but was defeated with the rest of the state republican ticket. In April, 1875, he became a minority member of the commission to revise the statutes of the state. In 1876 Governor Hays appointed him a member of the Supreme Court Commission, this being his last public service. He died at Ravenna in 1886. His wife, Emily Spalding, was a daughter of his preceptor, Judge Spalding, and a granddaughter of Zepheniah Swift, who in early times served as chief justice of the Supreme Court of Connecticut. Rufus P. Spalding was a member of the Ohio Supreme Court and of Congress.

The late Judge William Rufus Day, a son of Judge Luther and Emily (Spalding) Day, was for a quarter of a century one of the ablest men in our national life, and his career belongs among great Americans as well as eminent Ohioans. He was born at Ravenna, Ohio, April 17, 1849, and as a boy in that community before and during the Civil war he was strongly impressed by the actions of men willing to work and die if need be for a principle or cause. He attended the public schools of Ravenna, was a student in the Academic and Law departments of the University of Michigan from 1866 to 1872, receiving his Bachelor of Science degree in 1870. The University of Michigan in 1898 conferred upon him the degree of Bachelor of Laws, and he was similarly honored by other institutions. On being admitted to the bar in 1872 he began practice at Canton, where he and his associates gained a reputation second to none in the state.

From 1886 to 1890 he was judge of the Court of Common Pleas. In 1889 President Harrison appointed him United States district judge for Northern Ohio, but on account of failing health he resigned before beginning his judicial duties. In March, 1897, his fellow townsman, President McKinley, called him to Washington as assistant secretary of state, and on April 26, 1898, a few days after the outbreak of the war with Spain, he succeeded another Ohioan, John Sherman, as secretary of state. He administered the affairs of that great office practically throughout the Cuban war. In September, 1898, he was succeeded by John Hay, and then became chairman of the United States Peace Commission at Paris and negotiated the Treaty of Peace with Spain. In 1899 Judge Day was appointed United States Circuit Judge of the Sixth Circuit, and in February, 1903. President Roosevelt raised him to the rank and dignity of an associate justice of the Supreme Court.

Judge Day served on the United States Supreme Bench nearly twenty years. As a jurist he was characterized as a "very conservative thinker, a man who abhors everything in the nature of 'fireworks,' studying out his conclusions with a calm mind and expressing his opinions with apparently a complete indifference to public clamor and superficial currents of sentiment. Judge Day, while always absolutely frank in his utterances, possesses that balance of faculties which makes him a safe and reliable counselor in every national crisis."

Judge Day resigned from the Supreme Bench, November 14, 1922, and for several months following he acted as umpire of the United States-Germany claim commission. For forty years he had been spending his summers at Mackinac Island, Michigan, and he died at his home there July 9, 1923. He is survived by two brothers, both eminent in the Ohio bar, David B. Day, who for many years was associated in practice with Judge Day, and also Robert H. Day, a justice of the Ohio Supreme Court.

In 1875 Judge W. R. Day married Mary Elizabeth Schaefer, daughter of Louis Schaefer, for many years a member of the Stark County bar. Mrs. Day died January 5, 1912, the mother of four children, William L. and Luther Day, of Cleveland; Stephen A. Day, of Chicago, and Rufus S. Day, of Washington, D. C.

William Louis Day, of Cleveland, was born at Canton, Ohio. August 13, 1876, was educated in public schools there, graduated in 1896 from Williston Seminary at. Easthampton, Massachusetts, and studied law in his father's alma mater, the University of Michigan, where he, graduated in 1900. In the same year he began private practice at Canton, and for some time was junior member of the law firm of Lynch, Day & Day. He served two years as city solicitor of Canton. In March, 1903, under appointment from President Roosevelt, he began his duties as United States district attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. and on May 13, 1911, he was elevated to the United States District Bench. As most of his court duties were in Cleveland. he removed to this city and when he resigned from the bench, May 1, 1914, he resumed private practice as a member of the Cleveland law firm of Squire. Sanders & Dempsey. At the present time he is a member of the firm of Day & Day.

Judge Day has among his ancestors a number of the most distinguished men in the Ohio bench and bar, yet for all this heritage it is noteworthy that before he was forty years of age he hid offices which are regarded as the crowning distinctions of the legal profession. In younger years he was a prominent leader in republican politics. Judge W. L. Day is a member of the Hermit, Nisi Arius, and Cleveland Athletic clubs, also the Union Club, the Country Club and the Big Ten. Club. On September 10, 1902, he married Miss Elizabeth E. McKay, of Caro, Michigan, daughter of Hon. William McKay. The two children of Judge and Mrs. Day are: William R., born in 1904, and Jean Cameron, born in 1910.

A History of Cuyahoga County
and the City of Cleveland
By: William R. Coates
The American Historical Society
Chicago and New York, 1924

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