Biography of Judge John B. Cleland
Oregon Biographies





Judge John Bryson Cleland, a distinguished member of the Portland bar, who for thirteen years occupied the bench of the fourth judicial district, was born on a farm near Janesville, Wisconsin, July 15, 1848, his parents being James and Isabella (Bryon) Cleland. After mastering the branches of learning taught in the district school of his home neighborhood he attended private and public schools in Janesville and for two years was a pupil in Carroll College at Waukesha, Wisconsin. His desire to become a member of the bar caused him to enter upon the study of law in the office of Cassoday & Merrill in his native city and later he matriculated in the law department of the University of Michigan, from which he was graduated on the 29th of March, 1871. In July of the latter year he opened an office in Osage, Iowa, where he entered into partnership with the Hon. W. L. Eaton, now deceased, the connection between them being maintained for about fourteen years, or until January 1, 1885. Throughout that period Mr. Cleland enjoyed an extensive practice that connected him with much important litigation tried in the courts of the district. He was also prominent in the public life of the community and early in his residence at Osage served as a member of the school board and as justice of the peace. In 1876 he was elected district attorney of the twelfth judicial district of Iowa, which at that time comprised eight counties, and his record of efficiency is indicated in the fact that he was reelected in 1880. Four years later he was called upon for judicial service, being elected circuit judge, and in 1886 was elected district judge of the same district, serving upon the bench there until 1888, when he resigned his office and removed to Fargo, North Dakota, where he entered upon the private practice of law as a partner in the firm of Miller & Cleland, which later became the firm of Miller, Cleland & Cleland.

The year 1890 witnessed the arrival of Judge Cleland in Portland. Here he began the practice of law in association with his brother, William A. Cleland, under the firm style of Cleland & Cleland, and was thus engaged until January, 1898, when he was called to the bench by appointment of Governor Lord, who made him judge of the fourth judicial district of Oregon. He continued in the office for thirteen years, having been elected for a full term in the fall of 1898 and afterward reelected. His course upon the bench was in harmony with his record as a man and citizen, being characterized by marked fidelity to duty and by a masterful grasp of every problem presented for solution. His decisions were strictly fair and impartial and his record was one which reflected credit and honor upon the judicial history of the state. In January, 1911, he resumed the private practice of law in partnership with his brother under the firm name of John B. and W. A. Cleland, the firm maintaining an existence until dissolved by the death of W. A. Cleland in February, 1913. Judge Cleland has since practiced alone and is justly accounted one of the eminent members of the Portland bar. In 1906 he became a lecturer in the law department of the University of Oregon and so continued until the department was transferred from Portland to Eugene. He then became a lecturer in the Northwestern College of Law.

On the 23d of February, 1874, in Janesville, Wisconsin, Judge Cleland was united in marriage to Miss Ellen Josephine Corey and to them have been born four children: Laura J.; Bessie Isabella, who is the wife of John C. Baird of Portland; Earl J.; and Mattie Ellen. All are now residents of this city.

Judge Cleland's military experience is confined to service as adjutant of the Sixth Regiment of the Iowa National Guard during his young manhood. He is a prominent Mason, having been made a member of the order in Osage Lodge, No. 102, A. F. & A. M., in 1872, while from 1874 until 1876 he served as its worshipful master. He was likewise connected with the Royal Arch chapter at Osage and was high priest of that body in 1875-6. He became a member of Coeur De Leon Commanders, No. 19, K. T., at Osage, and filled the position of eminent commander for six years and was also senior grand warden of the grand commandery of the state of Iowa. In 1898 he served as grand master of Masons of Oregon and for twenty years has been a member of the jurisprudence committee of the grand lodge of this state. He was also eminent commander of Oregon Commandery No. 1, K. T., for two years and in 1899 was grand commander of the grand commandery of Oregon. In the Scottish Rite he has received the honorary thirty third degree. He became a member of El Zagel Temple, A. A. O. N. M. S., at Fargo, North Dakota, and now belongs to Al Kader Temple of the Mystic Shrine at Portland. While at Osage, Iowa, he likewise served as worthy patron of the Eastern Star and thus his Masonic activities have been of an extensive and varied character.

While a student in the law department of the University of Michigan, Judge Cleland became one of the founders of the Phi Delta Phi fraternity, the membership being at first confined to law students in attendance at the university. The order, however, has since been extended to many of the law schools of the United States and Canada and has now a very large enrollment. Judge Cleland is a life member of the Multnomah Amateur Athletic Club and his interest in public affairs is shown in his connection with the Portland Chamber of Commerce. His political allegiance is given to the republican party and he has exerted considerable influence in party affairs, and such is the recognized soundness of his political opinions that his position is one of leadership.

From:
History of Oregon Illistrated
Vol. 3
BY: Charles H. Carney
The Pioneer Historical Publishing Company
Chicago - Portland 1922


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