HON. CHARLES WILLIAM FULTON
When one determines the capabilities of a man, he must regard the depths from which he has climbed as well as the
heights to which he has attained. In a word, he must measure the obstacles and difficulties which have confronted
him and which have been overcome. Judged by this standard, the record of Charles William Fulton is a remarkable
one, for he had many handicaps in youth, worked hard to secure an education and received his legal training only
at the cost of earnest, self denying effort. Teaching school through the day, he allowed himself few social pleasures
and devoted his evening hours to the study of law, thus making thorough preparation for the bar. In this is indicated
the nature of the man, who became one of the leading attorneys and most highly respected citizens of Portland and
a distinguished statesman of Oregon.
Mr. Fulton was born in Lima, Ohio, August 24, 1853, a son of Jacob and Eliza A. Fulton. The father was a carpenter
by trade and a soldier of the Civil war, serving as second lieutenant of a company in the Twenty ninth Iowa Volunteer
Infantry during the period of hostilities between the north and south. He had removed with his family from Ohio
to Harrison county, Iowa, in 1855, and it was here that Charles W. Fulton began his education in the common schools,
while later he continued his studies in the high school of Magnolia. the county seat of Harrison county. In 1870,
when seventeen years of age, he accompanied his parents on their removal to Pawnee City, Nebraska, and there attended
the Pawnee City Academy for two years. This constituted the extent of his educational advantages, but even these
were not enjoyed as a gift from the hands of fate. He was but nine years of age when his father went to war and
it was necessary for him to do much service in support of the family and his opportunities to pursue his studies
were greatly curtailed thereby. Notwithstanding difficulties and obstacles, he persevered and when he ceased to
be a student he became a teacher. While thus connected with the district schools he devoted the hours which are
usually termed leisure to the study of law, his thorough preliminary reading securing him admission to the bar
in April, 1875. Two or three days lalater onhe 6th of April he left his Nebraska home for Oregon, arriving in Portland
on the 20th of the same month. His only suit of clothing was the one he wore and he had but ten dollars and a quarter
when he reached his destination. He did not know a single person in Portland nor on the entire Pacific coast. He
believed, however, that success awaited him in return for earnest, honest effort. It was his intention to secure
a clerkship in a law office, but after making application to every attorney in the city and later applying to every
livery stable in the city for work he became discouraged at the prospect here and went to Albany, where he met
a young man, James K. Weatherford, who a short time before had been elected to the office of school superintendent.
He told Mr. Fulton of a school which he believed he might secure at Waterloo, Linn county, eighteen miles from
Albany. That afternoon he walked to the school and secured the position. The next morning he walked back to Albany,
where he sold his watch for three dollars and a half in order to obtain money with which to pay for his teacher's
certificate, and then successfully passing the examination, he started the following morning with twenty five cents
in his pocket for Waterloo. He capably conducted the school through the ensuing term and in the following July
went to Astoria, where he entered upon the practice of law. He came to Portland in March, 1909, and established
himself as one of the leading lawyers of this city as well as one of the prominent lawmakers of the state.
On the 5th of September, 1878, Mr. Fulton was united in marriage to Miss Ada M. Hobson, who was born on Clatsop
Plains, in Clatsop county, Oregon, and is therefore a "native daughter." Her father, John Hobson, was
one of the prominent pioneers of the state and served as collector of customs at Astoria under President Cleveland.
Mr. and Mrs. Fulton became the parents of a son, Fred C., whose birth occurred February 7, 1887.
In June prior to his marriage Mr. Fulton had been elected to the state senate and the wedding trip of the young
couple was from Astoria to Salem, where Mr. Fulton attended the succeeding session of the legislature, which at
that time convened in September. From that time until his death he was prominently connected with the political
history of the state and nation. In 1881 he was appointed city attorney by the city council of Astoria, which position
he held for three years at a salary of fifty dollars per month. In 1890 he was again elected a member of the upper
house of the Oregon assembly. In 1893 he was chosen president of the senate, where he presided with dignity and
uniform justice, his rulings being based upon a comprehensive knowledge of parliamentary law and procedure. In
1898 he was again elected to the state senate and was once more chosen as the presiding officer of the upper house
in 1901. The following year he was reelected state senator and thus through four terms was an active associate
of Oregon's leading lawmakers, leaving the impress of his individuality upon the legislative proceedings which
in large measure have shaped the policy and guided the destiny of the commonwealth. His work in the senate is a
matter of history. Mr. Fulton ever stood fearlessly in defense of what he believed to be right, and while he believed
in concerted party action and thorough organization, he did not believe in sacrificing the public welfare to partisanship
nor placing individual aggrandizement before the good of his constituents. In 1888 he was chosen presidential elector
and carried Oregon's vote to Washington in February, 1889. During the session of the Oregon legislature in February,
1903, he was elected to the United States senate and served for a full term of six years.
Mr. Fulton passed away on the 27th of January, 1918, at the age of sixty five years, and his demise was the occasion
of deep and widespread regret, for he had made for himself a prominent place in the community, and his progressive
citizenship and his sterling personal worth gained for him the warm regard of all who knew him. At his death the
family received hundreds of letters of sympathy and condolence from the most eminent men of the state and the nation.
In a resolution passed by the bench and bar of Oregon appears the following: "It is with a profound sense
of personal loss that the members of the bench and bar of Oregon assemble for the purpose of establishing a lasting
memorial of his character and of his attainments in the profession of the law and to commemorate his distinguished
services to his state and to his country. . . . . . His life was as an open book, for he soon created a place
for himself as one of the foremost citizens of the state, known and respected far and wide as a man of sterling
worth and of unusual ability. His probity, his sincerity and his genial and kindly manner drew to himself a host
of friends and admirers to whom his untimely death in the midst of the busy and active practice of his profession
came with a shock of bereavement.
"As a lawyer he enjoyed an extensive and varied practice which his diligence and his talents and his solid
attainments well merited. Always an effective and forceful speaker, his arguments to juries were powerful and convincing.
His cases were always well prepared, so that he went into court with a clear conception of what he desired to show.
In the presentation of his case to the court, in his analysis of the legal principles involved, and in making practical
application of these principles to the evidence, he was earnest, strong and logical. His integrity, his conscientiousness,
his recognition of the proper relations of an attorney to court and to client, gained for him the respect of the
judges before whom he practiced, and he always treated his opponents with courtesy, dignity and good nature, without
abating in any degree his loyal and enthusiastic zeal for his client's rights. As a citizen and as a neighbor he
was patriotic, public spirited, tolerant and just. He was an unostentatious man, free from pretense and affectation.
To those who knew him well the memory of his warm friendship, his vibrant voice, his hearty laugh, his vigorous
hand grasp, his ready retort, his apt illustration by appropriate anecdote, his cheerful, cordial and spontaneous
good fellowship, is all a precious legacy. The world is better for his having lived in it, and the influence of
his example will not soon be lost."
His record is a splendid illustration of the fact that character and ability will come to the front anywhere, and
that it is under the stimulus of opposition and necessity that the best and strongest in men are brought out and
developed. His course commanded and merited the confidence and support of his fellowmen, and as lawyer and statesman
he ranked among those whose records have conferred honor and dignity upon the state which has honored them.
History of Oregon Illistrated
BY: Charles H. Carney
The Pioneer Historical Publishing Company
Chicago - Portland 1922
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