Biography of Judge O. W. Powers
Utah Biographies

Judge O. W. Powers, one of the most prominent jurists of Utah, was born June 16th, 1850. at Pultneyville, Wayne County. New York. near Palmyra. His ancestors occupy honorable places in the history of England and Ireland. and many of them appear conspicuonsly in Colonial and Revolutionary times.

In the place of his birth he passed his early boyhood with his parents, who were farmers. Hem secured his early education at a district school ands at Sodus Academy and the Marion Collegiate Institute of Wayne County.

Determining to become a lawyer, Mr. Powers procured a copy of the Revised Statutes of New York, which be studied very sedulously. At the age of eighteen he was given his choice of taking a course at Cornell University or the University of Michigan. He chose the latter, and graduated in 1811.

After his graduation Mr. Powers returned homed and worked on the farm for a time. in order to obtain the means with which to begin the practice of law.

In 1873 he removed to Kalamazoo. Michigan. landing there with less than one hundred dollars, and with no experience either at the bar or in a law olive. He succeeded in obtaining a position as clerk with the law firm of May & Buck. and received for his services his board and permission to sleep in a room back of the office. After three months they allowed him a salary of ten dollars per month in addition to his board and lodging, requiring him however, to put into the firm five hundred dollars worth of law books, which he procured by borrowing the money.

He advanced rapidly in his profession and was soon ably handling important cases. In the midst of his law practice, he found time for some political work. In 1874 he took the stump for the Democratic Party. and was thereafter a member of every Democratic State Convention of the State of Michigan, and for many years held the position of County Chairman for the Democrats of Kalamazoo County, directing his party in several hard fought campaigns.

In 1875, Mr. Powers succeeded to the business of May & Buck and associated himself with Mr. W. H. Daniels. In 1876 he was elected City Attorney of Kalamazoo. In the presidential campaign of that year, he stumped the State for Samuel J. Tilden. He also took part in the campaign in Indiana, speaking through the northern part with Governor Hendricks and Daniel W. Voorhees. A strong friendship grew up between Judge Powers and Governor Hendricks and thereafter the former was a staunch supporter of the great Indiana statesman.

In 1880, without his consent, Judge Powers was unanimously nominated for Congress from the Fourth District of Michigan, which had been almost uniformly represented by a Republican. He was defeated by Julius Ceaser Burrows, now United States Senator.

In 1882, Mr. Powers wrote "Chancery. Practice and Pleading," and in 1884 he wrote "Powers' Practice" both of which are recognized authorities.

In 1884 he was elected to the Democratic State Convention and was also. the same year, one of the four delegates at large from Michigan to the Democratic National Convention at Chicago.

In 1885, he was again elected City Attorney of Kalamazoo. and during the same year he was appointed, by President Cleveland, Associate Justice of the Third District of Utah. and in May of that year he took the oath of office and entered upon his duties, with headquarters at Ogden.

On August 16th, 1886, Judge Powers ceased his duties on the bench, and was succeeded by Judge H. P. Henderson, of Michigan. He then returned to Michigan, where he became editor of the "Daily Democrat" at Grand Rapids.

On October 26th 1887, Judge Powers was married to Miss Anna Whipple, daughter of George Whipple, an old resident and merchant of Burlington. Iowa. They had two children. Don Whipple Powers, who died in 1889, and the other, Roger Woodworth Powers.

In 1887 Judge Powers returned to Utah and began the practice of his profession in Salt Lake City, where he has built up a large and lucrative business.

In 1888, the Liberal Party, which had been growing very strong. selected Judge Powers for its leader. He was made chairman of the Liberal Territorial Committee, and conducted a vigorous campaign throughout Utah. In 1889, he was called upon to take the chairmanship of the Liberal Party of Salt Lake City. He accepted and laid out the work for the hottest political campaign ever fought in Utah. The. election resulted in a victory for the Liberals, for the first time in the history of the State. by a majority of 841 votes.

Judge Powers remained the leader of the Liberal Party until its dissolution. in 1892.

In January 1897. Judge Powers was a candidate for the United States Senate, but before the balloting he withdrew in favor of Hon. Moses Thatcher. The latter was, however, defeated by Hon. Joseph Rawlins.

In 1898. Mr. Powers again become a candidate for United State: Senator and was one of the leading candidates Wiring the whole session of the legislature, which failed to elect a Senator.

On August 25th, 1899, an attempt was made by an ex convict, named John Y. Smith. to assassinate Judge Powers by means of an infernal machine loaded with giant powder and fulminating caps. The would be assassin was captured, and the day after his conviction he committed suicide.

In 1900 Mr. Powers was appointed United States Senator by acting Governor Nebeker. but he declined the appointment. The same year he was Democratic nominee for Presidential elector. In 1904, and again in 1906, he was the unanimous choice of his party for Congress. In 1908 he was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, where, in a strong and eloquent speech, he seconded the nomination of William Bryan for President of the United States.

Judge Powers is the head of once of the leading law firms of Utah and is employed in cases of the greatest importance. His practice is very large. extending. over Utah. Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada. Coloardo, Washington and California: and comprising all branches of the law. As an advocate, hem has few equals and probably no superiors; as an orator, he is forceful and brilliant. I his late case at Washington. D. C., in which he secured the acquittal of Mrs. Anna M. Bradlee, charged with the murder of Ex Senator Arthur Browns, which case is still fresh in the minds of the people of the United States, is one of his most notable achievements.

Sketches of the Inter-Mountain States
1847 - 1909
Utah Idaho Nevada
Published by: The Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake City, Utah 1909

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