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Courts in the Classroom > Justice Biographies > Justice William Ellis Niblack Justice Biographies

Justice William Ellis Niblack

(Twenty-seventh Justice)

Justice William Ellis Niblack

Justice Niblack was born May 19, 1822, in Dubois County, Indiana, and died May 4, 1893, in Indianapolis.

He attended a log school until age sixteen, when he entered Indiana University. The death of his father made it impossible for him to graduate. He took up surveying and then studied law, being admitted to the bar in 1854. He held various seats in the Indiana General Assembly and, in 1855, he was elected to the U.S. Congress. He served a total of fourteen years as a U.S. Representative and was very active in national Democratic politics. In January 1877, he joined the Indiana Supreme Court, and he remained on the bench until January 1889.427 He was elected in the "Upholstery War" of 1876, when Republican partisans began an uproar over the expenses of decorating the chambers of the Indiana Supreme Court. They claimed that lavish furnishings had been acquired, including upholstered chairs, carpets, lounge chairs, and other luxuries. Not to be outdone, many Democrats joined the fracas and denounced the waste of state funds. No corruption was found, but the members of the Indiana Supreme Court were affected by the taint of scandal.428

427. 1 BIOGRAPHICAL DIRECTORY, supra note 55, at 292.
428. 1 MONKS, supra note 25, at 264-65; 1 BIOGRAPHICAL DIRECTORY, supra note 55, at 292

Source: Browning, Minde C., Richard Humphrey, and Bruce Kleinschmidt. "Biographical Sketches of Indiana Supreme Court Justices." Indiana Law Review: Vol. 30, No. 1, 1997. View this source in PDF format.