Biography - William Spann

HON. WILLIAM A. SPANN, of Vienna, is a lawyer of the highest order, whose character and legal attainments mark him as one of the most successful and honored members of the Bar of southern Illinois. He was born in Cherokee County, Ala., October 6, 1840, and is a son of Silas Spann, a retired merchant residing at Alto Pass, in this State.
The father of our subject is a native of North Carolina, where he carried on the occupation of farmer in early manhood. In 1848 he left that State for New Orleans, La., but he did not tarry there long, as the following year found him in Union County, this State, where he was one of the pioneer merchants for the sale of general merchandise in the village of Anna, carrying on business with a Mr. Sessions under the firm name of Sessions & Spann. He finally bought his partner's interest in the concern, and remained sole proprietor until his retirement from business in 1878, having in the course of a long and honorable career accumulated an ample property, and he is now serenely passing the sunset of life at Alto Pass, his years numbering eighty-three. He has been four times married. His first wife, Martha Lott, a native of Georgia, the mother of our subject, died in Cherokee County, Ala. He was then married to Mrs. Bullard, of Alabama. She died, and he was wedded to Charlotte Alexander, of Union County, and after her demise he married Mrs. Cox, also of Union County. There were four children born of the first marriage, four of the second, and a like number of the third.
Our subject was the second child of his father's first marriage, and he was but two years old when he was deprived of the tender care of his mother by her untimely death. He lived with his grandmother and some uncles until he was sixteen years old, and was trained to habits of industry on a farm, he had but little chance to satisfy his craving for an education in the poor subscription schools of the locality in which he lived, which were illy supplied with textbooks, Webster's old spelling book being the one in which he obtained the rudiments of what knowledge he acquired from books in his childhood.
After the death of his father's second wife, he came to Illinois, in June, 1857, and here his prospects of obtaining an education brightened. He was not only a bright scholar and retained what be learned, but he was a determined and energetic student, and applied himself eagerly to his studies in the school at Jonesboro, which he attended from July 1 to October 1, when he entered the public schools of that place. He cherished an ambition to become a lawyer, and having had a solid foundation for the acquirement of legal knowledge, he commenced a regular course of reading with Judge Crawford as preceptor, in November, 1870. June 15, 1875, he was admitted to the bar at Mt. Vernon, but he did not immediately enter upon the regular practice of his profession, having personal matters to look after, and among other things attending to the management of the farm that he owned in Johnson County. In March, 1877, he opened an office at Vienna, where he has since made his home. During the fifteen years that have elapsed since he settled hero, he has become widely known as a jurist well learned in law and of masterly ability as a practitioner, possessing superior gifts as an advocate, a keen insight into human nature that is very helpful to him, and the tact and business acumen needful to conduct legal cases to a successful issue. He is courteous and gentlemanly in his bearing, firm in his adherence to his convictions of right and justice, and his reputation has attracted to him a large clientage in Johnson, Pope, Saline, Pulaski, Alexander, Union, Williamson and Massac Counties, his business calling him to the courts of all these counties when in session, and he frequently has cases in the State Supreme Court and in the United States Supreme Court at Cairo and Springfield.
December 24, 1862, our subject was united in marriage with Miss Narcissa A. Simpson. Twenty-two years of wedded happiness were vouchsafed to them, and then she, who had filled in a perfect measure the relations of wife, mother and friend, died January 21, 1885. Her union with our subject was hallowed by the birth of six children: Flora, wife of Alec Hess, of Vienna; Mattie, wife of A. E. Cantwell; and these four at home with their father: Lula, Ida, Hallie and Willie.
Mr. Spann is a Democrat of approved soundness, although by no means a bitter partisan, and his fellow-citizens, irrespective of party, would be pleased to have him take a more active part in public life, for which he is so eminently fitted, but its honors and emoluments have no attraction for him in his devotion to his profession. In 1880, however, he was prevailed upon by his friends to enter the political arena as a candidate for the Legislature, was elected to represent this district, and was re-elected to the office in 1882. In August, 1885, he was appointed Postmaster at Vienna by President Cleveland, and had charge of the post-office in this village until his resignation in February, 1889.

Extracted 16 Apr 2016 from 1893 Biographical Review of Johnson, Massac, Pope, and Hardin Counties, Illinois, pages 127-128.

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