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But few men of his day and time, a period when judges held office during good behavior, occupied the circuit bench longer than Judge Benjamin Shackelford. For thirty-six years-more than the average of human life-he presided over the Circuit Court of this judicial district. And during that time fewer of his decisions were reversed by the higher courts than of any judge, perhaps, in the State. Although making no parade of it, Judge Shackelford possessed in a full measure that absolute incorruptibility that insures purity in the administration of the law. His judgments were always distinctly marked with impartiality and even-handed justice. He believed in those fundamental principles embodied in our organic law-that every person ought ” to obtain right and justice freely, and without being obliged to purchase it,” and that he ought ” to find a certain remedy in the laws for all injuries and wrongs which he may receive in his person, property or reputation.” More endorsing than a monument of granite are the impartial acts of such a man. The questions discussed in the thirty-six years he was upon the bench are of the utmost importance, and are such as would naturally be expected to arise in that formative period of a rapidly growing State, and especially in one that has risen to the proportions of an empire in itself. He rests from his labors, but his name still lives, and is a synonym of official integrity, purity and honesty.
Judge Shackelford remained upon the circuit bench until the adoption of the new Constitution of the State, which made the office elective. He was a candidate at the first election for the position, but was defeated. His opponents were Hon. Henry J. Stites (now of Louisville), a Democrat, and Hon. Ninian E. Grey, a Whig. Judge Shackelford, also being a Whig, so divided the Whig vote between him and Mr. Grey that Mr. Stites was elected by a small majority. An article from the columns of the Kentucky Rifle (Hopkinsville) of May 24, 1851, shows the estimation in which Judge Shackelford was held by the people among whom he had lived so many years. It is as follows:
Resolutions highly complimentary to Hon. Benjamin Shackelford, Presiding Judge of this circuit, were adopted by the Bar and Grand Jury, and presented to the Court yesterday evening. Judge Shackelford replied in an eloquent and impressive speech, which deeply moved his auditors, and during the delivery of which he was himself visibly affected. The Judge now leaves a bench upon which he has administered justice for about thirty-six years; his hair has grown gray in the discharge of the dignified and delicate trust conferred upon him by the patriot Shelby1
Judge Shackelford was born in King and Queens Co., Va., April 24, 1780, and was a son of Benjamin Shackelford. He read law with his elder brother, Capt. John Shackelford, of Culpeper C. H., and was admitted to the bar in September, 1802; came to Kentucky the same fall, and located at Lexington, distinguished at that early day for its able bar. He practiced law in Fayette and the adjoining counties until 1806-07, when he came to Christian County. Here he continued practice until appointed to the bench in 1815 by Gov. Shelby. Judge Shackelford was a fine looking man, six feet and two inches in height, and erect in figure. He married Frances P. Dallam, a daughter of Maj. Francis Dallam, of a prominent old Maryland family. Five children were born to them, three daughters and two sons. Of the latter, Richard Shackelford, at one time Circuit Clerk of Christian County, but for the past thirty years a practicing lawyer of New Orleans, and Dr. Charles Shackelford of Hopkinsville. Martha, the eldest daughter, married Samuel Shryock, Elizabeth married George Morris, who soon died, and she afterward married R. L. Waddill; the other daughter died in infancy. Judge Shackelford died April 29, 1858, and is buried in Hopkinsville Cemetery.
Isaac Shelby, then Governor of Kentucky for the second time. yet to-day, the last of his official career, he can hand an unstained ermine to his successor, and proudly point to a long record whose purity is unblemished by a single blot of judicial corruption. He goes out of office with the regret and esteem of all who know him, and with a reputation for honesty and integrity which is the true and crowning glory of all worthy and manly ambition in any department of public life, but especially in the peculiarly important and trying duties of the judicial service. The following are the resolutions adopted by the Grand Jury:
The Grand Jurors impaneled for the May term, 1851, of the Christian Circuit Court, being the last term of said court under the judicial administration of Hon. B. Shackelford, who has so long presided over said court, deeming it proper to testify our regard for the Judge, have adopted the following resolutions:
Resolved, That we hereby tender our sincere regard for the Hon. B. Shackelford, who is now about to retire from the judicial bench, and, in common with his friends and fellow-citizens generally, hereby testify our appreciation for the ability and impartiality which have characterized his long judicial career.
Resolved, That we tender to his Honor our best wishes for his happiness and prosperity in his retiracy, hoping that his days may still be long and characterized, as heretofore, by the esteem and high regard of the community in which he has filled a conspicuous and useful place.
Resolved, That these resolutions be published in the papers of this Judicial District.
Zach. Glass, John Anderson, Joseph P. Graves, B. B. Jones, Amos Gillum, Thomas Brown, Walker Carneal, Thomas P. Campbell, J. B. Gowen, Thomas C. Graves, David Anderson, Evan Hopson, David E. Boyd, George W. Newman, Neil McLean, Isaac Landes.
Subjoined are the resolutions of the bar:
Whereas, In the mutations incident to free government, it has fallen to the lot of the Hon. Benjamin Shackelford, Judge of the Seventh Judicial District of Kentucky, to vacate the station which he has occupied with honor to himself for thirty-six years, therefore, as this is a proper occasion to express our appreciation of his character and services:
Be it Resolved, That the Hon. B. Shackelford, throughout his whole official life, has manifested his opposition to tyranny and intolerance, his detestation of oppression and fraud; has proven himself the friend of humanity, and has impartially and firmly discharged the duties of his office.
Resolved, That, in retiring from the bench, he carries with him the respect and esteem of the profession, whose privilege it has been not only to know him on the bench, but to meet with him daily in the private Intercourse of life-and their best wishes for his future health, prosperity and happiness.
Resolved, That N. E. Gray, the present Representative of the Commonwealth in this district, by his able discharge of the duties of his station, is entitled to the respect of the community.
Resolved, That Richard Shackelford, former Clerk of this Court, by his courteous and accommodating deportment has won for himself the regard and esteem of all persons, as well lawyers as litigants having business in his office.
Resolved, That these resolutions be presented by the Secretary in open court, with a request that they be entered on the record, and that he cause them to be published in the newspapers of this Judicial District.
F. C. SHARP, Chairman.
R. R. LANSDEN, Secretary. ↩