In the “learned professions” merit alone can win advancement. When success must depend upon the various mental attributes of the individual, neither wealth nor influential friends can aid one in the progress toward fame. The man who has attained prominence at the bar is there-fore entitled to great credit, for as he lengthens the distance between himself and mediocrity it is the indication of great zeal, marked ability, close application and thorough knowledge. It has been through the exercise of these qualities that William E. Borah has attained a position at the bar that might well be envied by many an older practitioner.
He was born in Fairfield, Wayne County, Illinois, June 29, 1865, and is of German and Irish lineage. Three brothers of the name emigrated to America in colonial days and two of them fought for the independence of the nation, while the third was an ardent loyalist. William N. Borah, the father of our subject, was a native of Kentucky, numbered among the influential farmers and officials in his county for many years. He married Elizabeth West, a native of Indiana, and in 1820 they removed to Illinois, where they still reside, their home being in Fairfield. They are members of the Presbyterian Church, honored pioneers of the community, and are widely and favorably known. They had a family of ten children, eight of whom are yet living.
Among this number is William Edward Borah, of Boise, who was reared on the old family homestead in Illinois, aiding in the labors of field and meadow through the summer months, while in the winter season he attended the district schools of the neighborhood. Later he entered the Southern Illinois Academy, at Enfield, that state, where he studied for a year, after which he was matriculated in the university at Lawrence, Kansas. He had almost completed his course there when failing health forced him to seek a change of climate by going south. When he had sufficiently recovered he came to Lyons, Kansas, and began reading law under the instruction of A. M. Lasley, now of Chicago. He applied himself with great earnestness to the mastery of the fundamental principles of jurisprudence, and in 1888 was admitted to the bar. He was then ready to put his theoretical knowledge to the practical test, a test which afterward fully demonstrated his ability to cope with the intricate problems of the courts. He came to Boise in 1891, entered upon the practice of his profession and rose rapidly to prominence, acquiring an extensive and profitable clientage. He now has the reputation of being one of the most successful lawyers in the state, having won many notable victories before judge and jury.
On the 28th of April 1895, Mr. Borah was united in marriage to Miss Mamie McConnell, a daughter of ex-Governor McConnell, of Idaho. They have a nice home in Boise and their position in social circles is very enviable. In politics Mr. Borah has always been a stalwart Republican, but in 1896, not agreeing with his party on the position which it took on the money question, he refused to follow its leadership and joined the ranks of the “silver” Republicans. With great power he defended the cause of bimetallism, was nominated for congress on that issue and conducted one of the most brilliant campaigns in the history of the state. The brilliance and force of his eloquence soon became noised abroad and wherever he spoke he attracted large audiences from every class and station in life. He had the power of holding the attention of his hearers to a remarkable degree, and though he was defeated he led his ticket, won hosts of friends and acquired the reputation of being one of the ablest campaign orators in Idaho. He is a young man of great promise. His close study of the momentous questions of the day and his loyalty to America and her institutions well fit him for leadership, and both in the field of politics and at the bar he will undoubtedly win still greater successes in the future.