An attorney whose marked ability has been repeatedly recognized not only in Rock Island County, by whose Bar Association he has, at the time this sketch is written, recently been honored by the election as its president, but throughout the State of Illinois, is Charles J. Searle, of Rock Island. A biographical sketch of a man so well and widely known, seems almost superfluous, for there are but few in Rock Island County, and indeed in this section of Illinois, who do not enjoy a personal acquaintance with the gentleman himself. And were these sketches written and published merely for the perusal of the present generation many of them would be indeed unnecessary, but the compilation of a work of this kind is under-taken with the thought that it will be an enduring memorial to those the records of whose lives are herein inscribed, and while to the living it may recount no fact that was before to them unknown yet to poster ty it will possess an ever increasing value as the conscientious gleaning of facts in the lives of men who have long since been gathered unto their fathers.
Charles J. Searle was born at Fort Smith, Arkansas, May 16, 1865, his parents being Colonel Elhanan J. (recently deceased) and Cassie R. (Pierce) Searle. Six children were born to this couple, but only two are living, Charles J. and Blanche Searle, both of Rock Island. Mr. Searle’s parents made their home in Fort Smith for about three years after his birth, and then removed to Arkadelphia in the same state, and from there to Little Rock. Our subject attended the public schools and later, when his parents came north, he attended the high school at Pana, in this state. Finishing his high school course, Mr. Searle went to Marshall County, Kansas, and here he improved a farm, later teaching school for a term. He attended the Campbell Normal University at Holton, Kansas, for one year, showing such diligence and application as a student that he carried off the class honors. The young man was obliged to depend upon his own resources, and in order to acquire an education it was necessary that he should earn the money with which to pay for his tuition and defray his expenses while attending school. At the end of his year at the Normal University, he found it necessary to again assume the role of pedagogue in order to accumulate enough funds to continue his education, so he again taught another term of school, this time in Brown County, Kansas. Then, having decided to study law, Mr. Searle entered the State University of Iowa, at Iowa City, and here for two years he pursued a law course. In this school also he showed marked ability and took the highest honors of his class, both during his junior and senior years. After graduating, Mr. Searle cast about for a location in which to practice his newly acquired profession. The result of this quest was that he finally decided upon Rock Island, and in that city he opened an office August 12, 1889. He soon learned by experience that the acquiring of a clientele was not a speedy process, and in common with nearly all young lawyers he, in the course of that evolution which every attorney must undergo, success-fully passed through the “starvation stage.” While waiting for clients, he devoted his time assiduously to study and reading along professional lines, this supplementing the legal training he had received while at Iowa City. But Its ability was so marked, especially as an advocate, that it made such an impression, not only upon the general public, but upon his fellow members of the bar as well, that he speedily got into practice, and in 1892 was elected States Attorney of Rock Island County, upon the Republican ticket. He was a vigorous and successful prosecutor, and at the expiration of his four years term he was reelected and served another term in that office. During his administration he secured a large number of convictions, and in the fulfillment of that office gave general satisfaction to the people. In 1898 he was appointed by Governor Tanner as trustee of the Western Illinois State Normal School, which was then about to be located and built, the board of trustees having the selection of the site, it was decided to locate the new institution at Macomb. Mr. Searle was chosen as president of the board and devoted much time to the duties involved in the super-vision of the erection of an institution of such magnitude; after the institution was completed and fully and successfully started, he resigned. In 1904 he was appointed by Richard Yates, junior, then Governor of Illinois, as a member of the Court of Claims, this office carrying with it the rank and title of Judge. It is the duty of this Court, consisting of three Judges and sitting at Springfield, to consider and adjudicate all disputed claims arising against the State of Illinois, and its many institutions. This office Mr. Searle still holds. Both the latter offices were conferred on Mr. Searle entirely without solicitation on his part.
On April 7, 1898, Mr. Searle married Miss Mary Pryce, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John J. Pryce, of Coal Valley, this County. Miss Pryce at the time of her marriage living in Racine, Wisconsin, where she was engaged as a teacher in the public schools of that city. To them have been born three children, two boys and a girl.
Politically Mr. Searle has always been a Republican and has been, and is, a political power, not merely in Rock Island County, but his prestige has been generally recognized throughout Illinois, and especially this part of the State. He has twice been presented to the Congressional Districts embracing Rock Island County, by Rock Island County as its candidate for Congress. He has labored diligently and efficiently for the success of his party at the polls; and as a powerful speaker upon political and economic subjects he is constantly in demand. He is in thorough sympathy with the spirit of determination for corporate regulation that is sweeping over the country, and indeed has been a pioneer in that cause and for years past has, both in political speeches and in private conversation, portrayed the dangers that threatened the welfare and prosperity of the American citizen through the unrestrained formation of vast monopolies. His Republicanism is of the type of that of Roosevelt, LaFollette and Cummins, and is opposed to that of Aldrich and Elkins.
A vigorous and virile man, an astute and discerning attorney and a gifted orator, Mr. Searle embodies in his personality those qualities that command the respect, the approval and the regard of humanity. He is a man unusually independent in thought and speech, without the slightest vestige of self-conceit, easy of approach and of broad sympathy; truly a “man of the people.”
In 1899 Mr. Searle entered into partnership with C. B. Marshall, forming the legal firm of Searle & Marshall. The partnership was an advantageous one for both gentlemen, bringing into conjunction the brilliant powers as an advocate possessed by Mr. Searle and the more tranquil and studious nature of Mr. Marshall. The firm has prospered and is today one of the leading law firms in Rock Island County.
But little remains to be said in conclusion. The life, the character, and the political principles of Charles J. Searle have been faithfully delineated. The reader can judge for himself what manner of man he is. He has obtained and retained the confidence of his fellow men, and not merely their confidence but their warm regard as well; a man whose thoughts, whose acts and whose principles expressed in speech and deed are his best and truest biography.