In a history of the representative members of the legal profession in St. Louis it is imperative that mention be made of Thomas Keith Skinker, owing tc the prominence which he has attained as a most able member of the bar. He is also widely known as a citizen of progressive spirt who in various ways has contributed to the upbuilding and development of city and state. A son of Thomas and Jane (Neilson) Skinker, who came from Virginia to Missouri and settled in St. Louis in 1838, he was born in this city on the 9th of June, 1845. He pursued his studies in local schools until prepared for entrance into Washington University, from which he was graduated with the class of 1863, winning the degree of Bachelor of Arts. Later he took up the study of law in the University of Virginia under the celebrated professor, John B. Minor, and in 1867 was admitted to the Misssouri bar, while in 1876 he was licensed to practice before the supreme court of the United States.
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Blessed with good health and encouraged by a large clientele, Mr. Skinker has practiced his profession with marked success and has gained wide reputation as an expert in his knowledge of the law of county and municipal bonds. From 1877 until 1884, in addition to caring for his private practice, he served as official reporter of the decisions of the supreme court of Missouri and during that time prepared and published seventeen volumes of these decisions.
His activity has also covered a still broader range, for in 1893 he built the first electric railway in St. Louis county, thus meeting a demand for development in public utilities. He has always taken an active interest in progress and public improvement in both the city and county of St. Louis and in 1905 he was appointed by Governor Joseph W. Folk one of the democratic members of the board of election commissioners of the city of St. Louis. In the course of a four years’ term he did much to check the fraudulent manipulation which had long disgraced elections in St. Louis.
In 1869 Mr. Skinker was united in marriage to Miss Bertha Rives, a daughter of Alexander Rives, of Albemarle county, Virginia, who was judge of the court of appeals and afterward of the United States district court in that state. Two sons and three daughters were born to Mr. and Mrs. Skinker. The sons were: Charles R., for some years assistant city counselor of the city of St. Louis; and Alexander R., who became captain of the One Hundred and Thirty-eighth United States Infantry and was killed in the battle of the Argonne. He was awarded posthumously the congressional medal of honor for bravery and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty. The daughters, Misses Isabel N. and Bertha R. Skinker and Mrs. Claude L. Matthews, during the World war became distinguished in Red Cross and other war work.
A resident of the city and county of St. Louis throughout his entire life, Mr. Skinker belongs to one of the old and honored families whose name has ever been a synonym for progressive citizenship in all that the term implies, standing not only for material progress in business and professional lines but also for aesthetic, moral and intellectual development.