Image of Herndon, William H.

Herndon, William H.

b. December 25, 1818, in Greensburg, Kentucky; d. March 18, 1891, in Springfield, Illinois. Herndon came to Illinois with his family in 1820, and in 1821, his family moved to Sangamon County. In 1836, Herndon entered Illinois College at Jacksonville, but his father removed him from college after one year because of his son's growing abolitionist sentiment. Upon his return to Springfield, Herndon clerked in Joshua Speed's store. In 1842, Herndon studied law in the law firm of Logan and Lincoln. He was admitted to the bar in 1844 and became Abraham Lincoln's junior law partner that same year. Lincoln and Herndon's partnership lasted formally until Lincoln's assassination. Herndon did not travel the Eighth Judicial Circuit but did argue cases in court, and Lincoln and Herndon split their fees equally. Herndon was an ardent abolitionist and active in Whig politics though not as an office seeker. He was, however, elected to serve a one year term as Springfield's mayor in 1854, and he served as bank commissioner for the State of Illinois under Governors Bissell, Yates, and Oglesby. Herndon campaigned for Lincoln during his successful 1846 Congressional race and maintained the law practice during Lincoln's absence. Herndon also gave his active support to Lincoln's successful presidential race in 1860. In 1862, Herndon entered into an informal partnership with Charles S. Zane. After Lincoln's assassination, Herndon gave many lectures on Lincoln's life. Collaborating with Jesse W. Weik, Herndon produced Herndon's Lincoln: The True Story of a Great Life.
David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995); David Donald, Lincoln's Herndon (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1948); John J. Duff, A. Lincoln: Prairie Lawyer (New York: Bramhall House, 1960); John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 10:652-53; William Herndon and Jesse W. Weik, Herndon's Lincoln: The True Story of a Great Life (Chicago: Belford, Clarke, and Co., 1889); Allen Johnson, ed., Dictionary of American Biography (New York: Charles Scribner's & Sons, 1964), 4:2:579; Mark E. Neely Jr., The Abraham Lincoln Encyclopedia (New York: McGraw Hill, 1982), 145-46; John Palmer, ed., The Bench and Bar of Illinois: Historical and Reminiscent (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1899), 1:193; Albert A. Woldman, Lawyer Lincoln (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1936). Illustration courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, IL.