With a first name that bears a slight similarity to the famous "Lindor" truffle, how could one not find the name "Lindorf O. Whitnel" humorous? Aside from having a funny name, Mr. Whitnel was a prominent railway attorney based in Illinois and earns a place here on the site due to his unsuccessful candidacy for Congress in 1900, as well as for his being a Democratic National Convention delegate in 1896 and a Presidential Elector for Illinois in 1912.
A lifelong resident of the Prairie State, Lindorf Osborn Whitnel was born in the town of Vienna, Illinois on February 4, 1862, the son of David Tullis and Parmelia Caldwell Whitnel. Lindorf received his education in Vienna public schools and later studied at the Normal School in Danville, Illinois from 1881-1883.
After concluding his schooling in the early 1880s Whitnel began pursuing the study of law, eventually earning his law degree in the mid 1880s. He began service as an intern in the law office of Pleasant Thomas Chapman (a future U.S. Representative and SNIAPH profile) in 1885 and in July of 1888 married in the town of Stonefort, Illinois to Ms. Amanda Elizabeth Trammell (1867-1944). The couple would later have three children, Ella W. (1889-1967), Josiah (1894-1951) and George (1898-1958).
Throughout the latter part of the 19th century Whitnel continued to practice law in Johnson County, Illinois, eventually forming a partnership with another local attorney (George B. Gillespie) in 1890, continuing in this practice until 1901. Their law office was mentioned as being "a strong firm, with extensive patronage" in a biographical history of the Johnson County area. In 1896 Whitnel was named as one of Illinois' delegates to that years Democratic National Convention in Chicago that nominated William Jennings Bryan for President.
In 1900 Whitnel began a campaign for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives from Illinois, running as a Democrat against five term incumbent Republican George Washington Smith (1846-1907). Illinois newspapers of the time give note that Smith "had his hands full" running against Whitnel, who actively stumped throughout Illinois's 22nd District over the course of the campaign. An article featured in the October 22, 1900 edition of the St. Louis Republic (shown below) gives note that Whitnel addressed two large crowds in Harrisburg, Illinois a few days previously and was "well received and greeted with great applause at both places."
When it came time to tally the vote in November 1900, it was George W. Smith who claimed victory in the polls, besting Lindorf Whitnel by a vote of 22, 349 to 17, 528. A result from that election appeared in the Courier Journal Almanac shortly after the election and is posted below.
The 1900 Congressional election stands as the only time Lindorf Whitnel ran for political office, and in 1904 he began renewed success as a railroad attorney, joining up with the Missouri Pacific Railway. He later became general attorney for this railroad and also served as a district attorney for the St. Louis Southwestern Railway for a number of years. In 1912 Whitnel served as a Democratic Presidential Elector at large for Illinois, and is listed as such in the 1914 Blue Book of the State of Illinois.
In 1919 Whitnel formed a law partnership with his second eldest son Josiah, operating out of East St. Louis, Illinois. In the year before his death, Lindorf and his wife are recorded as attending an American Bar Association conference in London. While visiting here Whitnel took sick with a "sinus complaint" that later turned into a more serious illness after he returned home to Illinois. This unknown illness eventually claimed Whitnel's life on December 15, 1924 at age 61. His obituary in the Edwardsville, Illinois Intelligencer notes that he expired at a hospital in East St. Louis and was later buried at the Mt. Hope Cemetery in Belleville, Illinois. Whitnel's wife Amanda, daughter Ella and sons Josiah and George all survived him, and the first three mentioned are interred at Mt. Hope.
The rare portrait of Mr. Whitnel shown above (and very likely the only one to be found online) was located in an archived edition of the St. Louis Republic, originally published on July 7, 1900.
Lindorf O. Whitnel's death notice from the December 1924 Edwardsville Intelligencer.