Sunday, June 4, 2017

Lacon Dorsey Stockton (1814-1860)

Portrait courtesy of www.iowacourts.gov. 

"He was about six feet in height, well proportioned, good-looking, of apparently rugged health, wore glasses, of correct habits, studious, fond of literature, and possessed of much general information. He had less legal practice than most of those I have mentioned, and did not seem anxious for practice or popularity."
   Such was the description given of Lacon Dorsey Stockton, a former Mayor of Burlington, Iowa and an Associate Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court. A transplant to Iowa from Kentucky, Stockton was born in Richmond County in 1814, a son of Joshua and Phoebe (Durrett) Stockton. Little is known of Stockton's early life in Kentucky excepting that he was admitted to the bar prior to removing to Iowa in either 1836 or 1837.  Lacon D. Stockton is recorded as having married in Clermont County, Ohio in 1841 to Elizabeth B. Collins, to whom he was wed until his death. The couple would have a total of seven children (as per the 1850 and 1860 censuses) and are listed as follows: Sally, John Collins, Richard, Phebe, Robert, Harry and Frank.
    Following his resettlement in Iowa Stockton established himself in Burlington, where he would practice law. He entered the political life of that state in the early 1840s when he held the post of District Attorney of Des Moines County from 1843-46. Stockton later went on serve as a solicitor for Burlington in 1848 and 1850, and in 1854  served as Mayor of Burlington for one term, being succeeded in 1855 by Silas Hudson.
   In addition to local politics Stockton would add the title of newspaper editor to his resume, serving as the editor of the Burlington Hawk-Eye for a brief period in 1851. Stockton also left an imprint upon the early educational history of Burlington, being a past secretary for a Burlington school commission in 1849 and in 1853-54 was a school district director.
   The high mark of Lacon Stockton's political and judicial career occurred in 1856 when he was appointed by Governor James W. Grimes as an Associate Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court. Stockton's appointment came about due to the resignation of Justice Norman Isbell, and he was reelected to the bench by the legislature in 1857. Stockton's four year tenure on the bench was profiled in the 1885 Portrait and Biographical History of Des Moines County, which notes that
"This office was one he was eminently fitted by his ability, integrity, learning and sound judgement. He was an excellent writer, and those who will study his opinions will not only find them sound in law, but clad in a simple, terse, incisive style, of which Lincoln's was the supreme example."
   Lacon D. Stockton continued on the bench until his death from consumption on June 9, 1860. Just 46 years old at the time of his death, he was the first Iowa supreme court justice to die in office and his lack of years robbed Iowa of a man who had the potential of being "amongst the very first Judges of the land." A burial location for both Stockton and his wife remains unknown at this time.

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