Continuing with a theme established with the November 29th write-up on funny named Illinois jurist Farlin Quigley Ball, another oddly named judge gets accorded his due, Iowa District judge Zala Alphonzo Church. A native son of Wisconsin, Zala A. Church was born in the small town of Dayton on May 28, 1852, one of four children born to Harvey M. (1816-1897) and Elizabeth Tucker Church (1818-1916). The reason behind Harvey and Elizabeth bestowing the unusual first name "Zala" upon their son are unknown at the time of this writing, and one's imagination can run wild thinking of the possibilities!
As a child Zala Church attended the commons schools of his hometown of Dayton and later studied at the Evansville, Wisconsin Seminary. At the completion of his studies at the latter school, he enrolled at the University of Wisconsin and after some study began reading law at that institution's law school, graduating in the class of 1876. Following his graduation, he relocated to Jefferson, Iowa in 1878 and established a law practice with fellow attorney Harvey Potter in the firm of Potter and Church. After a year in this firm, Church founded the practice of Head and Church with attorney A.M. Head and operated in this partnership from 1879-1882. Zala Alphonzo Church married on May 4, 1881 in Green County to Miss Eliza May McCully (1857-1938). Wed for over four decades, the Church's became the parents of three children, Iza (1882-1910), Bessie (1887-1973) and a son, Theo (birth-date unknown).
The firm of Head and Church dissolved in 1882 and for several years Zala Church operated alone in Jefferson. He is recorded by the Past and Present of Greene County, Iowa as serving as mayor of that town for one term and gave to it "a businesslike, progressive administration." Church also occupied other local offices in addition to his stint as mayor, serving at various times as justice of the peace, Greene County attorney, Greene County recorder and president of the county school board. In 1888 Church formed another law partnership, Church and Lovejoy, which existed until 1894. Two years previously he served as a Republican Presidential elector for Benjamin Harrison and in 1894 was elected as a District Court Judge for Iowa's Sixteenth Judicial District.
Zala A. Church, from the University of Wisconsin and Its History and Its Alumni, 1900.
Taking his seat in January 1895, Church succeeded Judge George Washington Paine and was re-elected as judge three times, serving a total of sixteen years on the bench. Church's contribution to Iowa jurisprudence was remarked in the Annual Proceedings of the Iowa County Bar Association as having:
"the admirable quality of being able to grasp the meat of a controversy and this quality served him well in the discharge of his judicial duties. He was always considerate of counsel before him. As a practitioner Judge Church was a helpful counsellor, working with an unusually generous spirit and always disposed to accord with others views greater weight and importance than his own. At all times he was disposed to give due consideration to the position of his adversary and never carried acrimony out of the courtroom, no matter how spirited may have been the controversies in which he participated."In addition to his judicial work, Zala Church is remarked as being a distinguished Mason, attaining the 32nd degree. Active in other fraternal bodies, Church was a Shriner, a member of the Knights of Pythias and was a past grand master of the Iowa state chapter of the International Order of Odd Fellows. Upon his retirement from the bench in 1911 Church returned to practicing law, operating a joint firm with attorney D.C. McCully for a time, and was still actively practicing until a few weeks before his death, which occurred on January 15, 1922 at his home in Jefferson, Iowa. Following his death, a substantial obituary for the departed judge was published in the Carroll, Iowa Herald, which denotes that Church:
"Presided with dignity and associated with friends with a degree of good fellowship that was appreciated by his friends all over the district. He was a scholarly man who took interest in educational matters in his court and outside and delighted to associate with people who read and traveled and thought."Church's funeral was held on January 18, 1922 and he was later buried at the Jefferson Cemetery. May McCully Church was also interred here after her death in 1938.