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Theophilus Lyle Dickey

Previous Illinois Supreme Court Justice


Theophilus Lyle Dickey was born on October 12, 1811, in Paris, Kentucky, and moved to Macomb, Illinois, in 1834. He studied law under Cyrus Walker and was admitted to the bar the following year. In 1836, he moved to Rushville, Illinois, where he edited a Whig newspaper, speculated in real estate, and continued the practice of law. Dickey moved to Ottawa, Illinois, in 1839, and with the outbreak of the Mexican War, he raised a company of volunteers and served in the war as a commissioned captain. He returned to Ottawa, and in 1848, he was elected judge of the Ninth Judicial Circuit. He occasionally served as judge on the Eighth Judicial Circuit in the absence of Judge David Davis, and in that capacity he ruled on numerous cases argued by Abraham Lincoln. He resigned from the bench in 1853, but continued to practice law in Ottawa. Although he was a delegate for the first Republican state convention of 1856, he supported Stephen A. Douglas over Abraham Lincoln in both the 1858 senatorial and 1860 Presidential campaigns, speaking throughout the state on Douglas’s behalf. During the Civil War, Dickey served as a colonel with the Fourth Illinois Cavalry, and later, as a member of General Ulysses S. Grant’s staff (Chief of Cavalry). As Assistant Attorney General for the United States from 1868 to 1870, he was responsible for all suits in the court of claims and frequently appeared in the United States Supreme Court. In December 1875, he was elected a justice of the Illinois Supreme Court and held that position until his death on July 22, 1885, in Atlantic City, New Jersey.