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Ralph Woods Pontious

PONTIOUS, Ralph Woods. — Though brief as years are counted, the professional life of Ralph Woods Pontious has realized many of the most gratifying compensations of legal practice, and gives promise of expressing, for many years to come, the justice, breadth and incalculable usefulness of one of the most versatile and expansive occupations of man. A liking for, and full realization of, the opportunities of his calling, are important factors in the success of this enthusiastic member of the Macomb bar. He comes of a family with whom to plan was to accomplish, and who invariably have equipped themselves with a definite purpose in life. The name is purely Roman, and consequently ancient. Three brothers Pontious came to New York during the Revolutionary War from Treves, the oldest Roman city in the independent duchy of Luxemburg, in the Rhine province, and fought with the British until the cessation of hostilities. They then married and settled in Pennsylvania. With few exceptions the men of the family have been of great physical size and strength, Simon Pontious, grandfather of Ralph, having been six feet four inches in height and of herculean strength.

Byron Pontious, father of Ralph, was born in Ross County, Ohio, May 25, 1850, and married Ambrosia Woods, born in McDonough County, Ill., in December, 1853. Mr. Pontious was first a farmer, later a merchant, and still later a doctor and lawyer, the latter calling becoming an engrossing and long continued occupation. He was the father of the Macomb Club, and was serving as its first President at the time of his death, April 2, 1903. At that time also he was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Judge of the Illinois Supreme Court. He had many natural gifts, and was known as one of the best story tellers at the Illinois bar. Like the immortal Lincoln, he won many apparently hopeless cases with quick wit or a good story. The harmony of his life was sustained by his wife, a woman of great personal charm and rare qualities as a hostess, and who also was a devoted wife and mother and prominent in club life.

Reared in the atmosphere of the courts, Ralph Woods Pontious acquired his education in several institutions, and upon his finishing his course in the Law Department of the University of Illinois, was the first student to be admitted to the bar by the State Supreme Court from that Institution. During his student days he was interested in athletics, especially football, in which he played center in several teams, and also was an enthusiastic hunter, fisherman and rider. After his graduation Mr. Pontious became a member of the law firm of Pontious & Pontious, one of the leading ones in Western Illinois, and, he has since achieved marked success as a general practitioner and criminal lawyer, specializing as much as possible in federal practice. By those in a position to know, it is said that Mr. Pontious never has turned away a client because he was too poor to pay for his services. On the contrary, the money consideration never has been foremost in his professional calculations. As proof of his generosity in this regard, he is the possessor of a unique collection of neckties, pocket knives, shirt buttons, revolvers and other junk, tendered him by unfortunate but grateful clients whose material assets were temporarily abbreviated.

Mr. Pontious belongs to the third generation of Democrats in his family, and until the last election he has voted the straight Democratic ticket. He believed, however, that Theodore Roosevelt represented all that was square and upright in American character, and still holds to that opinion. He was chosen by the Board of Supervisors to fill the unexpired term made vacant by the resignation of Tom Benton Camp, State's Attorney, from March, 1904, to December, 1905. During the Spanish-American War he enlisted in troop N, Illinois National Guard, but was disappointed, with the other members of the company. In not being among those present at the front. At the time he was studying at the University of Illinois. Mr. Pontious is prominent fraternally, and connected with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Benevolent Protective Order of Elks, Modern Woodmen of America, and the A. T. O. college fraternity. He is a member of the Universalist Church.

On September 4, 1900, Mr. Pontious was united in marriage to Adah B. Runkle, who was born in Doddsville, Ill., in 1878, and who represents a numerous and wealthy pioneer family of the State, strong in Republican politics, and practically all the male members of which served in the Civil War. Mr. and Mrs. Pontious have a son, William Byron, born April 15, 1905. Mr. Pontious is a confirmed optimist, and philosophically accepts whatever of weal or woe fate has to offer. He inherits his father's gift of language, and, like the older man, is an entertaining story teller. With characteristic breadth of mind, he attributes much of his success to those who have constituted his environment, especially his parents and close friends, foremost of the latter being Hon. Alexander McLean, who, as Trustee of the University of Illinois, kept in close touch with all of his boys, as he termed the youth of McDonough County who attended that institution. This able and noble man radiated a cheerful and happy character, and one which inspired to self-development and great usefulness.

Source: The Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of McDonough County, compiled by Dr. Newton Bateman, and Paul Shelby, 1907, volume 2, pages 982-983, extracted 17 Mar 2020 by Norma Hass.

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