Marion County


The subject of this sketch has not only gained recognition and prestige as a prominent and successful member of the Marion county bar, but has also kept in touch with all that relates to the material progress and general prosperity of his home city, being known as one of the enterprising and public-spirited citizens of Salem, having contributed both by influence and tangible aid to all legitimate projects which have tended to conserve the best interests of the community. In the legal circles of Southern Illinois, his reputation is second to none of his contemporaries, indeed there are few lawyers in the state whose success has been so continuous and uninterrupted or who have achieved as high distinction in their profession. Endowed by nature with in active and brilliant mind which has been cultivated and strengthened by much study and discipline, he has made rapid progress in his chosen calling and today he stands admittedly at the head of the bar in the field to which the major part of his practice is confined, besides yielding a commanding influence among the leaders of his profession in other parts of the state.

Charles Edgar Jennings, second child and oldest son of Josephus Waters and Amanda (Couch) Jennings, is a native of Marion county, Illinois, and dates his birth from January 7, 1855. After receiving a preliminary education in the public schools, he entered Irvington Illinois Agricultural College, where he took a scientific course and from which he graduated June 16, 1875 with an honorable record as a diligent and critical student. He taught one term in the public schools, prior to his collegiate course, and after graduating took charge of the school at Walnut Hill, which he had attended in his childhood and youth, meeting with encouraging success as an instructor and disciplinarian and fully satisfying both pupils and patrons.

Having decided to make the legal profession his life work, Mr. Jennings in 1876 became a student of the Union College of Law, Chicago, Department of North Western University, where he prosecuted his studies and received his degree on June 5, 1878, the diploma from this institution being his passport to admission to the bar by the Supreme Court without further examination. This court being in session at Mount Vernon the month of his graduation, he presented his diploma and was duly admitted to practice, following which he formed a partnership with the late Judge Bryan of Salem, which lasted until the death of the latter in 1880 and which in the meantime became known as one of the strongest and most successful legal firms not only in Marion county, but in Southern Illinois. His license to practice which bears the date of June n, 1878, was signed by Hon. Sidney Breese, the distinguished pioneer jurist of Illinois, this being among the last official acts in the long and eminently honorable career of this eminent man.

Mr. Jennings was Master in Chancery from 1885 to 1889, resigning the position the latter year to assume his duties as State's Attorney to which office he was elected in 1888 and the duties of which he discharged with credit to himself and to the satisfaction of the public for a period of twelve years. A pronounced Democrat, he has long been a power in local politics and to him as much as any one man is due the success of his party, in a number of campaigns to say nothing of his influence in contributing to the triumph of the district, state and national tickets. As stated in the beginning Mr. Jennings has kept in close touch with enterprises and measures, having for their object the material progress and social, intellectual and moral advancement of the city in which he resides. He served a number of years on the local school board, part of the time as president of the body and during his incumbency, labored earnestly to promote an interest in educational matters and advance the standard of the schools of the city in which laudable endeavor his success was most gratifying. Believing knowledge when properly disseminated, to be for the perpetuity of the state and the happiness and best interests of the people, he has been untiring in his efforts in behalf of institutions of learning, especially those of the higher grades, and his advice to young people has been to take advantage of the opportunities which the high school, the college and the university present in the way of preparing for the duties of life and the obligations of citizenship.

Since the death of Judge Bryan, Mr. Jennings has been alone in the practice of law and as already indicated he is now one of the leaders of the bar of Southern Illinois, with a large and lucrative professional business in the courts of his own and neighboring counties. The keynote of his character seems to be an intense and absolute fixety of purpose, a dominating resolve to rise and make his influence felt and in the court as well as the public arena, he has not been content to occupy a second place. He moves in only one direction and that is forward and the success and eminent standing already achieved bespeak still greater advancement in his profession and higher honors in years to come.

Mr. Jennings has been twice married, the first time on May 5, 1880, to Daisy Martin, youngest child of Gen. James S. Martin, of Salem, the union resulting in the birth of two children; Hazel, and a son that died in infancy. Mrs. Jennings died July 12, 1894, and on June loth of the year 1903, Mr. Jennings entered the marriage relation with Maude Cunningham, daughter of M. R. Cunningham, of Salem.

Fraternally, Mr. Jennings is a Mason of high degree, having passed all the chairs in the local lodge to which he belongs, besides representing it at different times in the Grand Lodge. He has spent his entire life within the bounds of his native county, has labored hard to reach the high place in professional circles which he now occupies, and in the true sense of the term, he is a self-made man and as such is certainly entitled to the universal esteem in which he is held and the high honors with which his career has been crowned.

Extracted 27 May 2019 by Norma Hass from 1909 Biographical and Reminiscent History of Richland, Clay and Marion Counties, Illinois, pages 517-519.

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