Randolph  County,  Indiana

Leander  J. Monks

            Indiana has been especially honored in the character and career of her public and professional men. In every county there have been found individuals born to leadership in the various vocations and professions, men who have dominated not alone by superior intelligence and natural endowment, but by innate force of character which has minimized discouragements and dared great undertakings. It is always profitable to study such lives, weigh their motives and hold up their achievements as incentives to greater activity and higher excellence on the part of others just entering upon their first struggles with the world. Standing out distinctly as one of the central figures of the judiciary of Indiana is the name of  Hon. Leander J. Monks, whose home is in Winchester but who maintains an office in Indianapolis. As a lawyer he has won a reputation for distinguished service second to none of his contemporaries, and as a jurist of the highest type and a man of sublimated integrity and honor, for many years judge of the circuit and supreme courts, he has made a deep impress upon the history of this state of which he is one of her distinguished and honored native sons. He is a worthy and conspicuous member of a striking group of public men whose influence in civic and social life as well as in professional circles of the state has been of a most beneficent order.
 Wearing the judicial ermine with becoming dignity and bringing to every case submitted to him a clearness of perception and ready power of analysis characteristic of the learned and unbiased jurist, his name and work for years have been allied with the legal institutions, public enterprises and political interests of the state in such a way as to earn him recognition as one of the most influential citizens in a state noted for the high order of its talent. A high purpose and unconquerable will, vigorous mental powers, diligent study and devotion to duty are some of the means by which he has made himself eminently useful, and every ambitious youth who fights the battle of life with the prospect of ultimate success may peruse with profit the biography herewith presented.
            Judge Monks was born in Winchester, Indiana, July 10, 1843, and is the eldest son of  George W. and  Mary A. (Irvin) Monks. George W. Monks was born near Cincinnati, Ohio, April 25, 1814. In 1820 he came with his parents to Randolph county, Indiana where the future home of the family was established, this locality being at that time a very sparsely settled wilderness and here the grandparents of the future jurist endured the usual privations and hardships incident to pioneer life on the frontier, but they were courageous and industrious and in due course of time were comfortably established. Amid such a primitive environment George W. Monks grew to manhood and received such educational advantages as were possible in those early times. In 1839, while still almost a boy, he was nominated by the Whig party as a candidate for clerk of Randolph county and elected by a large majority. He filled the office so satisfactorily that he was re-elected in 1846 and served until 1853. In 1854 the Republican party was organized in this county by the coalition of the Anti-slavery and Free Soil parties, and Mr. Monks was the first Republican nominee from Randolph county for a legislative office. He was elected and took a conspicuous part in the session of 1854-55. He had studied law, and, after his admission to the bar, he was associated in the practice for a short time with Carey S. Goodrich, subsequently entering into partnership with Judge James Brown, with whom he continued successfully until his death. He was industrious and energetic. He was charitably inclined and materially assisted many in need of help, for, after providing well for his family, he had no inclination to hoard his large income, and many lives were made brighter and better through his assistance and encouragement. He was a man of exemplary character and in every way merits the universal esteem which was so long accorded him. He did a great deal toward the upbuilding of the county in its earlier history.
            George W. Monks united with the Methodist Episcopal church in 1843, and remained faithful to its principles the rest of his life, carrying his religion into his every-day affairs. He donated to the grounds in Winchester upon which is located the present church building of this denomination, and also the parsonage lot. He joined the Masonic order at Winchester in 1845. He was a member of the State Board of Agriculture for a number of years and was active in the work of the same.
            George W. Monks was twice married, first to Belinda A. Hulett. To this union one child was born, Charles N. Monks, a well known citizen of Randolph county. His second marriage was to Mary A. Irvin and of this marriage there are living three children, namely: Judge Leander J., subject of this review; Minerva B., of Mankato, Minnesota; and J. Irvin, of Bonners Ferry, Idaho. After the death of his second wife in 1864, George W. Monks purchased land in Minnesota, intending to remove to that state with his children, but soon thereafter illness overtook him and he died April 4, 1865, thus closing the career of one of the most active, useful and honorable citizens known in Randolph county in its pioneer period.
            Leander J. Monks grew to manhood in Winchester in which city he acquired a good common school education, and in 1861 entered the State University at Bloomington, Indiana, where he remained during three school years, leaving the university in his junior year. For some time he had been studying law and was admitted to the bar in 1865. He rose steadily in his profession from the first, and while yet a young man was called upon to fill responsible and honorable public positions. In 1870 he was chosen chairman of the Republican Central Committee of Randolph county, and in 1872 was again called to the same position. In 1874 he was elected a member of the Republican State Central Committee and re-elected in 1876, was also a member of the Executive Committee. In 1878 he was the Republican candidate for judge of the Twenty-fifth Judicial Circuit, composed of the counties of Randolph and Delaware, and in view of his candidacy for this office, declined the position as a member of the State Central Committee. Something of his popularity in this district will be gained from the fact that he was elected judge without opposition. In 1884 he was again nominated for the office of circuit judge in the same district, and a third time elected to the same office in 1890, Randolph county alone then constituting the district. His long retention in this office is sufficient evidence of the confidence and trust reposed in him by his constituents and of his fairness and ability in discharging the duties devolving upon him. His decisions were always characterized by uniform fairness and showing a profound knowledge of jurisprudence in all its ramifications. He was prompt and energetic in the dispatch of the business of this court and won the hearty commendation of all concerned. In 1894 he was a candidate for judge of the supreme court from the Forth District and was elected in November by a plurality of over forty-six thousand. His term of office on the supreme bench expired January 7, 1913, having been commissioned January 7, 1895, and re-elected in 1900 and 1906, thus serving eighteen years as supreme judge, his long career on the nisi prius bench having been in every way successful, fully meeting the expectations of the people of Indiana, for he came to the supreme bench exceptionally well qualified for its exacting duties and responsibilities and from the beginning of his judicial career his decisions were characterized by a profound insight into the law and an earnest and conscientious desire to apply it impartially; so he was not long in gaining the confidence of the attorneys and litigants and earning for himself a reputation among the leading jurists of the state.
            In the practice of his profession Judge Monks has been associated with several gentlemen who have distinguished themselves at the Randolph county bar, First, in 1865, he was associated with Col. M. B. Miller, which partnership was discontinued in 1866, but re-established the following year and continued until 1871. In November of that year he entered into partnership with Hon. E. L. Watson, with whom he practiced until July, 1875. He then formed partnership relations with W. A. Thompson, which continued until he retired from practice in October, 1878, when he entered upon his illustrious judicial career. The day after leaving the bench, January, 1913, he opened offices in the Knights of Pythias building, Indianapolis, for the practice of law, forming a partnership with James P. Goodrich and John F. Robbins and H. C. Starr under the firm name of Monks, Robbins, Starr & Goodrich, and this is one of the busiest and best known legal firms in the state capital.
            As already indicated Judge Monks is a Republican, and as such has been active in public and political affairs and an influential force in his party, not only in local matters, but in the larger and more important theater of state and national politics. He comes of a Republican ancestry, but he does not attribute to this fact his strict adherence to the principles which he supports, but rather to history, also to reflection, judgment and conscience, all of which have combined to make him not only an able and judicious counselor, but a molder of public opinion and leader of men, in what concerns the best interests of the body politic. While loyal to his party to promote its success, he believes that a man can be an earnest and active politician and yet be strictly honest in his methods and above reproach in all that he does to advance the interest of his cause, He is a member of the Indiana State Bar Association, and was elected by that body as a member of the committee on judicial procedure, to serve during the year 1882. He became a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity, when in college. He was reared in the faith of the Methodist Episcopal church and has not departed from the same.
            The domestic life of Judge Monks began on August 2, 1865, when he led to the hymeneal altar a lady of culture and refinement, known in her maidenhood as Lizzie W. White, daughter of Alexander and Margaret B. (Smith) White, a sterling pioneer family of Randolph county where Mrs. Monks grew to womanhood and received a good education. She was called to her eternal rest on April 18, 1908, after a mutually happy, helpful and harmonious married life of nearly forty-three years. She was always a favorite with a wide circle of friends and influential in the best circles of Winchester and wherever she was known. The union of the Judge and wife was blessed by the birth of four children, named as follows: Margaret married Thomas J. Kizer, and they live in Indianapolis; Mary D. married Dr. Milo V. Smith, of Winchester: Alice and Agnes, twins, the former married George L. Davis, of Kokomo, Indiana; Agnes married William R. Hunter, and they reside in Indianapolis. The children are the possessors of many praiseworthy attributes of head and heart, reflecting the wholesome home atmosphere in which they were reared.
            Judge Monks is a member of Winchester lodge No.56, of the Masonic order, Scottish Rite, thirty-second degree, Independent Order of Odd Fellows and Encampment, at Winchester. Also of Columbia and Marion clubs of Indianapolis.
            Personally Judge Monks is entirely unassuming, a plain, genial and uniformly courteous gentleman who makes and retains friends without effort, inspiring the utmost confidence and respect in all with whom he comes into contact.
Past and Present of Randolph County, Indiana, 1914.
Contributed by Gina Richardson

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