HON. JOSEPH B. GILL Lieutenant-Governor of Illinois, and President of the State Senate, has won his position of prominence through merit and ability. He was born on a farm near Marion, Williamson County, Ill., February 17, 1862, and is a son of the late John M. Gill, Jr., ex-Mayor of Murphysboro, 111. A native of Jackson County, this state, he was born November 28. 1833, and was the fifth of eight children, whose parents, John and Nancy Gill, were old residents of the county. The grandfather was born in Virginia, whence he accompanied his parents to Illinois in 1813, and located near De Soto. His death occurred in December, 1886. He was of English and Irish descent, while his wife was of German extraction.
During his boyhood years John M. Gill, Jr., assisted his father in the work on the home farm. On the 6th of January, 1859, he married Miss Nancy J., daughter of Washington Wright, of Williamson County. They had two children, but one is now deceased. In 1855 Mr. Gill began merchandising in De Soto, and in 1859 removed to Williamson County, where he engaged in farming and dealing in tobacco and other produce. In 1863 he returned to De Soto, where he continued to reside until 1868, and in that year came to Murphysboro. Here he resumed mercantile pursuits, hut his store was destroyed by lire in 1870, and he then turned his attention to milling.
In politics John M. Gill, Jr., was a stalwart Democrat. In 1876 he was elected Mayor of Murphysboro, and filled the office for two terms, discharging its duties with rare judgment. He was also one of the Directors of the public schools of the city for many years, and was a member of the Masonic fraternity for about twenty years. He founded the town of Gillsburg, on the narrow gauge railroad (now Oraville, on the Mobile & Ohio Railroad) about eight miles northwest of Murphysboro. As a business man he was energetic, and combined many of those qualities — honesty, integrity and suavity — which are the sure precursors of success in life. His death occurred February 27, 1886.
In 1863 Joseph B. Gill was taken by his parents to De Soto, and in 1868 to Murphysboro, where he has since made his home. He was educated in the public schools and in the Christian Brothers College, in St. Louis, and the Southern Illinois Normal School, at Carbondale, graduating from the latter in June, 1884. He then completed a law term of two years at Ann Arbor, graduating in July, 1886, and was admitted to the Michigan Bar, passing an examination before the Circuit and Supreme Courts of that state. He has, however, never practiced his profession, for immediately on his return home he embarked in the newspaper business, buying an interest in the Murphysboro Independent, which he conducted and edited until January 1, 1893.
November 28, 1893, Mr. Gill married Miss Pearl Hall, the daughter of James W. and Augusta Hall, formerly residents of southern Illinois, and later of San Bernardino, Cal., where Mrs. Gill was living at the time of her marriage. She is a lady of refinement and culture, and has evinced decided talent in both music and painting.
Like his father, the subject of this sketch became a stanch advocate of the principles of the Democratic party. In 1888 he was elected to the Lower House, and was re-elected in 1890. In both general assemblies lie was a strong anti-corporation man, and espoused the cause of the laboring people in every measure of interest to them. He championed the passage of the Gross-Weight Bill, the Weekly Pay Bill and the Anti-Truck Store Bill, and did all he could to advance the Arbitration Bill to a successful issue. His efforts to benefit a class of people who had few friends in the Legislature were appreciated, and soon after that body adjourned in 1891 there was a demand for his name to be placed on the state ticket.
On the first ballot in April, 1892, Mr. Gill was nominated for the office of Lieutenant-Governor by the Democratic State Convention. An unusual interest was taken in his election on account of the close relations between the candidate and the class whose cause he espoused in the Legislature. He was triumphantly elected, receiving the highest number of votes of an}- man on the ticket except the candidate for State Treasurer. This fact indicated his popularity among the working people, and also those in other walks of life.
After the inauguration of Governor Altgeld, owing to sickness, he did not perform any of the official duties, but started immediately for the south. That being the case, Mr. Gill became acting Governor, and was the first representative of the Democratic party to fill the executive chair for over thirty-five years. Being mindful of the interests of the people, and believing that vast sums of money belonging to the state had heretofore been sequestered, he therefore, by the authority vested in him as Governor, directed the Attorney-General to institute suits against ex-state officials extending over a long period of years. While his action met with the unqualified approval of the tax-payers and common people of the state, it created consternation in the ranks of those politicians whose financial interests were directly or indirectly affected. His course was highly commended by the press of the state and by those who favored good government and the economical administration of affairs. While thus engaged. Governor Gill was also executing the law and putting into effect the principles of the platform on which he was elected.
In February, 1894, owing to the absence of the Governor from the state, the Lieutenant-Governor again assumed the gubernatorial chair, and as upon the previous occasion, discharged the duties of the office with skill and ability and to the entire satisfaction of the people. Many compliments have been extended him by the press of Illinois and other states, also by representative men of this state during his incumbency of the office. He is the youngest Lieutenant-Governor ever elected in this stale, yet his qualifications have made him an equal in the discharge of his duties with those whose years greatly outnumbered his. He is an impartial presiding officer, and has already won the respect of the Senate. Though scarcely yet in the prime of life, he is recognized as an important factor in politics, and in the future, should he continue to devote his energies to this work, his career will undoubtedly be a brilliant one.
Extracted from Portrait and Biographical Record of Randolph, Jackson, Perry and Monroe Counties, Illinois, published in 1894, page 237.
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