As one of the distinguished members of the bar of Southern Illinois and
as one who has given most effective service in offices of public trust,
Judge McElvain well merits consideration as one of the representative
citizens of the favored section of Illinois to which this publication is
devoted. Further interest attaches to his career by reason of the fact that
he is a native son of the state and a scion of one of its early and sterling
Judge Robert James McElvain was born at DuQuoin, Perry county, Illinois, on the 20th of March, 1849, and is a son of Joseph H. and Esther (Lipe) McElvain, who established their home in that county in an early day and who continued their residence in Southern Illinois during the residue of their lives, secure in the high regard of all who knew them. The father contributed his quota to the industrial and social development and progress of this section of the state and wielded no little influence in public affairs of a local order. Judge McElvain gained his early educational discipline in the common schools of his native county and supplemented this by a course of study in the Southern Illinois College, now known as the Southern Illinois Normal University. In preparation for the work of his chosen profession he began the study of law under effective private preceptorship and thereafter continued his technical studies in the law school at Lebanon, St. Glair county. He was admitted to the bar in 1878. In 1884 he found it expedient to establish an office in Murphysboro, the county seat, to which city he removed in 1890, since which year he has here maintained his home and professional headquarters. In 1884 he was elected state attorney for Jackson county, in 1894 was elected county judge and at the expiration of his term, in 1898, he was chosen as his own successor. In 1902, shortly after his retirement from the county bench, he was elected representative of the Forty-fourth Senatorial District in the Lower House of the State Legislature, and significant evidence of his popularity was again given on this occasion, as he received at the polls a majority of more than two thousand votes. In 1904 he was elected representative of the Forty-fourth district in the State Senate, and the best voucher for his effective record in this important office was that given in his re-election in 1908, his second term expiring in 1912.
Judge McElvain has ever given a stanch allegiance to the Republican party and has been one of its influential representatives in Southern Illinois. He is known as a most effective campaign speaker and his services in this connection have been much in requisition in the various campaigns in the state. On the 19th of September, 1901, he delivered the principal address at the memorial services held in honor of the lamented President McKinley at Murphysboro, and he has given many other public addresses of a general order.
Judge McElvain and his wife and son hold membership in the Christian church, and he is prominently affiliated with the Knights of Pythias, in which he has passed the various official chairs of the local organization and in which he held the office of grand chancellor of the Grand lodge of the state in 1900. He also holds membership in the Murphysboro lodge of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.
On the 29th of January, 1874, was solemnized the marriage of Judge McElvain to Miss Mary A. Schwartz, of Elkville, Jackson county, her parents, George and Sarah Schwartz, having been early settlers in that locality, where her father became a representative agriculturist and stockgrower. Judge and Mrs. McElvain have one son, Robert J., Jr., who is now successfully established in the real-estate and insurance business at Murphysboro. He was born on the 4th of September, 1880, and was afforded the advantages of the excellent public schools of Murphysboro, where he has gained distinctive prestige and popularity as one of the representative young business men of the city. He holds membership in the Christian church, is a stanch Republican in his political proclivities, and is affiliated with the Knights of Pythias. He married Miss Naomi McCuan, of Creal Springs, Williamson county, Illinois, and they have one son, Howard Harvey.
Extracted 11 Nov 2018 by Norma Hass from 1912 A History of Southern Illinois, by George W. Smith, volume 3, pages 1100-1102.
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