Wing, Russell Merritt

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Judge Russell Merritt Wing, a.k.a., Judge R.M. Wing.

The first home he purchased was in Morris, Illinois. Some of his children were born here. It was a large storied frame house, surrounded by a spacious yard-acreage. In the summer time they spent a lot of time out of doors. In the yard were towering elms and oaks, spreading maples and butternuts with an apple tree or two. It was the coolest spot. The lawn furniture was arranged to take advantage of the shade. Amelia Wing (his wife) would sit fanning herself on a still afternoon; Russell would be stretched out in a hammock smoking a cigar; the children would be romping with their multiple pets-the dog Tippy, the burro, white mice, the horses, the parrot-- but no cat. Or perhaps Amelia would busy herself among her flowers, snipping off the dead leaves, watering, hoeing.

From time-to-time, the children were washed and curled, then poured into their best bib and tucker-for an excursion to Grandmother Mary Ann Wing in Lisbon, Illinois. Grandmother sat in the light of the window, reading her bible. She would look up and spy four mites with beaming faces walking up to the front door. She would smile for here was family company and then her heart would sink. "What to do with four lively match sticks?" she would murmur. "Well, there is one safe game when the going got rough-Meeting." Meeting to this lady of Quaker lineage meant sitting in a row of chairs, folded hands, absolute silence. When the din rose noisily, she would wheedle FIRMLY,"Let's play Meeting." There was no choice, no way to escape; they were stuck with it but how they hated it!

Amelia became friendly with the wives of her husband's partners. One of them told on herself ruefully this early happening in her life. Her husband was a rising young attorney in Springfield. He liked to gather with the men of the town to chew over politics, have a laugh now and then. Sometimes in the local pool hall. There was a certain man he enjoyed, who had a gift with a story, had some quaint sayings and some good ideas too--Abraham Lincoln. "I'd fuss over his seeing him and his cronies so much. I was ambitious for us. I wanted to get ahead and we were headed in the right direction except for this loitering with the wrong people, I thought. 'Mark my word' I told him! No good will come out of association with him. He won't go any place. And he became the president of the United States! Wasn't I a fool?"

Old friends and neighbors or just anyone from back home would come to the Wing Law Firm Offices with a needy story and always the ample hand would go to the pocket to give generously. Russell learned later that one of his partners told the receptionist not to admit anyone with a sad tale to see Judge Wing anymore. "He would give away his shirt. Keep 'em out," he ordered. One time a neighbor lady from Morris came up to see Chicago. She had known years of skimping so the Wings wanted to do something special for her. They took her out to dinner at one of the nicest places in the city. Nothing on the menu looked familiar to her in that city of confusion until her eye fell on "Beans." These she had had every day of her life. This was it for her. No persuasion moved her. So beans it was.- to the great disappointment of the Wings. - Virginia Mowry Barber.

Former Judge Wing is Ill

Prominent Attorney Is Stricken With Paralysis at Hot Springs.

Russell M. Wing, one of the foremost lawyers in Chicago, and former judge of the county court of Kendall County, was reported yesterday to have been stricken with paralysis at Hot Springs, Arkansas, where he went two weeks ago for the benefit of his health.

His son, Fred Wing, and Justice of the Peace David McCallum of Evanston were notified of Mr. Wing's illness by a telegram Friday night, and both started for Hot Springs yesterday. The absence of full information concerning Mr. Wing's condition caused grave fears among his many friends.

Mrs. Wing received a telegram late last night from her son Frederick stating that Mr. Wing was much better and he was out of danger. Mrs. Wing said she now felt satisfied her husband's illness was not serious. She said he would not attempt to return home for two or three weeks, even though his condition should warrant.

A Second Article

Russell Wing had a stroke in Hot Springs, Arkansas, April, 1903 and was never the same afterwards. - Barbara La Favre

Russell M. Wing, Famous Lawyer of Nineties, Dies

Russell Merritt Wing, for years a leader among lawyers of Chicago in Criminal and civil cases, died last night in the Mary Harris Thompson Hospital. He had been retired from active practice of law for fifteen years as the result of a stroke of apoplexy, and has lived in Wilmette, Illinois with his wife, who survives him. Two sons and one daughter also survive.

Mr. Wing was about 67 years old. He was born in Kendall County, and before coming to Chicago in 1889 from Morris, Illinois, was county judge of Grundy County. He was regarded in his time as one of the great trial lawyers of the west, and was connected with many of the famous cases in the nineties (1890s).

He was leader in the defense at the Cronin Trial and in the well remembered Mooney Case. He also defended successfully Superintendent Kernan of the Bridewell, who was charged with conspiracy in the murder of an insane inmate.

This trial was conducted before Judge E.H. Gary of DuPage County (sitting in Cook County), now chairman of the United States Steel Company.

Mr. Wing was once a partner of Justice Carter of the Illinois Supreme Court, and of Judge Stough of Morris, Illinois.

In early days he was a student in the office of Colonel John Van Arman, likewise a famous trial lawyer. Shortly before his retirement from practice he was the partner of Thomas L. Chadbourne, now of Washington, D.C..

News article:

Kendall County News, by Joe Williams

Wednesday, January 8, 1919

Judge Russell M. Wing Dead.

"Merritt" Wing was a product of Kendall County, and among us Lisbon, Illinois people was a pride and a joy forever. He was one of us, just a common, everyday fellow, a good pal big hearted, genial, and as genial to and as thoughtful of the poor devil on the street, as he possibly could be to the nabob in the highest circles; and now he is dead. He died at the Mary Harris Thompson Hospital Chicago last Saturday night, after a lingering illness, following a physical breakdown of a number of years standing.

Merritt was the son of Russell Merritt Wing and Mary Wing, and was born at the parent's homestead, a farm now owned and occupied by Austin Thompson, situated about a mile east of Hoge's (Holderman) Grove, a locality once known as Fairview, Illinois aged 67 years.

His uncle Bronwell Wing and his son Thomas Wing built the mill now called Millhurst (you all know where) both losing all of their financial substance in that ill fated enterprise.

George W. Hinman, one time editor of the Chicago Inter Ocean writes a very fine tribute to the fame, the character and wise customs of the man in private life and his wonderful talents in the practice of law. The writer says he was one of four of the greatest criminal lawyers in the west and that his fame extended to New York. He leaves a wife, two sons and one daughter; also a sister, Mrs. Electa Kemple of Colorado Springs, Colorado, and a brother Frank Wing, who lives somewhere in Iowa. His home was at Wilmette, Illinois but his law office was always in Chicago. So we again mourn the loss of a good friend.

The Late Judge Wing


By George Wheeler Hinman, Former Editor of the Chicago Inter-Ocean.

The funeral service of former Judge Russell Merritt Wing, who died late Saturday night in the Mary Harris Thompson Hospital, will be held at 1 o'clock tomorrow afternoon at his late residence, 1011 Forest Avenue, in Wilmette, Illinois.

Mr. Wing was for many years one of the four leading trial lawyers of the Middle West, with a reputation and practice that extended as far east as New York. Of the four, only William S. Forrest is still in active life.

Although often retained in civil cases, Mr. Wing made his reputation mainly in criminal law. He was especially known for his appeal to a jury. In fact, he would discourse with his friends by the hour on the art of appealing to the "twelve honest men in the box."

A fluent advocate, he nevertheless rarely used oratory in defending his clients. Instead, he studied every face, every gesture, every posture of every juryman and varied his examination or plea to suit what he saw in the man's expression or attitude.

At the end of one of his hard-fought cases, famous in the legal annals of Illinois, he threw away a speech on which he had worked for two weeks and made his final appeal to the jury in conversational tone and informal manner, because he thought his associates had exhausted the jury's capacity for rhetoric and that he would please them better with a merely casual talk. As usual, he read the jury right and got the verdict.

Much of Mr. Wing's success in court was attributed to this lack of personal vanity. He had no pride of authorship, no desire to win personal admiration. From the beginning of a case to the end his one purpose was to win, regardless of personal sacrifices.

Bring Body of Noted Chicago Attorney to Hartford for Burial

Judge Russell M. Wing Died at His Home in Wilmette, Ill., Saturday.

The body of former Judge Russell Merritt Wing, father of Fred M. Wing and Mrs. C.H. Mowry of Hartford, Illinois, was brought here last night from Wilmette, Illinois, where his death occurred last Saturday evening and where funeral services were held at his late home at 1011 Forest Avenue yesterday afternoon.

The body was placed in the vault at Maple Hill Cemetery, and burial will occur later in the family lot there.

Judge Wing was for many years one of the four leading trial lawyers in the Middle West, with a practice that extended as far east as New York. He gained a national reputation as a criminal lawyer, and was famed as the leading counsel in many of the most famous cases in the legal annals of Illinois.

The Chicago Herald-Examiner of Monday contained a glowing tribute to the memory of Judge Wing, written by George Wheeler Hinman, former editor of the Chicago Inter-Ocean and a close personal friend of Mr. Wing.

Mr. Wing was born in Kendall County, sixty-seven years ago. After graduating from Fowler Institute at Morris, Illinois, he passed through Hillsdale College, Michigan. Then going to Chicago he entered the law office of John Van Arnam, then known as the ablest lawyer in the Middle West. Later he graduated from the Chicago Law School.

In 1874 he was married to Miss Amelia De Land of Jamestown, New York. He is survived by the widow, his two children living in Hartford, Illinois, and another son, Bert Wing, a lawyer at Wilmette. Mrs. J.T. Wilkinson of this village is a niece of Mr. Wing. The widow will come to Hartford soon to live with her son, Fred Wing, at his farm home southwest of the village.

In private life Mr. Wing had a small circle of unusually devoted friends. Among them he was witty, cordial, always ready to help with money or advice. From long practice in criminal law he had acquired an ability to read faces and fathom motives to a degree that approached clairvoyance.

Often, after a glance at a man, he would say: "Your friend there is a rascal; don't bring him into the case; he will betray you"; or "He is honest and will help us."

The writer heard Mr. Wing express such summary opinions scores of times and not once did he prove to be in error.

Mr. Wing was the leading counsel for the defense in the second Cronin murder trial. His skill and eloquence gave him a national reputation, and resulted in the acquittal of the accused. Among the many other noted cases was that of Mooney, a Joliet Prison life-termer, accused of having murdered his cellmate, John Anderson. When Anderson's body was found it was covered with blood, and there were thirty-three wounds - but there wasn't a drop of blood on Mooney.

Twice he was convicted. In the third trial Mr. Wing was principal counsel for the defense. More than 2,700 jurors were examined. Mooney then turned state's evidence and confessed. The jury notwithstanding acquitted the prisoner and he was remanded to serve out his original life term.

He also successfully defended Superintendent Herman of the Bridewell, accused of conspiracy in the murder of an inmate.

Mr. Wing was born in Kendall County, sixty-seven years ago. After graduating at Fowler Institute in Morris, Illinois he passed through Hillsdale College, Michigan. Coming to Chicago he studied law in the office of John Van Arnam (the ablest lawyer in the Middle West at that time). Mr. Wing also graduated from the Chicago Law School.

At different periods he was associated as partner with Justice Carter of the Illinois Supreme Court, Justice Stough of Morris, Illinois and Thomas L. Chadbourne, now of Washington, D.C. He retired from active practice about 1904.

In 1874 he was married to Miss Amelia De Land of Jamestown, New York. He is survived by his widow, two sons, Bert Wing, a lawyer, who lives in Wilmette, Illinois and Fred Wing of Hartford, Illinois, and a daughter, Mrs. Clarence Mowry.