Illinois has always been distinguished for the high rank of her bench and bar. Perhaps none of the middle west states can boast of abler jurists or attorneys. Among those who have conferred honor and dignity upon the bar of the eleventh circuit none are more entitled to mention than Judge John H. Moffett, in whom were united many of the rare qualities which go to make up the successful lawyer and jurist. As a practitioner and upon the bench he displayed not only a high order of ability but also a rare combination of talent, learning, tact, patience and industry. Moreover he held to high ideals in citizenship and in private life, winning the love of family and friends and the respect and honor of all with whom he came in contact.
Judge Moffett was a native son of Illinois, having been born in Clayton, Adams county, on the 25th of February, 1856. His parents were Samuel R. and Mary (Strong) Moffett, who were natives of South Carolina, and in 1834 left that state, removing to Monroe county, Indiana, where they resided until 1855. That year witnessed their arrival in Adams county, Illinois, and ten years later they became residents of Paxton, where the father made his home until called to his final rest in 1879.
Judge Moffett was a youth of nine summers at the time of the removal of the family from Adams county to Paxton, and there in the public schools he continued his education until he had mastered the common branches of learning, while later he pursued a more advanced course of two years in the college at Monmouth, Illinois. His choice of a profession fell upon the law, and he began studying in the office of John R. Kinnear, under whose direction he thoroughly acquainted himself with many of the basic principles of jurisprudence and was admitted to the bar in 1880. Such was the esteem which his preceptor had for him, both personally and professionally, that he admitted him to a partnership and thus he entered upon the active practice of his chosen profession. At a later date Judge Moffett became a member of the firm of Tipton, Moffett & Day, which relation was maintained until Judge Tipton was called to the bench. The other gentlemen continued their partnership relations for several years and upon the dissolution of the firm Mr. Moffett was joined by M. L. McQuiston in a partnership which continued until Judge Moffett's election to the bench in 1897. The successful lawyer and the competent judge must be a man of well balanced intellect, thoroughly familiar with the law and practice, of comprehensive general information, possessed of an analytical mind and a self-control that will enable him to lose his individuality, his personal feelings, his prejudices and his peculiarities of disposition in the dignity, impartiality and equity of the office to which life, property, right and liberty must look for protection. Possessing these qualities, Judge Moffett justly merited the high honor which was conferred upon him by his elevation to the bench and his decisions were proof that the confidence reposed in him was well placed. That the public endorsed his course was indicated by his reelection in 1903 by the largest majority given to a republican candidate.
On the 16th of May, 1878, occurred the marriage of Judge Moffett and Miss Martha S. Gray, of Loda, Illinois, a daughter of Samuel and Mary J. Gray. They became the parents of five children but two died in infancy, while the sons, Claude, Carl and Donald, are still at home with their mother. Judge Moffett was devoted to the welfare of his wife and children, theirs being largely an ideal family relation. His interest centered in his home and he regarded no personal sacrifice on his part too great if it would promote the happiness or enhance the best interests of those who were nearest and dearest to him. His life span covered less than fifty years, and yet it may well be termed a life of successful accomplishment. He lived to attain an honored and prominent place in his profession and to enjoy the highest regard and respect of his fellowmen. One who knew him well said of him: "We are able to bear testimony to his manliness of character, his indomitable industry and sterling integrity. As a citizen he always showed commendable enterprise and as a husband and father was a model of all domestic virtues. To the bench and bar his death comes as a distinct loss. His knowledge of the law impelled the highest respect for his decisions and his fairness and courtesy endeared him to all with whom he was brought into personal relations. Probably no other judge in this district ever possessed the confidence and esteem of the bar to a greater degree."

Extracted 17 Oct 2016 by Norma Hass from History of Ford County, Illinois, From Its Earliest Settlement to 1908, author E. A. Gardner, Volume 2, pages 730-732.

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