JOHN E. JENNINGS, State's Attorney and City Attorney of Sullivan, Moultrie County,
and a member of the law firm of Jennings & Huff, is a native of Moultrie County,
where he was born March 9, 1864. He belongs to one of the prominent families of the county. His
father, Benjamin S. Jennings, is a native of Ohio, and his grandfather and great-grandfather also
bore the name of Benjamin Jennings. The latter came of English parentage and it is not unlikely
that he was born in England. His boyhood days, however, were spent in Massachusetts, and he died
in Pennsylvania. During the Revolutionary War he served in the Colonial Army. The grandfather
of our subject, a native of the Keystone State, emigrated to Ohio, and in 1853, came with the
father of our subject to Illinois, making a settlement in Marrowbone Township, Moultrie County.
He died in 1867, at the home of his son in Lovington Township. On first coming to Illinois, Benjamin
Jennings, father of John E., was employed as an engineer in a grist and sawmill. He had
learned the business in Ohio and was a practical machinist. After some years he removed to Lovington,
where he operated a mill for a time and then located on a farm in the township of that
name, some ten miles northwest of Sullivan. Afterward removing to the city, he became one of
the partners in the Sullivan Woolen Mills, with which he was connected until 1887, when the factory
was abandoned and the machinery shipped to Canada, while the building is now being used as
an elevator. Since that time Benjamin Jennings has lived a retired life. He continues his residence
in Sullivan where he is a very prominent citizen. He has been connected with the public interests in
many ways and has acceptably filled a number of positions of trust. He was a member of the first
city council in 1873, was re-elected in 1875, again in 1877 and in 1879. On the expiration of that
last term he was elected Mayor of the city and had previously filled an unexpired term for one
year, The Democratic party finds in him a stanch advocate, and his labors in its behalf have aided
greatly in its success. With the best interests of the county he has been identified and his works
are well deserving of mention in the county's history.
Benjamin Jennings was united in marriage with Miss Eleanor Caddington, a lady of Scotch-Irish
descent. She died at her home in Sullivan in 1877, in the faith of the Baptist Church of which
she had long been a member. In the family were eleven children, seven of whom are yet living —
Addie R., at home; Aza, who wedded Emily McCraig and is living in Sullivan; W. Henry, who
married Dolly Harris, of Sullivan, and is an electrician employed by the Kester Electrical Company
of Terre Haute, Ind.; Lucy M., at home; Samuel, who is married and is connected with the
abstract office in Fresno, Cal.; John E., of this sketch; and Hillory, who is foreman of the Canton
Register, of Canton, Ill. He married Minnie Tichenor. The sons are all Democrats and the family
is one well worthy of mention in this Record.
The subject of this sketch acquired his education in the public schools and was graduated from
the Sullivan High School. Wishing to engage in the practice of law he entered the office of Meeker
& Smyzer, under whose direction he pursued his studies for two years, when he was admitted to the
bar at the Appellate Court at Springfield, January 21, 1887, Judges Wall, Conger and Pleasant officiating.
He was licensed by the Supreme Court, Judge Scott presiding, and was one of a class of sixteen,
self-made young men, who, though none had ever attended law school, fitted themselves for legal
practice by their own efforts and won a place among legal practitioners. Mr. Jennings had attained
his majority only a short time previous to his admission to the bar. Soon after he was recommended
by the court and received the appointment of Assistant State Attorney of his county, a
position which he filled until his election as State's Attorney. He was admitted to the United States
District Court in January, 1890, and the following March, the firm of Jennings & Huff was formed.
They do a general law business, making a specialty of criminal law and although little more than a
year has passed since the organization of the firm these young lawyers, men of ability and enterprise
have won for themselves a prominent place at the bar. Mr. Jennings is also Notary Public. In
politics he is a Democrat and a stanch advocate of the party principles. In his youth he learned the
trade of a manufacturer of woolen goods, acquainting himself with every branch of the business and
could now, if necessary, fill any position in a woolen factory, but unless something unforeseen
happens, he will continue his efforts at the bar, where he is meeting with such excellent success.
Mr. Jennings joined Company C, of the Eighth Regiment Illinois National Guards as a private,
but was soon promoted to Sergeant, was afterward elected Second and then First Lieutenant, and in
1886, was elected Captain of the Company, a position which he filled for two years. He was thus
serving when called to duty during the time of the great St. Louis strike in 1886. He has met
with his regiment at every annual encampment at Camp Lincoln in Springfield, Col. Relley M.
Smith, of Greenup, Ill., being Commander of the regiment. The following have served aa Captain
of the company: Alvin P. Green, George Chapman, Samuel Jennings, John E. Jennings, and
Adolph T. Jenkins.
Mr. Jennings is one of the prominent and enterprising young business men of Sullivan, who, unaided
by capital or influential friends, is working his way upward to an honorable and enviable position.
He has not yet married but makes his home with his father and two sisters.
Portrait and Biographical Record of Shelby and Moultrie Counties, 1891 - p. 445/446
Transcription copyright 2003/2007, Moultrie County ILGenWeb/USGenWeb