American Statesmen: Secretaries of State from John Jay to Colin Powell

By Edward S. Mihalkanin | Go to book overview
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WILLIAM R. DAY (1849-1923)

Served 1898

Appointed by President William McKinley

Republican

William Rufus Day was born on April 17, 1849. His father, Luther, had served as chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court. His mother, Emily Spalding, was the daughter of Rufus Spalding who had served on the Ohio Supreme Court and who had helped establish the Republican Party in Ohio. Day's ancestors on both sides of his family hailed from New England.

Day graduated with a bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan in 1870. Day read law in the office of Judge George F. Robinson and returned to study law at his alma mater for a year. He was admitted to the Ohio bar in July 1872 and opened his law practice in Canton, Ohio, in partnership with William A. Lynch in October of the same year. Day met Mary E. Schaefer in Canton, and they married in 1875. The marriage was a happy one, and they had four sons. Secure in his marriage and career, Day built up his practice concentrating on criminal and corporation cases. As important to Day as his marriage and law practice was his friendship with William McKinley.

McKinley had established a law practice in Canton five years before Day. Their wives were friends before the husbands were. Day and McKinley were also drawn together by their devotion to the Republican Party, similarity of temperament, and the respect each had for the other's legal ability. When McKinley entered the U.S. House of Representatives, Day became his personal, financial, and legal advisor, and these roles continued into McKinley's presidency. An excellent example of Day's help occurred in 1893, when Robert L. Walker went bankrupt. McKinley had endorsed Walker's notes and so was in danger of bankruptcy himself. Serving as McKinley's personal counsel, Day helped establish a trust organized to discharge the debts McKinley then owed. McKinley turned over all his property to the trust, and Day served as one of the trustees. Under Day's supervision the entire debt was cleared without hurting McKinley's political career.

Before his service in the State Department, Day's public service was brief. After being nominated by both the Republican and Democrat parties, he served for six

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