Early Evansville Portraits And Biographies
From History of Vanderburgh County, Indiana
by Brant & Fuller

William F. Parrett

Previous Home Next


HON. WILLIAM F. PARRETT. Judge Parrett, the son of Robert and Martha Parrett, was born on a farm near Blairsville, Posey County, Ind., August 10, 1825. In 1826 his father moved to Vanderburgh County, and purchased a farm adjoining the village of Evansville, then containing but few inhabitants. The Parrett homestead embraced all of the present city limits lying south of Washington Avenue and east of Parrett and Third Streets.

His early youth was passed on a farm and going to school. He spent three years at Asbury (now DePauw) University, at Greencastle, under the renowned Matthew Simpson, who was then its president, and he obtained the substantial benefit of a college course. He was eighteen months under John Douglas, president of the old Evansville branch bank, in a position of trust, and readily learned accurate business habits and ideas, which were of value to him in his professional life.

He began the study of law with Conrad Baker later governor of Indiana. April 7, 1847, at Boonville, he was admitted to the bar after examination. He remained at Boonville till 1852, when he went to the Pacific coast and spent two years and a half in the practice of the law in Oregon, when he returned to Indiana and continued in the practice in the firm of Lockhart, Parrett & Denby, at Evansville.

In 1855 he removed to Boonville and continued successfully in his profession until August, 1859, when he was appointed by Gov. Willard, Judge of the 15th Judicial Circuit, composed of the counties of Crawford, Perry, Spencer, Warrick, Vanderburgh, and Posey. In October, 1859, he was elected for six years to the same position, when he removed to Evansville, where he has since resided.

In 1865 he was re-elected for another term of six years. After serving three years of this term, he resigned and entered into the practice of the law with Gen. James M. Shackelford, and subsequently formed a partnership with Luke Wood, the firm name being Parrett & Wood. In 1873, upon the formation of the first circuit of Vanderburgh and Posey counties, Judge Parrett was appointed judge by Gov. Hendricks, and later was again a candidate, and re-elected over Judge Edson of Posey county by a large majority. In 1879, he was again elected to the same position without opposition, his name being printed on all the tickets. By a change in the law, the next election came one year earlier, and in 1884, Judge Parrett was again elected Judge over Mr. Ernest Dale Owen, of New Harmony, and he remained on the bench until December, 1888, when after his election to congress, he was succeeded by Judge Robert D. Richardson, of the Evansville bar.

Judge Parrett, upon his retirement from the bench, entered into partnership with Mr. W. M. Blakey, at Evansville, the firm being Parrett & Blakey. He was for several years trustee of the Evansville public schools, with H. W. Cloud and others, under whose management the schools continued to thrive and grow upon their liberal foundations, under a policy which had placed the best citizens in that office.

Judge Parrett was presidential elector for the first judicial district of Indiana in 1856, and cast the vote of Indiana for James Buchanan. In 1858, he was elected to the legislature of Indiana from Warrick County and served the regular and a special term. In 1888, he was chosen by the democratic party as its candidate for congress in the first district, and in November was elected over Mr. F. B. Posey of Petersburgh. In politics he has been a leading democrat, although during his entire career upon the bench, he has always risen superior to any political prejudices, and his politics have only been prominently recognized when he was a candidate for office

In November, 1852, Judge Parrett married Miss Harriet W. Hinman, who died in 1888 leaving surviving two daughters, Mary and Eva, who reside with their father in Evansville.

The retirement of Judge Parrett from the bench was an epoch in the history of the bar of Evansville and vicinity. Though yet in full mental and physical vigor, he is one of the few remaining of the bar of this section as it existed thirty years ago. Judge Parrett's career begins after that of Lockhart and Law, both of whom served in congress; contemporaneous with Baker, who later became governor of Indiana; Jones, Attorney General of Indiana; Shanklin, who died young, in the beginning of great promise; Robinson whose unique originality and sarcasm and great natural power gave him high reputation as an advocate; Chandler, of superior education, mental culture and high forensic power; Harrow, able and brilliant; Blythe, stately and eloquent; Iglehart, with broad intellect, a comprehensive lawyer and a jurist of extensive reputation; Pitcher, of marked ability; Garvin, learned in the law, classic in his tastes, and genial in his social life; Hovey, who has held high positions, military and civil, now governor of Indiana; Denby, able, eloquent and successful at the bar, now United States Minister to China; Foster, United States Minister to Mexico, Spain and Russia; Hynes, than whom none was more eloquent, brilliant and charming. These and others composed the bar which practiced before Judge Parrett in the earlier days. They were men of strong, broad natures, robust manhood and sturdy characters. Comparing favorably in natural ability with these men, with whom he associated, quick to feel the inspiration which these surroundings produced, with a natural aptitude to the law, Judge Parrett has in a life of continuous labor earned the tribute, which was paid him by the Evansville bar, upon his retirement from the bench. It contains a just estimate of his personal and professional traits, by those who know him most intimately, and is given elsewhere.