Willis Duff Piercy

Prominent among Jefferson county's most gifted and notable citizens 
is Hon. Willis Duff Piercy, author, orator, scholar, editor of the 
Daily and Weekly News of Mt. Vernon, representative from the Forty-
sixth district to the Illinois state legislature, and Southern Illinois 
representative of the Charles E. Merrill Company of New York City, 
publishers of school and college text books. Mr. Piercy is widely and 
favorably known as a gentleman of high character, as well as unusual 
attainments, and his influence in the community has been marked and 
salutary. The birth of Mr. Piercy occurred April 28, 1874, in Hamilton 
county, Illinois, his father being Dr. Sherwood Piercy, a native of 
Jefferson county and a son of Anderson Piercy of North Carolina who 
came as one of the pioneers to Jefferson county and helped pave the 
way for subsequent civilization. Dr. Piercy practiced medicine in 
Hamilton county and then in Jefferson county, the period of his career 
as a practitioner covering thirty-four years of signal usefulness. 
He died March 21, 1906, at the age of sixty-nine. He was always actively 
interested in Democratic politics; was a lifelong Mason and a member of 
the Methodist Episcopal church. He married Mary Mangrum, who survives 
and makes her home with her son, the subject of this review, and with 
her daughters. These worthy people reared a family of five children to 
maturity, namely: Mrs. M. N. Corn, Carlinville, Illinois; Mrs. J. C. 
Jones, of Birch Tree, Missouri; the subject; Mrs. Clarence E. Danner, 
of Jefferson county; and Mrs. (Dr.) R. R. Smith, of Mt. Vernon. Mr. 
Piercy received his early education in the common schools of his native 
county and then entered Ewing College, where he pursued his studies from 
1891 to 1892. Some years later he matriculated in McKendree College, at 
Lebanon, Illinois, where he was a student from 1896 to 1901, in the 
latter year receiving the degree of Bachelor of Arts. He and his wife 
went through college together, after they were married. Mr. Piercy 
saving the money for their education from his salary as country teacher. 
Mrs. Piercy received her degree of Bachelor of Arts in the year following 
that of her husband (1902). Mr. Piercy had previously been engaged in 
educational work, his first work as an instructor being in the common 
schools of Jefferson county (three years), and one year in the 
Mt. Vernon high school. 
In the fall of 1901 he went to Greenville, Illinois, as superintendent 
of the city schools and served in that capacity until the spring of 1903. 
In the ensuing fall he entered Harvard University, and in the spring of 
1904 was granted the degree of Master of Arts from that institution in 
the department of English. Previously, while teaching school in Jefferson 
county, he had read law and had passed the bar examinations, being admitted 
to the bar in 1895. He served as private secretary to Congressman M. D. 
Foster of the Twenty-third district of Illinois, from March 4, 1907, to 
March 4, 1909, and resided in Washington, D. C., during the winter of 
1907-08. His connection with the Charles E. Merrill Publishing Company, 
of New York City, had dated from a time several years previous and he had 
represented this concern for some three years. In 1908, upon his return 
from the national capital, he again became associated with the Merrill 
Company and still retains his connection with it in the capacity of 
representative for Southern Illinois. The fact that Mr. Piercy had gained 
the confidence and admiration of the community in which he is best known 
is by no means difficult of explanation, and nothing could have been more 
appropriate than his election, in the fall of 1910, as representative from 
the Forty-sixth district to the lower house of the state assembly. He is 
now serving his first term and has given a taste of his quality, which 
has abundantly proved the wisdom of his constituents and which makes 
subsequent political preferment a logical outcome. He was by no means 
a figurehead at Springfield in one of the most important sessions of 
the assembly, matching swords with Lee O'Neil Browne in the arena of 
debate, to the discomfiture of that politician. He was instrumental in 
killing Browne's Libel Bill, working strenuously and speaking effectively 
against a measure which he believed pernicious in the extreme. In fact, 
he was credited by the St. Louis Republic and several other journals as 
having himself dealt the death blow to the bill. His address against 
the bill was published throughout the United States and made for him 
more than a state-wide reputation in a day. In April, 1912, the 
Democrats of the Forty-sixth senatorial district, comprising the counties 
of Jefferson, Wayne, Richland and Jasper, nominated Mr. Piercy as their 
candidate for state senator, without opposition. He became connected 
with the Daily News as editor in January, 1910, and is a creditable 
representative of the Fourth Estate. This sheet is owned and published 
by a stock company, Dr. Walter Watson being president and J. J. Baker, 
secretary, treasurer and general manager. It was established in 1871 
as a weekly and in 1891 a daily edition was inaugurated, the circulation 
being at the present time 2,800. It is the official Democratic organ of 
Jefferson county and is an effective one, and it is the only Democratic 
paper in the county. The daily paper is an eight page, six column sheet, 
and the weekly is the same size. It is not only remarkably newsy, but 
stands an enlightened moulder of public opinion, its editorials being 
uniformly well conceived. 
Mr. Piercy was married April 3, 1895, to Miss Eulalia Whitson, of 
Jefferson county, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. L. B. Whitson and their 
charming and cultured home is shared by a daughter, Helen Whitson, 
aged eight years. Mr. Piercy is affiliated with the Benevolent and 
Protective Order of Elks and with the Knights of Pythias. It is as an 
orator and platform speaker, perhaps, that Mr. Piercy is best known, 
and has been "nickĀ­named the Silver-tongued Orator of Egypt."
 He is the author of a number of publications, such as "Death and 
Its Sorrow," published by the Neale Publishing Company, (N. Y., 1908) 
; "Great Inventions and Discoveries," intended as supplementary 
reading or library book for school children, and published by the 
Charles E. Merrill Company of New York. For the past five years he 
has been a member of the Mt. Vernon township high school board of 
education and he has served as a member of the city public library 
board. In whatever capacity he has served his fellow men it has been 
with credit to himself and honor and profit to the people.

Source: History of Southern Illinois George Washington Smith, 
Page 1284 - 1285

Submitted by Robert W. Loman 

Visit RootsWeb
 HOME | Biography Index Page

Please send additions & corrections to 
Jefferson County Coordinator Cindy Ford
© 2005-2016 by Cindy Ford
All rights reserved