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William R. Day
A team of 35 attorneys, Day Ketterer has a proud history of being one of the oldest and most respected law firms in the state of Ohio. Founded in 1872 by William R. Day, he made history as the United States Secretary of State under President William McKinley who negotiated peace with Spain and signed the Treaty of Paris to end the Spanish American War 1898. He then served as a justice for four years on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and as an associate justice for 19 years on the Supreme Court of the U.S.
About Our Founding Member - Supreme Court Justice William R. Day
McKinley appointed William R. Day to the Assistant secretaryship April 23, 1897, which meant the real responsibility and work without the title. Day yielded to the appeal of personal friendship, giving up a $15,000 practice for $4,500 salary. Washington officialdom was for a time confounded "until they came to know that in the slight, silent figure of Day, clothed with a dignified reticence and distinguished by amazing tact and ability, the President had found a man who could be relied upon in any emergency."
For a year Day performed prodigies of labor in an unbearably delicate situation. He drafted the papers for the annexation of Hawaii. McKinley leaned on Day more and more for getting the things done that had to be done, even taking the unprecedented step of inviting him to cabinet meetings for conferences on the rapidly worsening Spanish-Cuban situation. President McKinley had to act at once, and accepted Sherman's resignation on the day that war was declared against Spain. On the next day McKinley nominated Day for Secretary of State, which was immediately confirmed. Though not wanting the job, Day accepted "for the duration of the War."
During the next eight months President McKinley and Judge Day had momentous decisions to work out, permanently affecting American policies and ideals as she emerged through conflict from isolation to an imperialistic world power. And when the world sat as jurors McKinley and Day never abandoned the neighborly, friendly, personal and direct ways in which they were used to presenting their cases and handling their affairs in their home town.
An interesting illustration was Day's handling of the de Lome incident. On February 8th, 1898, while Day was still acting as assistant secretary of state, the New York Journal published a letter purported to have been written by the Spanish minister de Lome to an agent in Havana, commenting on McKinley's annual message to Congress, and containing insulting personal references to the president. The original of the letter, which had been intercepted, was placed in Day's hands at noon of February 8th. Shortly after 4 o'clock he called personally at the Spanish legation and received from the Spanish minister the admission that he had written the letter. The incident resulted in de Lome's immediate recall.
One of Day's outstanding achievements during the war was to keep Germany neutral, which was a diplomatic victory, without which Dewey's naval victory at Manila would have been impossible.
During the war Day held many conferences at the White House with the French Ambassador, Monsieur Jules Cambon, who represented the interests of Spain. The terms of a peace protocol were finally ironed out. The protocol was signed by Day and Cambon in the White House in the presence of President McKinley in the afternoon of Aug. 12th, 1898.
Immediately after signing the peace protocol Day resigned as Secretary of State, and John Hay was appointed in his place. President McKinley appointed Day president of the United States peace commission, the four other members being two Republican senators, Cushman K. Davis and William P. Frye; Democrat Senator George Gray; and Whitelaw Reid of the New York Tribute, Republican.
The American and Spanish commissioners met in Paris Oct. 1 and sat in deliberations until the treaty was signed December 10th. The cablegrams that passed back and forth between Day and President McKinley reflect the clear and logical thinking of Day, concisely stated. He opposed the trend of thinking that would keep the Philippines by right of conquest, pointing out that the capture of Manila came a few hours after the peace protocol was signed, and that therefore there had been no conquest which could justify the demand for cession. Thus Day paved the way for the treaty provision under which the United States paid Spain $20,000,000 for the Philippines.
Throughout the sessions Day demonstrated his entire competency for his tasks as president of the commission. He tackled it as he would a tremendous law suit. He enjoyed the confidence of the Spanish Commissioners as well as that of his own colleagues.
Whitelaw Reid wrote President McKinley: "Judge Day, in particular, has shown great clearness, precision of view, and well-balanced judgment." President McKinley said, "Day never made a single mistake." The World's Work editor wrote, "Judge Day made one of the greatest reputations of the Spanish-American War."
Judge Day planned to return to Canton to resume the private practice of law as soon as the treaty of peace was concluded. But he had not had time to settle down before his friend President McKinley appointed him, on February 25, 1899, to a federal judgeship in the Sixth Judicial Circuit, the jurisdiction of which covered Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Presiding judge of this circuit court was William Howard Taft, who had been appointed to the position at 32 years of age. Judge Day played an important part in proposing Taft to be the first governor-general of the Philippines and in gaining his acceptance.
The death of McKinley did not mark the end of Day's political influence at Washington. In January 1903 Day was chairman of the McKinley Memorial meeting in Canton, held on McKinley's birthday, January 29th. He introduced President Roosevelt as the speaker of the day. The latter, responding, said "Mr. Toastmaster, Mr. Justice Day," thus announcing his intention of elevating Day to the Supreme Court. The nomination was received by the Senate on February 19 and confirmed four days later. The appointment of Judge Day began, at 54 years of age, a service of two decades on the Supreme Court, during which time he wrote 439 majority opinions for the court, and 18 dissenting opinions, included in 67 volumes of Supreme Court records. Throughout his Supreme Court service he was a strict constructionist of national powers and a liberal constructionist of state powers.
He stood for a liberal interpretation of the anti-trust laws. He supported President Roosevelt's trust busting policies. His position on the Supreme Court has been called a "progressive balance wheel."
In December 1922, at the end of 25 years of judicial service, he retired from the Supreme Court. He received from Chief Justice Taft a letter signed by his colleagues, lauding "his loyalty to the court and its tradition, his affectionate fellowship, wit and humor, and unfailing tranquility and good sense."
Four months prior to his retirement from the Supreme Court he had been appointed by President Harding as umpire on the Mixed Claims Commission to determine the claims against Germany. But in May 1923, before he had gotten into the tremendous details of this assignment, he resigned by reasons of ill health. Two months later, on July 9th, he died at his Mackinac summer home, a victim of a general breakdown following an attack of bronchitis.
The body was brought to Canton by the oldest son, William L. Day, and the funeral was held at the family home, 621 N. Market. The service was in charge of Rev. E. C. Herman, pastor of the Trinity Lutheran Church. The honorary pallbearers were Judge R.S. Shields, Judge Henry W. Harter, Attorney Austin Lynch, William Poyser, Dr. A.C. Brant, Judge Henry A. Wise, Judge R.H. Taylor, and Augustus Dannemiller. The active pallbearers were Atlee Pomerene, George B. Frease, H.H. Timken, Paul D. Ryder, Judge George H. Clark, Judge Harvey F. Ake, John F. Allen, and Judge Charles Krichbaum. Flags were at half-mast at the city hall, and the offices there and at the courthouse were closed all day.
All retail stores were closed during the funeral. A special memorial service was held at the courthouse by The Stark County Bar Association. The committee was composed of Austin Lynch, Chairman, Judge Shields, Henry W. Harter, A.M. McCarty and R.W. McCaughey. The State Bar Association and the Cleveland, Akron, and Youngstown bar associations were represented at the funeral. President Harding sent a telegram from Juneau, Alaska. A floral tribute was sent by the German Ambassador, Weidfeldt.
Distinguished as were the achievements of William R. Day in his professional and public career, he was equally notable in his private life as father, husband, friend and citizen. As stated in an editorial in the Evening Repository, in his home life he was in a marked degree like William McKinley. Both men were noted for their domesticity. They loved home ties, and esteemed home relations above public honors. At no time did these world-famous men forget their old time friends.
Judge and Mrs. Day had four sons: William L., Luther, Stephen A. and Rufus. The sons were large and husky, contrasting strikingly with their frail, slender father. The father, however, enjoyed bass fishing, golf and pitching horseshoes with his sons, and could beat his sons at quoits; in fact he was an expert quoit player with few equals. He was an ardent baseball fan, and never lost any opportunity to attend the big league baseball games. During the world series games he sometimes arranged to have reports passed to him on the bench. These he read with keen interest and passed along the bench to his colleagues with his comments and criticisms.
Judge Day's son, William L., one day visited his father in Washington, and was introduced by Judge Day to his colleagues. Oliver Wendell Holmes, noting the husky six-foot son alongside the slender father, observed, "He's a block off the old chip."
William R. Day was intensely loyal to William McKinley. He headed a delegation of 120 men on a special train from Canton to the National Republican Convention at St. Louis in 1896, and worked tirelessly in the campaign at considerable personal sacrifice. He was chairman of the committee that prepared the tribute to McKinley for the memorial service of The Stark County Bar Association following the assassination, and gave one of the principal addresses at that service. He headed the movement for the McKinley Memorial and served as the first president of the Memorial Association. Every year on McKinley's birthday he wore a pink carnation in his buttonhole, and during the years of his service on the Supreme Court he distributed carnations to his fellow jurists.
Judge Day loved Canton with an intense affection. During the two decades that he served on the bench in Washington he usually spent the first month of vacation at the family residence at 621 No. Market, now a parking lot opposite Halley's store. It was an old family home that had been built and lived in by his father-in-law, Louis Schaefer.
About July 4th Judge and Mrs. Day went to MacKinac where the Judge had a cottage. Judge Day's father started going to Mackinac on his wedding trip, and William R. Day went there on his wedding trip, and regularly every year for 50 years or more.
Judge Day was deeply attached to his wife. She was a brilliant woman, remembered for her wonderful wit and humor. The four sons followed their father in legal careers. Three of them served for a time as secretary to Judge Day. Luther and Rufus are members of the law firm of Jones, Day, Cockley and Reavis in Cleveland. Stephen A. Day, who died only a month ago, served as Representative-at-large from Illinois, making his home at Evanston, and practicing law in Chicago when not on the bench. The late William L. Day, who died in 1936, served as U.S. Attorney for the northern district of Ohio, and as Federal Judge of the northern district of Ohio, having been appointed by President Taft in 1912.
The sons remember their home as the happiest home that any home could be. There was no ostentation. Plain simple living was accompanied by clear, straight thinking and a sense of humor. Predominate characteristics of Judge Day were modesty and dislike of praise. He was hard working, a great reader and a scholar. His style was chaste and elegant.
Justice Brandeis summed up Day's career in these words: "Those of us who were privileged to be associated with him knew also of the deep affection and loyalty of his nature. He leaves a distinguished and endearing memory. He was not merely a good man and a good judge, but a great citizen."
Just as this manuscript goes to the printer we receive the Mississippi Valley Historical Review, XXXVII, No. 1, for June 1950, containing Vernon W. Roelof's "Justice William R. Day and Federal Regulations."