Judge Wiley P. Fowler
Sketches from, "Kentucky, History of the State"
Main Author; William Henry Perrin 1887
Submitted by: Vera Burnham
Judge Wiley P. Fowler, (The publishers have
been furnished with the following biographical sketch of Judge Wiley P.
Fowler, by W.D. Greer, of the Paducah bar, a former law partner of Judge
Fowler. -Ed.) "Judge Wiley P. Fowler, one of most eminent lawyers of Kentucky,
was born in Smith County, Tenn., September 2, 1799, and when a small boy
moved with his father's family to Caldwell County, near Princeton, Ky.
It was there that he recieved only such education as the schools of those
primitive days, in
that section, afforded. Full of the spirit of adventure, in 1817, when he was only eighteen years of age, he landed in a flat-boat at the mouth of Island Creek, at the upper end of the city of Paducah on his way to the distant wilds of Texas. Where Paducah now stands was then a vast unbroken forest; not a tree had been touched by the white man and it was a part of the Indian's vast hunting-grounds. In after years, when the judge would address the people in favor of some public enterprise, it was his delight to refer to the time when he had seen the Indian wigwams and campfires where this beautiful city now stands. He remained in Texas during a part of its wildest history, but after a year or two he bacame satisfied with the adventures and dangers of frontier life, returned to Kentucky and located in Salem, in Livingsto County, where he studied law and was admitted to the bar. He then married Miss Esther A. Given, sister of H.F. and D.A. Given, men of great prominence in the commercial world. His wife was a sister-in-law of Judge James Campbell,Sr. He afterward moved from Salem to Princeton, Ky., and rose rapidly in his profession and soon became one of the leading lawyers of southern Kentucky. He ranked along with George W. Barbour, Judge James Campbell Sr., Mat Mayes, Bob Patterson, David McGoodwin and James B. Husbands, the great laywers of this end of the State at that time. He was a superior land and criminal lawyer. He took a leading part in nearly all the great land and criminal trials of the day. He was a man of commanding presence, almost six feet high, of fine form, straight as an Indian, with dark penetrating eyes, with a face and head indicative of a strong character and high order of intellect. His manners and style of oratory were pleasing and peculiarly his own. He was the very embodiment of diginity and courtesy and yet at times especially when addressing the jury, full of wit, humor and sarcasm; but his great forte was to play upon the feelings and passions of his hearers. He could by his matchless eloquence and pathos, bring tears to the eyes of his listerners, and could by a few artful, well -directed apt words, accompanied by the merry twinkle of his eye and an inimitable smile, throw his adversary into disrepute and riducle, and convulse his audience with laughter. He was passionately fond
of literary research, and was a pioneer in the field of thought, loved to read and investigate new subjects and regardless of orthodox creeds, his active mind rambled with freedom over the bright fields of a new , and by some a forbidden science. His language at all times was chaste and most beautiful. There was a vein of poetry in his conversation and in his speeches which was charming and very captiving. These accompanied by his dignified bearing at all times elicited earnest attention from those who heard him, either in ordinary conversation, or on the rostrum. He was made judge of the circuit court about the year 1840, and held that position for years and until the change in the constitution, establishing the elective judiciary. When the State was re-districted, Caldwell County was left out of the jurisdiction of his old district. He then removed to Smithland, in Livingston County, and about 1860 was elected by the people judge of the circuit court, which office he held until 1865, and by his dignity and unbending iron will, upheld the civil power in his district, to a great extent, during those turbulent war times. It was during this period of his career, that his great character shone forth in its true brightness. While the country was occupied by armed soldiery and the booming of cannon and the clank of arms were heard around him; when bad passions ruled the hour, and bands of robbers and cut throats prowled through the country and law was being trodden down by lawless men, Judge Fowler held his courts and with an unfaltering hand held the scales of justice inheld the civil power and brought offenders to trail in the very teeth of the military of both Federals and Confederates. His course often brought him in conflict with them and for this his life was imperiled and even threatened and under the pretext that he refused to take the "iron-clad oath", he was arrested and imprisoned in Louisville, by the Federals. His private life was pure and blameless. He was generous and charitable. After leaving the bench he lived a quiet life on his farm, three miles below Smithland, on the bank of the Ohio, amid the grandeur of the poetic scenes of that majestic river. There he lived in almost quiet seclusion, in the enjoyment of farm scenes
and farm life, until the death of his second wife, Mrs. S.S. Fowler, whom he had married in 1848, and then came to Paducah and spent the sunset of his days with his sons, Gus Fowler and Joseph H. Fowler. He had been a member of the Methodist Church since early manhood and for fifty-five years a Mason. He died at the home of his son Capt. Joseph H. Fowler, in Paducah, in the eighty-second year of his age , long after nearly all the friends of his early youth had passed from the stage of action. He died full of honors and beloved by all who knew him. But Judge Fowlers' character, good and noble deeds and prinicples he inculated still live with the people of southern Kentucky and will endure long after the
beautiful monument that marks his grave in Smithland cemetery will crumble and fall beneath the stroke of time.