William B. Hornblower

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William B. Hornblower

William Butler Hornblower (May 13, 1851 – June 16, 1914) was a New York jurist who was unsuccessfully nominated to the United States Supreme Court by President Grover Cleveland in 1893.

Early life and education

William Butler Hownblower was born in Paterson, New Jersey in 1851.1 He was the son of William Henry Hornblower, a Presbyterian minister, and his wife, Mathilda Butler.1 Hornblower was the descendant of an old American family; his great-grandfather, Josiah Hornblower, was a member of the Continental Congress.1 In 1882 he married Sandra C. Sanford, with whom he had three children.1 After Sandra died, Hornblower married her sister, Emily Sanford Nelson, who was herself a widow.1 Hornblower graduated from Princeton University in 1871 and the law school of Columbia College in 1875.1

Legal and political career

After graduating from Columbia, he practiced law with the New York bankruptcy law firm of Carter & Eaton until 1888, when he and two partners formed their own firm.2 A lifelong Democrat, in 1890 he was appointed by New York governor David B. Hill to a commission on state constitutional amendments.2

Hornblower worked to defeat Isaac H. Maynard, Hill's preferred candidate for a seat on the New York Court of Appeals, in 1891, earning Hill's enmity.3 Hornblower was nominated to the United States Supreme Court by President Cleveland in 1893.2 New York's U.S. Senators, one of whom was Hill, opposed the nomination, as did several pro-silver Democratic Senators.3 The nomination was referred to committee and rejected after several months' delay by a 24-30 vote.2

Following his defeat, Hornblower returned to his successful New York law practice. In 1904, he was elected President of the New York State Bar Association.2 That same year, Hornblower served on a committee charged with consolidating the state's laws.4 In 1907 he formed a new law firm, Hornblower, Miller and Potter, a predecessor to the modern firm of Willkie Farr & Gallagher.5 In 1913, he was appointed president of the New York City Bar Association. Shortly before his death, Hornblower was appointed to a seat on the New York Court of Appeals, but served for just ten weeks.2


  1. ^ a b c d e f Harrison, Mitchell C. (1902). Prominent and Progressive Americans: An Encyclopædia of Contemporaneous Biography. New York: New York Tribune. pp. 170–171. Retrieved January 22, 2008. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Judge Hornblower Dies in 64th Year" (PDF). The New York Times. 1914-06-17. Retrieved 2008-01-22. 
  3. ^ a b Brodsky, Alyn (2000). Grover Cleveland: A Study in Character. St. Martin's Press. pp. 326–327. ISBN 0-312-26883-1. 
  4. ^ Bergan, Francis (1985). The History of the New York Court of Appeals, 1847-1932. New York: Columbia University Press. pp. 247–248. ISBN 0-231-05950-7. 
  5. ^ "Willkie Farr & Gallagher website". Retrieved January 22, 2008. 

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