Early and Recent History and Genealogical Records
of Many of the Representative Citizens
WILLIAM J. ORR. A lawyer of intense energy and application, William J. Orr, of Springfield, has won a position in the front ranks of men of his profession, in which he is what might be denominated a student lawyer. His mind is of the workshop order, in contradistinction to the lumber room sort. Its acquisitions are not uselessly there, and not alone for him, but for others, they are ready to be shaped into the support of whatever purpose is in hand. He knows enough to know, and he knows it by both intuition and experience, that to be a good lawyer, a successful one, means hard study and devotion to the profession. Hence, we refer to him as a student, or a studious lawyer, as a man among his books, not as a recluse, or a book-worm, but as a lawyer who busies himself with those things in which success depends upon the symmetrical judgment and practical grasp that come from reading and reflection.
Mr. Orr, who for nearly a quarter of a century has been district attorney for the old "Gulf" and Frisco railroads, and one of the most widely known attorneys in the Southwest, was born in Pike county, Missouri, February 2, 1856. He is a son of Robert S. and Henrietta A. (Early) Orr. The father was born near Salisbury, North Carolina, but removed from that state to Missouri in an early day with his parents and here he grew to manhood on a farm and received good educational advantages for those times. When a young man he worked as a stair builder for some time. When his health failed he engaged in mercantile pursuits. His death occurred in Louisiana, Missouri, in 1880. The mother of our subject was a native of Pike county, this state, where she was reared on a farm and educated in the common schools. Her parents located in that county upon their arrival in Missouri from Virginia. She was the niece of Gen. Jubal A. Early, of Virginia. Her death occurred in 1912 in Howell county, Missouri. These parents were members of the Presbyterian church. To them eight children, were born, four of whom are deceased.
William J. Orr was reared in his native county and there received his primary education. He was graduated from Watson Seminary in 1878, but he is for the most part a self-educated man, having remained an ardent student all his life. In 1880 he went to West Plains, Howell county, Missouri, later taking Horace Greeley's advice, went West and tried his fortunes in the state of Oregon, remaining there several years, then returned to West Plains. He was admitted to the bar in 1878 and has been practicing law continuously ever since with pronounced success. Twenty-four years ago he was appointed district attorney for the Kansas City, Ft. Scott & Memphis Railroad, and when that road was leased to the St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad Company he was retained in the same position, being the only man from the law department of the former road that is now with the law department of the Frisco. This long service would indicate that he has been very capable and faithful in the performance of his duties. He has retained the same district, Springfield to Memphis.
Mr. Orr was married in 1884 to Emma Winger, a daughter of J. B. Winger, who was postmaster at Springfield during the Civil war. Mrs. Orr's death occurred in 1898, and he was subsequently married to Ola B. Saunders, of Kansas City. She is a daughter of L. L. Saunders. Both unions have been without issue.
Politically Mr. Orr is a Democrat, but he has never sought the emoluments of political office. He is a gentleman of pleasing address, impressing the stranger with his versatility, sincerity and genuine worth.
Springfield-Greene County Library