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Fox, Fontaine Talbott

Posted by ceddleman 
Fox, Fontaine Talbott
March 06, 2007 04:03PM
Kentucky: A History of the State, Battle, Perrin, & Kniffin, 4th ed.,
1887 Boyle Co.

FONTAINE TALBOTT FOX. Among the old jurists and lawyers of Kentucky,
who still abide with us, connecting links, as it were, between the
early jurisprudence of the State and the better formulated and more
progressive legal science of the present, none occupy a more conspicuous
place in the eyes of his many friends than Judge Fontaine T. Fox, whose
name heads this sketch. Born in Madison County, Ky., on the 28th of
January, 1803, he enjoyed meager opportunities for obtaining an
education, reading Latin as far as Horace for five months at Richmond
under the tutorship of John Rylan, and for six months under Samuel
Wilson, and finally closing his course of academical instruction at
Forrest Academy, Jessamine County. His father having removed to
Pulaski County while his son was still of tender years, the latter,
upon completing his education, began the study of law in that county in
1822, in the office of Charles Cunningham, and in the following year
was admitted to the bar and at once began the practice of his profession
at Somerset. He soon earned a reputation for himself as a careful and
successful practitioner, and from 1823 to 1884 occupied the front rank
among the able members of the profession in his judicial district,
acquiring an extensive and remunerative practice. In 1829 he was
appointed commonwealth's attorney for the Eighth Judicial District, and
held that position for four years. In 1840 he removed to Lincoln County
and was again appointed to the same office in 1844, resigning the
position after two years. In 1849 he located at Danville and in 1862
was elected circuit judge for the Eighth Judicial District and
re-elected to the same responsible position in 1868, holding it for
twelve years, on both occasions being elected without opposition.
During the twelve years of his service on the bench, its decisions were
always rendered with promptness and great clearness; his judicial mind
rapidly grasped the real questions involved and the law that governed
them. No one wearing the ermine ever enjoyed a more enviable reputation
for uprightness and impartiality, or was more considerate of all who
came before him. If he had a lean or bias it was toward the ignorant
or poor, those whose circumstances appealed to his kind nature. In
politics Judge Fox was originally an old line Whig, but upon the
breaking up of that organization, identified himself with the
Democratic party, with which he afterward acted. In 1836 he was elected
on the Whig ticket to the lower branch of the State Legislature in
the Democratic county of Pulaski and in 1840 was chosen to represent
Pulaski and Lincoln Counties in the State Senate, where he served four
years. Judge Fox is of Scotch-Irish extraction and throughout a long
professional and political career has manifested many of the strong
characteristics of that race. His grandfather, Samuel Fox, came from
Virginia with the early colonists of Kentucky and settled in Madison
County, where he pursued the occupation of a farmer, living to the
extraordinary age of ninety-eight years. He married Rhoda, daughter of
Richard and Lucy Pickering, and had a large family of children,
consisting of ten sons and three daughters. His son, William Fox,
father of Judge Fox, removed to Pulaski County in early manhood and for
a period of about fifty-five years held the office of county and
circuit court clerk in that county. During all that time he was
recognized as one of the leaders in the county, was a man of great
influence and unquestioned integrity and one whose advice and counsel
were sought by all. He married Sophie Irvine, and his children were
Amanda, who married Bourne Coggin; Jane, who married Dr. John Caldwell,
and Elizabeth, who married John Fitzpatrick; Sophie, who married J.S.
Kindrick; Fontaine T.; William and Samuel Fox. He died in 1855. The
personal attributes of Judge Fox may be briefly described. He is a man
of decided convictions, yet not one who is given to forcing his opinions
upon others; was always considerate of the feelings and reputation of
others, and it may be truly said that he was "no man's enemy." During
the civil war he was a strong advocate of the Union and firmly supported
the views and policy of the representatives of the National Government.
His legal attainments were of the highest order, and, together with a
natural uprightness of mind, combined what may be called an almost
intuitive perception of those scientific and philosophical principles
which underlie the system of modern jurisprudence. As an advocate and
in the social circle he was genial, bright and witty, always had at his
command a fund of anecdotes that were pointed and highly entertaining.
He is a man of great natural suavity of manner, generous and polite,
gallant in the extreme to members of the opposite sex, given to
hospitality, and one who has always occupied a warm place in the
popular heart, enjoying to the highest degree the confidence and esteem
of the people, further attested by the fact that several years after he
had declined to run for office, many votes were cast for him as judge
without his knowledge or consent. At the ripe age of eighty-four, he
has, of course, retired from the active business of life, and resides in
Danville. By his side still sits she whom he married on January 16,
1830, as Eliza Jane Hunton, daughter of Thomas Hunton of Lincoln County,
Ky., who is the mother of his large family and has ever been a faithful
wife and devoted Christian mother. Both are members of the First
Presbyterian Church of Danville. The children who attained years of
maturity are Thomas H., by profession a lawyer, now farming in
Montgomery County, Ky.; William McKee (deceased), who lived at Somerset,
Ky., practiced law in Pulaski and adjoining counties; Peter C.
(deceased), who practiced law at Louisville; Fontaine T. Fox, Jr., now
practicing law at Louisville; Samuel I., a practicing physician at
Plantersville, Tex.; Felix G., a lawyer at Kansas City, Mo.; Sophie
Irvine, who married Andrew M. Sea of Kansas City; John O. (deceased),
who was a civil engineer at Danville; Annie Belle, wife of Jeremiah C.
Caldwell of Danville, and Charles C. Fox, a lawyer at Danville and now
somewhat interested in farming pursuits. Since the above sketch was
put in type the sad intelligence has reached us of the death of the
subject at midnight, April 6, 1887. Space only permits us to give the
following extract in relation to his demise, from a leading Danville
journal: " In the death of the venerable Fontaine T. Fox, there passes
from the scene the last remaining, and by no means the least
considerable among the imposing figures of that Kentucky, which was
glorified in the Senate by Clay, Crittenden and Breckinridge, and at
the bar by Rowan, Hardin and Bell. Judge Fox lacked the aggressive
ambition to attain great place in public life, and as a politician was
not a success. But his genius was brilliant and undisputed. A man of
large affections and of captivating manners, he possessed, along with
the most striking legal talents and learning, and an exalted character,
the gift of charm, and was universally loved in his home. His standing
before the courts, when in active practice, and as a jurist, when on
the bench, was second to none. He dies full of years and honors,
leaving a large progeny to inherit his virtues and his fame."
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