Illinois has been especially honored in the character and career of her
public and professional men. In every county there are to be found rising
above their fellows, individuals born to leadership, men who dominate not
alone by superior intelligence and natural endowment, but by force of
character which minimizes discouragements and dares great undertakings. Such
men are by no means rare in the great Prairie state and it is always
profitable to study their lives, weigh their motives and. hold up their
achievements as incentives to greater activity and higher excellence on the
part of others just entering upon their struggles with the world. Such
thoughts are prompted by a study of the life record of the gentleman whose
name appears at the head of this article who has long been one of the
prominent figures in Richland county whose interests he has ever had at
heart and sought to promulgate.
Hon. Thomas Tippit was born in Olney, Illinois, June 6, 1851, and he has been contented to spend his life in his native community. He is the son of Matthew L. and Sarah (Ellingsworth) Tippit, the former a native of Tennessee, and the latter of Ohio. Grandfather Tippit was a native of Virginia. He moved to Tennessee and in 182O came to Illinois and located about sixteen miles south of Olney, in what is now Edwards county at a point now known as Samsville. He was among the early pioneers in that wild country, but he did not live long after coming to this state. Matthew, the oldest of the two sons and one daughter, was only about six years old when his father died. The family experienced many hardships in their struggle for existence. Matthew, by hard work assisted his mother in rearing the family, caring for his crippled brother and sister. He had no educational advantages other than what he acquired himself by home study. The family located in what is now Richland county prior to the settling of Olney. They took up land, a portion of which is now within the corporate limits of Olney. Matthew bought and sold much land in the county and eventually became well-to-do.
In 1849 he went to California, having been one of that famous band who crossed the plains with an ox team. He remained in that state two years and was successful in mining. After returning to Richland county he carried on extensive farming and stock raising for years and died on the place adjoining Olney at the age of fifty-five years, in 1871. His wife passed away in 1903, at the advanced age of eighty-six. They were the parents of seven children, five boys and two girls, the subject of this sketch being the sixth in order of birth.
Thomas Tippit was born in a log cabin north of Olney. He was reared on a farm and received his education in the common schools, assiduously applying himself to his studies and took advantage of what opportunities he had, and attended high school in Olney. When the subject's father died he took charge of the farm and he has continued farming ever since, at present owning one hundred acres of highly improved land, all within the corporate limits of Olney, also owns land in Wayne county. For years he has been extensively engaged in the stock business, paying particular attention to horses, of which he is regarded as an excellent judge. Until 1890 he bred draft horses of a fine quality, but in that year he discontinued draft horses and began breeding roadsters and trotters. He now has from twenty-five to thirty head almost all the time. They attract much attention, being of a high grade and well kept. His first horse to gain special promise was "Redbrook," registered and sired by good masters. "Favorite Prince," with a record of 2-22 1-4, in Indiana and Illinois, gained some prominence and is now nineteen years old in 1908. "Royal Prince" is generally regarded as one of the best horses ever in this part of trie state. Mr. Tippit has also bought many good horses, having raced them in a number of states. The subject is known as one of the leading horsemen of the state. He has a beautiful, commodious and modern residence, with well kept lawn and grounds. He also has large and convenient barns and outbuildings, in fact, everything about the place shows prosperity, good taste and careful management.
In politics Mr. Tippit is a Democrat. He was Circuit Clerk by appointment to fill a vacancy and so faithfully did he perform his duties that he was elected three terms, having served over twelve years in all. He served as Master in Chancery from 1892 to 1896. In 1894 he was elected to represent his district in the state Legislature, having been re-elected in 1898, 1902, 1904. During his tenure of his important office he served his constituents in a most acceptable manner, showing that he possessed rare insight into the workings of the body politic, was conservative, careful and calculating, just as if he had been managing his own business, and his counsel was often sought and followed with gratifying results while he was a member of that body. Many things were accomplished by him in this capacity that resulted in incalculable good not only to the people of his own section of the state but throughout the commonwealth. One of the most important acts of our subject was securing the adoption of a resolution providing for the submittal of the vote of the Legislature to elect a United States Senator by direct vote of the people. He was candidate for Speaker of the House in 1901 and was defeated by only two votes. In 1905 he was one of the four in his party for candidate for Speaker of the House, being elected and became by reason of his candidacy the minority leader at that session of his party. He was always active and among the leaders of his party. In 1908 he was also the candidate of his party for election to the Legislature, and was successful in this race.
Mr. Tippit was married in 1877 to Eva Leaf, a native of Richland county, the talented daughter of George and Nancy (Moore) Leaf, natives of Ohio, who came to Richland county in 1854.
The home of the subject and wife has been blessed by the birth of three boys and one girl, namely: George M., who is living in Oklahoma; Mabel, the wife of H. C. Horrall, of Bridgeport, Illinois; Albert V. is living at home; Thomas. Jr., is living in Birmingham, Alabama.
Mr. Tippit is a Mason in his fraternal relations, also a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, the Knights of Pythias, the Knights Templar and the Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, having been past commander and held other stations of the former.
From the foregoing brief outline of a busy career, it is not difficult to arrive at a just estimate of Mr. Tippit's character or to fix his proper standing in the community. Beginning life in moderate circumstances, he has not only gained an honorable position in the business world, but has also lived to become a power in the political affairs of the state and one of the most influential men in the development of his community. Interested in all that tends to benefit his fellows, materially, educationally and morally, his influence has always been exerted in the right direction and from what he has accomplished along the lines to which his talents have been directed it is clearly demonstrated that the world has gained by his presence.
Extracted 21 May 2019 by Norma Hass from 1909 Biographical and Reminiscent History of Richland, Clay and Marion Counties, Illinois, pages 508-510.