Governor Henry Horner (seated at left)
Jan, 1937
Henry Horner (1878 - 1940) was the 28th Governor of Illinois. He served from 1933 until he died in office in 1940. In 1932 Clarence Darrow came out of retirement to defend a seventeen year old named Russell McWilliams who was charged with first-degree murder for killing a street car conductor. McWilliams was seventeen years and eleven days old on August 29, 1931, the date of the homicide. He pled guilty on October 26, 1931 and two days later the presiding judge heard evidence in aggravation and mitigation of the crime and then sentenced McWilliams death. The defense twice got the conviction reversed and remanded. Darrow, William H. Holly and other attorneys represented McWilliams during his second appeal. Darrow argued before the Illinois Supreme Court on February 16. The defense successfully argued that the trial court erred when it denied a change of venue (People v. McWilliams, 350 Ill. 628, 183 N.E. 582 (Ill. 1932)). The Illinois Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case. Darrow then helped defend McWilliams during his third murder trial. Despite Darrow's pleas for mercy McWilliams was again sentenced to death. Darrow later traveled to Springfield to plead before the Illinois State Board of Pardons and Parole to recommend clemency before the Governor. In April 1933 Governor Horner commuted McWilliams' sentence to 99 years in prison. The governor announced his decision on April 18, Darrow's birthday. McWilliams was released on parole in 1951. Photo is of Governor Henry Horner on the left at luncheon today in the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, LC-DIG-hec-22025