William Lorimer

William Lorimer (1861 - 1934) was born in Manchester, England. His family immigrated to the United States in 1866, first settling in Michigan and in 1870 they moved to Chicago. He was self-educated and at age ten he was apprenticed in the trade of sign painter and also worked in the packing houses and for a street railroad company. He worked his way up from poverty and eventually became successful in real estate and as a builder and brick manufacturer. He was elected to the U.S. Representative from the State of Illinois and served from 1895-1901 and 1903-1909. In 1909 Lorimer sought a seat in the United States Senate and this was when senators were chosen by the state legislature. Lorimer was chosen after months of deadlock in the Illinois legislature. Nearly a year later, Lorimer asked the Senate to investigate charges by the Chicago Tribune charged that he had obtained his seat through bribery and corruption. After much debate the Senate dropped the case in March 1911. But public outrage helped push the Senate to approve an already pending constitutional amendment providing for direct popular election of senators. Additional charges of corruption led the full Senate in July 1912 to declare Lorimer's 1909 election invalid. In May 1913 the Seventeenth Amendment providing for direct election of U.S. senators was ratified. Lorimer was the last senator removed from office for corrupting a state legislature. In 1914 Lorimer was charged with criminal conduct after a bank he started failed. Clarence Darrow defended Lorimer early in the case but not when the case went trial in 1916.