William R. Day
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Portrait of William Rufus Day (April 17, 1849–July 9, 1923).
William Rufus Day was born on April 17, 1849, in Ravenna, Ohio. His father served on the Ohio Supreme Court, and Day also pursued a legal career. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1870, briefly attended law classes at the University of Michigan during 1871 and 1872, and became a licensed attorney in Ohio on July 5, 1872.
Upon passing the bar exam, Day became a law partner of William A. Lynch in Canton, Ohio. He continued to practice the law in Canton until 1897. In 1886, Day was elected to the Court of Common Pleas, but he only served briefly before resigning because the pay was too small for him to support his family. In 1889, he was appointed a United States District Judge for the Northern District of Ohio, but he refused this position due to poor health.
In 1897, William McKinley became the President of the United States. McKinley and Day had practiced law together in Canton and had become good friends. McKinley appointed Day as his Assistant Secretary of State. John Sherman, a fellow Ohioan, was appointed Secretary of State. In 1898, Sherman resigned his office in opposition to the Spanish-American War. McKinley immediately appointed Day to replace Sherman. Day played a leading role in negotiating the Treaty of Paris (1898), which formally ended the war with Spain. Upon completion of the treaty, Day resigned his office.
Day's service to the public did not end with his resignation as Secretary of State. In February 1899, President McKinley appointed Day as judge on the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Sixth District. Day succeeded William Howard Taft. In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Day to the United States Supreme Court. On the bench, Day became well respected for his insight on cases involving contracts, bankruptcies, interstate commerce issues, patents, and trusts. He remained a justice until 1922. Day died on July 9, 1923.