The early history of United States Attorneys for the District of Ohio reflected the western expansion into the new states created from the Northwest Territory. Natives of Connecticut, New York, Maryland and Virginia left their birthplaces and made Ohio their home. The United States Attorneys for the district during the nineteenth century were true renaissance men. In addition to their legal careers, both in private practice and with local, state and federal government, they served as editors and publishers of newspapers and journals, educators, bankers, inventors, politicians, judges and citizen soldiers.
Two United States Attorneys played major roles in the drive for gaining statehood for Ohio. Michael Baldwin, a native of Connecticut and brother of a United States Senator and Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, wrote the first draft of the Ohio Constitution. While the territorial governor was opposed to statehood, Baldwin and his fellow members of the “Chillicothe Triumvirate”, Edward Tiffin and Thomas Worthington, led the pro-statehood fight. Following his work with the state constitutional convention, Baldwin was appointed the second United States Attorney for Ohio in 1803. Baldwin’s promising career was cut short due to alcoholism. President Jefferson dismissed him as United States Attorney in 1804 based on neglect of duty. Baldwin did resurrect his career, and was later named United States Marshal for the district, but died in 1806.
William Creighton was a member of the “Chillicothe Junto”, a larger group also instrumental in Ohio’s statehood. Creighton was Ohio’s first Secretary of State, and designed the state seal. He also created Ohio’s first criminal code. A classmate of Chief Justice Roger Taney, Creighton replaced Baldwin as United States Attorney and served six years. He later served several terms in Congress.
John Wright, who served three terms in Congress following his service as U.S. Attorney, also edited the Cincinnati Gazette and was a member of the Ohio Supreme Court. His most lasting contribution was as an organizer of the first law school in Ohio, which became the University of Cincinnati College of Law.
Noah Swayne, a Quaker whose ancestors arrived in America with William Penn, moved to Ohio from Virginia due to his anti-slavery position. After being named United States Attorney in 1830 at the age of twenty-six, he returned to Virginia to marry. His new wife owned slaves, and the Swaynes jointly freed their slaves shortly after their marriage. While serving as U.S. Attorney, Swayne also accepted a position as a commissioner with the state, and in three years Swayne and his fellow commissioners restored the state’s damaged credit. Swayne also served on a commission that resolved Ohio’s boundary dispute with Michigan. While engaged in private practice prior to the Civil War, Swayne appeared as counsel in several high profile fugitive slave cases. In 1862 President Lincoln appointed him to the United States Supreme Court, where he served until 1881.
Henry Jewett became the first United States Attorney for the newly created Southern District of Ohio in 1855. A native of Maryland and former bank president, Jewett left his post after one year to become president of the Central Ohio Railroad Company. His later career included terms as a United States Senator and a member of Congress, as well as prominent positions with several other railroads.
Stanley Matthews had one of the most varied careers of any United States Attorney for the district. When he was appointed U.S. Attorney by President Buchanan in 1858 at the age of thirty-four, Matthews had already practiced law and edited a newspaper in Tennessee, served as prosecuting attorney and common pleas judge for Hamilton County, was clerk of the state House of Representatives and a member of the state Senate, and also edited the anti-slavery Cincinnati Herald. During the Civil War Matthews served as Colonel of the 51st Ohio, serving in Kentucky and Tennessee. He replaced John Sherman as United States Senator, and was nominated by President Hayes to the United States Supreme Court. Based on his support of Hayes, with whom he had served in the military, and lingering resentment over the Hayes-Tilden electoral dispute, the Senate failed to confirm Matthews. Matthews was re-nominated by President Garfield, and was ultimately confirmed. Ironically, Mathews replaced Noah Swayne, another former U.S. Attorney for the district.
Flamen Ball, U.S. Attorney during the Civil War, was recognized for a nonlegal achievement. He received a patent in 1883 for the design of an electric headlight for locomotives.
Prior to his term as U.S. Attorney, Channing Richards served in the Western theater during the Civil War. Commissioned as a First Lieutenant of the 22nd Ohio Infantry, Richards saw action in the battles of Forts Henry and Donaldson, as well as the siege of Vicksburg. Later he served as provost marshal, judge advocate, and military mayor of Memphis.
Sherman McPherson followed his term as U.S. Attorney with an active private practice, which included the defense of individuals charged under the Espionage Act of 1917. The Act prohibited any disloyal or abusive language about the military. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the convictions, which had the backing of the Citizens Patriotic League, a group intent on defending “Americanism.” McPherson was also sued by his successor, Stuart Bolin, for receiving improper compensation while serving as a receiver during his term as U.S. Attorney.
Benson Hough was a native Ohioan, continuing a trend that began in the last half of the nineteenth century. A former city solicitor and state Supreme Court Justice, Hough served as U.S. Attorney from 1923 to 1925, when he was appointed United States District Court Judge by President Coolidge. Hough had served in the military, both as a Brigadier General of the Ohio National Guard and Colonel in the regular army, serving on the Mexican border and in the famed Rainbow Division during World War I. A classmate of Branch Rickey, Hough was an avid baseball fan, and regularly attended the World Series.
Joseph Kinneary was born in Cincinnati in 1905. He campaigned for Franklin Roosevelt, served as a state Assistant Attorney General, and was an officer during World War II. In 1961, President Kennedy named him United States Attorney. After five years of service, President Johnson nominated Kinneary for a federal judgship in 1966. He served as District Judge in Columbus until 2001 as the oldest federal jurist in the nation. In 1998, the federal courthouse in Columbus was named in his honor.
Recent U.S. Attorneys have served during a period of rapidly expanding case loads and ever complex litigation. Like their predecessors they possessed a strong sense of public service. James Rattan, D. Michael Crites, Salvador Dominguez, William Hunt, and Gregory Lockhart have served with distinction in the military. James Cissell has held numerous positions in Cincinnati, including Park Commissioner, Planning Commissioner, City Council member, Vice Mayor, County Clerk of Courts and Probate Court Judge. Edmund Sargus is a United States District Judge, and Barbara Beran is an Administrative Law Judge.
UNITED STATES ATTORNEY YEARS SERVED
William McMillan 1802-1803 Michael Baldwin 1803-1804 William Creighton 1804-1810 Samuel Herrick 1810-1818 John Wright 1818-1823 Joseph Benham 1823-1830 Noah Swayne 1830-1839 Israel Hamilton 1839-1841 Charles Anthony 1841-1846 Thomas Bartley 1846-1850 Samuel Mason 1850-1854 Daniel Morton 1854-1855 Hugh Jewett 1855-1856 John O’Neill 1856-1858 Stanley Matthews 1858-1861 Flamen Ball 1861-1865 Richard Corwine 1865-1866 Durbin Ward 1866-1869 Warner Bateman 1869-1877 Channing Richards 1877-1885 Philip Kumler 1885-1887 William Burnet 1887-1889 John Herron 1889-1894 Harlan Cleveland 1894-1898 William Bundy 1898-1903 Sherman McPherson 1903-1916 Stuart Bolin 1916-1920 James Clark 1920-1922 Thomas Morrow 1922-1923 Benson Hough 1923-1925 Haveth Mau 1925-1934 Francis Canny 1934-1939 James Cleveland 1939 Leo Crawford 1939-1944 Byron Harlan 1944-1946 Ray O’Donnell 1946-1953 Hugh Martin 1953-1961 Joseph Kinneary 1961-1966 Robert Draper 1966-1969 Roger Makley 1969 William Milligan 1969-1977 James Rattan 1977-1978 James Cissell 1978-1982 Christopher Barnes 1982-1985 Anthony Nyktas 1985-1986 D. Michael Crites 1986-1993 Barbara Beran 1993 Edmund Sargus, Jr. 1993-1996 Dale Goldberg 1996-1997 Sharon Zealey 1997-2001 Salvador Dominguez 2001 Gregory Lockhart 2001-2009 William Hunt 2009 Carter Stewart 2009-present