Lincoln's Law Partner

Historical Marker #846 recognizes Greensburg as the birthplace of William Henry Herndon, who was Abraham Lincoln's law partner for sixteen years.

Herndon was born in Greensburg, Kentucky, in 1818. His family moved to Illinois in 1820 and settled in Springfield in 1823. Herndon attended Illinois College in Jacksonville, worked as a clerk in Joshua Fry Speed's store, was admitted to the bar, and in 1844 became Lincoln's law partner.

Herndon and Lincoln made an effective- if disheveled- legal partnership. Lincoln usually rode the circuit while Herndon attended to local affairs. Their office was in constant disarray, and Lincoln's children sometimes accompanied their permissive father to work, wreaking havoc on the space and severely testing Herndon's nerves.

When Lincoln was elected president in 1860, he vowed to return to legal practice with Herndon when out of office. Referencing the sign that hung outside the firm's office, Lincoln instructed Herndon to "let it hang," telling clients that "the election of a President makes no change in the firm of Lincoln and Herndon."

Lincoln's death was the defining moment in Herndon's life. It launched him on a lifelong career as a Lincoln lecturer and biographer. He did intensive research on those parts of Lincoln's life less familiar to him-the periods before 1837 and after 1860. He conducted many interviews and corresponded widely to gather information.