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Photograph of Willett H. Parr

Source: History of Boone County, Indiana, by Hon. L.M. Crist, 1914.

JUDGE WILLETT H. PARR Standing out distinctly as one of the central figures of the
judiciary of the section of Indiana of which this history treats is the name of Judge Willett
H. Parr, of Lebanon. Prominent in legal circles and equally so in public matters beyond
the confines of his own jurisdiction, with a reputationin one of the most exacting of
professions that has won him a name for distinguished service second to that of none of his
contemporaries, there is today no more prominent or honored man in Boone county of
which he is a native and which he has always dignified with his citizenship. Achieving
success in the courts at an age when most young men are just entering upon the formative
period of their lives, wearing the judicial ermine with becoming dignity and bringing to
every case submitted to him a clearness of perception and ready power of analysis
characteristic of the learned jurist, his name and work for yeras have been allied with the
legal institutions, public enterprises and political interests of northern Indiana in such a way
as to earn him recognition as one of the leading citizens in a community noted for the high
order of its talent. A high purpose and an unconquerable will, vigorous mental powers and
devotion to duty are some of the means by which he has made himself eminently useful,
and every ambitious youth who fights the battle of life with the prospect of ultimate success
may peruse with profit the biography herewith presented. For the judge has not only won
success in a chosen field of endeavor, but is popular, possessing to a marked degree the
characteristics that win and retain warm friendships. By his kindness and courtesy he has
won an abiding place in the esteem of his fellow citizens and by his intelligence, energy and
enterprising spirit has made his influence felt among his acquaintances and associates, and
as a result occupies no small place in the favor of the public.

Judge Parr was born December 24, 1878 on a farm in Center township, Boone county,
four miles southwest of Lebanon. He is a son of Jesse A. and Anna M. (Maggard) Parr,
both natives of Johnson county, Indiana, but they both came to Boone county when young
and were married here. The father was a minister in the Christian church, but in later years
he studied medicine and is now a practicing physician in Indianapolis. His wife died when
the future Judge was only three months of age, in the spring of 1879, so the lad was reared
on the farm of his grandfather, by his grandfather and grandmother, remaining there until
he was fifteen years old. His grandmother died when he was ten years of age and his
grandfather when he was eighteen years of age. He then became a member of the
household of his uncle, Asa A. Maggard, whom he assisted in the general work on his farm
meantime attending the district schools. During this period he worked on a sawmill one
summer, when he was fourteen years of age, walking two and one-half miles in the
morning and back home in the evening. After graduating from the country schools in 1895
he entered the summer term in the Lebanon Normal, and in the fall of 1896, when
seventeen years old, he began teaching school, which vocation he followed five years,
giving satisfaction to all concerned. In the summer of 1897 he attended the State Normal
at Terre Haute and in the summer of 1898 studied at the Marion Normal, thereby
completing his literary education as far as schools were concerned, but ambitious and
industrious he remained a close student and became a highly educated man. In the summer
of 1898 he became a law student in the office of A.J. Shelby of Lebanon and, making
rapid progress, was admitted to the bar of Boone county in April, 1900, and was
subsequently admitted to practice in all the state courts and the federal court. He opened
an office and began practicing in Lebanon, April 10, 1901, in partnership with Alva D.
Swope, under the firm name of Swope & Parr, which continued only a few months,
however, our subject then forming a partnership with E.O. Rogers, now mayor of
Lebanon. This partnership continued from February 1, 1902 until Mr. Parr was elected
Judge of the Circuit Court in November, 1908, for a term of six years, which expired
November 10, 1914, when he was elected to succeed himself for another term. As an
attorney he had been successful from the first and built up an extensive and lucrative
practice, taking a position in the front ranks of the local attorneys. He is a member of the
Indiana State Bar Association.

Politically, Judge Parr is an uncompromising Democrat and has been active and influential
in local political affairs since attaining his majority. In 1902 he was a candidate for the
nomination of prosecuting attorney, and after making a splendid race was defeated by but
two votes in the convention. In 1904 he was nominated by acclamation for representative
to the legislature and while he led his ticket in Boone county, was defeated. He has always
been active in party organization, and has been a frequent delegate to district and state
conventions. He received the nomination for Circuit Judge in 1908 by acclamation and led
his ticket in the following election, his majority being three hundred and sixty-five, and he
assumed the duties of office November 10, 1908. As judge, Mr. Parr more than met the
expectations of his friends and the public, and has so discharged his duties of office as to
receive the hearty approval and warm commendation of the bar, without regard to party.
He brought to the bench a dignity becoming the high position, and in the line of duty, is
industrious, careful and singularly painstaking, which, combined with his sterling honesty
and fearlessness of purpose, makes him one of the most popular and efficient men ever
called to preside over the courts of this circuit. It is but just to say and greatly to his credit
that no political prejudice, bias or zeal, was ever allowed to deflect his mind from its honest
convictions, and while discharging his official functions, personal ties and friendships, as
well as his own interests and opinions were lost sight of in his conscientious efforts to
render equal and enact justice to those whose affairs were adjudicated in his court. His
opinions and decisions attest his eminent fitness for judicial positions, being always lucid,
unstrained and vigorous, his statements full and comprehensive, and his analysis and
interpretations of the law conspicuous and complete.

Fraternally, Judge Parr is a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the
Encampment, in fact, embracing all branches of Odd Fellowship. He and his family are
members of the Methodist church.

The domestic life of Judge Parr began July 16, 1899, when he led to the hymeneal alter a
lady of culture and refinement, known in her maidenhood as Carrie B. Billingsly, a
daughter of Robert D. and Mary J. (Brenninger) Billingsly, a prominent Boone county
family, a complete sketch appearing elsewhere in this work. Mr. Billingsly, who is still
living, having been one of our pioneers. His wife departed this life in 1896. Mrs. Parr
grew to womanhood in Boone county and received a good education in the local schools.
The union of the Judge and wife has been blessed by the birth of three children, living, and
two died in infancy, Virlie O. and the other unnamed; the surviving are, Willett H., Jr.,
born March 18, 1903; Anna Belle, born August 1, 1908; and Ana A., born November 2,
1910.

The Judge is a man of high Christian character and he is active in church and Sunday
school work, a member of the official board and a teacher of the men's Bible class.

BILLINGSLY BRENNINGER MAGGARD PARR ROGERS SHELBY SWOPE

Submitted by Amy K. Davis