Robert M. Bashford (1845-1911)
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice (1908)
"His mind was strong, keen, and analytic... He was a wise counselor and loyal to his client. He was absolutely honest." - John A. Aylward, Bashford's memorial service (1911)
Robert McKee Bashford was born in Lafayette County, Wisconsin, on December 31, 1845. He and his three brothers spent much of their childhood working on the family farm. He graduated from University of Wisconsin with a degree in ancient classical studies in 1870. He earned a law degree in 1871 and a master's degree in 1874.
In 1871, Bashford and two others purchased The Democrat, a Madison newspaper. In his capacity as editor, he influenced the successful gubernatorial campaigns of James R. Doolittle and William R. Taylor.
After leaving the paper, Bashford joined a Madison law firm and served as city attorney from 1881 to 1886. In 1886, he moved to Chicago to practice commercial and corporate law. The firm was successful in Chicago, but Bashford disliked the daily strain and returned to Madison.
In 1890, he was elected mayor of Madison and successfully assisted the state attorney general in prosecuting former state treasurers for the return of interest they had collected on the deposit of public funds. The state recovered nearly a half-million dollars.
Bashford was a state senator from 1893 to 1897. He taught at the University of Wisconsin Law School for seven years. Bashford enjoyed working as a professor and having contact with young minds. "He gave them the best of himself and his spirit and the love of the law entered into many of his lectures," said John A. Aylward at the memorial service.
Bashford was appointed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in January 1908, upon the death of Chief Justice John B. Cassoday. Six months after his appointment, he lost in a special election to John Barnes. At his memorial service, it was said that the election loss was a great disappointment to him, but he never complained and resumed his law practice.
Bashford died January 29, 1911, in Madison.