Justice David TaylorWisconsin Supreme Court Justice: 1878–1891
"His works which live after him, better than words of praise, exemplify the man who so long and so worthily served the state and his fellow-men." – W.H. Seaman, Taylor's memorial service (1891)
David Taylor was born March 11, 1818, in Carlisle, New York. He graduated from Union College in 1841 and was admitted to the bar in 1844. He practiced law in New York for two years before moving to the Wisconsin Territory.
In 1846, Taylor started a successful law partnership in Sheboygan and served clients from all over the state for 11 years. Taylor was known as a steadfast worker and a contemplative man whose mind was always running. "Relaxation and recreation were nothing to him," Attorney W.H. Seaman said. "Seemingly, he never desired either; holidays and vacations were merely interruptions."
At his memorial service, Seaman, who first met Taylor in 1849, told this story: They were young lawyers trying a law suit before a judge in Sheboygan County. The trial lasted late into the evening and they both stayed overnight in town. The next morning, Taylor and Seaman were traveling many miles home. Taylor was on horseback and passed Seaman who was walking. Taylor stopped, dismounted and said to Seaman: "You take my horse and ride awhile, I'd like the change." They shared the horse all day and, at the end of the trip, simply said good-bye. Their paths continued to cross for the next 42 years.
Taylor served in the state Assembly in 1853 and was in the state Senate from 1855 to 1856. As a legislator, he was "quiet, careful and attentive." In 1857, he was appointed judge for the 4th Judicial Circuit and held the position for the next 12 years. In 1869, he returned to the state Senate for another term.
After retiring from the circuit bench, Taylor resumed his law practice in Sheboygan and later settled in Fond du Lac. An accomplished lawyer, Taylor was one of the revisors responsible for the Revised Statutes of 1858. In 1871, Taylor produced an excellent compilation of all state public statutory law with valuable annotations which became known as Taylor's Statutes. When the state conducted another revision in 1878, Taylor was named president of the revision commission.
In 1878, a state constitutional amendment increased the number of justices of the Supreme Court from three to five and Taylor was elected justice. He was re-elected to a second term and remained a justice until his death on April 3, 1891.
At his memorial service, it was said there was no man in the state whose knowledge of the law could be compared with Taylor's.