Joseph Ralph Burton (November 16, 1852–February 27, 1923) was a lawyer and United States Senator from the state of Kansas.
Burton was born and reared on his father's farm near Mitchell
, in Indiana
. His father, Allen C. Burton, was descended from English
ancestors, who came to America to escape the reign of Cromwell
in the 1650s, and settled near Richmond
. His great-grandfather, John P. Burton, moved to North Carolina
during the Revolutionary War
, and in 1820 went to Indiana, where he founded the Indiana line of Burtons. His mother, Elizabeth Holmes, was of Scottish-German descent.
He attended the district school and the academy at Mitchell, and at the age of sixteen received an appointment as cadet at the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, but failed to pass the physical examination. He taught school for a time, spent three years in Franklin College (Indiana), and one year at DePauw University at Greencastle.
In 1874 Burton began to read law in the office of Gordon, Brown & Lamb, at Indianapolis
, and in 1875 was admitted to the bar. In the spring of that year he married Mrs. Carrie (Mitchell) Webster of Princeton
. In 1876 Mr. Burton was nominated by the Republicans for presidential elector and made many speeches during the campaign. In 1878 he moved to Abilene
, where he formed a partnership with Judge John H. Mahan for the practice of law.
He was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives
in 1882; was re-elected in 1884 and again in 1888; and was appointed a member of the World's Fair Columbian
Commission at Chicago
in 1893, representing Kansas. In 1895 Burton lacked but one vote of being the Republican Party
nominee for United States senator. But in January, 1901, he was elected senator and served from March 4
, until June 4
, when he resigned. While in the Senate, he was chairman of the Committee on Forest Reservations and Game Protection (Fifty-seventh
and Fifty-eighth Congresses
On January 23, 1904, Burton was indicted by a Federal grand jury at St. Louis
, on the charge of having accepted $2,500 from the Rialto Grain and Securities company (a “get-rich-quick” concern), of that city, to use his influence with the postoffice department to prevent the issuance of a fraud order against the company, denying it the use of the mails. Burton was tried before Judge Adams of the U.S. district court at St. Louis in March, found guilty and sentenced to pay a fine of $2,500 and serve six months in the jail at Ironton, Missouri
. Burton's defense was that he was acting within his rights, and that the money received from the company was nothing more than he was entitled to as attorneys fees. He appealed the case to the United States Supreme Court
, which in January, 1905, reversed the decision of the district court, on the grounds that the money was paid to Burton in Washington, and remanded the case for a new trial. The second trial was before Judge Van Devanter of the United States circuit court at St. Louis in November, 1905, and resulted in the same sentence as that imposed by Judge Adams's court. A second appeal to the Supreme Court followed, and this time the decision of the lower court was sustained.
After his resignation he returned to his law practice in Abilene and engaged in the newspaper business.
Joseph Burton died in Los Angeles, California in 1923; the body was cremated and the ashes deposited in the columbarium of the Los Angeles Crematory Association. The ashes were removed in 1928 for burial in the Burton family plot in Abilene Cemetery.
- Burton, Joseph Ralph. In Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc ... (I, 259–260). (1912). Standard Pub Co. .
- Bailey's Administration. In Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc ... (I, 122–128). (1912). Standard Pub Co. .