Patterson, Thomas M.

Thomas M. Patterson
See also: Congressional Biography

County Carlow, Ireland
New York, N. Y.
Crawfordsville, Indiana

Page 684, 686

Thomas M. Patterson, United States Senator from Colorado, was born in County Carlow, Ireland, November 4, 1840.  At the age of nine years he came with his parents to New York, in which city he attended the public schools until he was fourteen years old.  He then entered a mercantile house in which he was employed a short time, when the family removed to Crawfordsville, Indiana.  There, the son entered the office of one of the local newspapers and was employed two years in the mechanical department.  He then engaged with his father, who was a jeweller, and began an apprenticeship to that business which continued until the outbreak of the civil war, when he enlisted in the Eleventh Regiment of Indiana Volunteers, of which Gen. Lew Wallace was then Colonel.  Upon the expiration of his term of service he returned home and resumed his place in his father’s establishment.

In 1863 he decided to prepare for a professional career.  In that year he entered Asbury University at Greencastle, Indiana, and in 1864 Wabash College at Crawfordsville, Indiana.  In 1865 he became a student in the law office of M. D. White at Crawfordsville, with whom he remained until the autumn of 1867, when he was admitted to practice in all the Courts of Indiana.  He then engaged in the practice of his profession at Crawfordsville until 1872.  Having decided to remove to the West, he came to Denver in December of that year and began here his long, prominent and useful citizenship.

Mr. Patterson’s career in Denver and in Colorado is identified with many important events in their history since he became a citizen here nearly thirty years ago.  He had immediately engaged in the practice of his profession and had soon established himself as a lawyer of commanding ability.  A Democrat in politics, deeply interested in the welfare and success of his party, he was at once received and made a leader in its councils.  In the spring of 1874, within eighteen months after his arrival in Denver, he was elected City Attorney.  Three months later he was nominated by his party as its candidate for Delegate in the Forty-Fourth Congress from the Territory of Colorado, and was elected in September by a majority of more than 2,000; his Republican opponent having been H.P.H. Bromwell.  Early in 1875, in the interval between his election and the assembling of the Forty-Fourth Congress, he was influential and instrumental at Washington in assuring the passage of the Enabling Act under which Colorado became a State in 1876.

In the Forty-Fourth Congress, though a young man and hedged about by the limitations attending the position of a Territorial Delegate, his ability enabled him to secure the enactment of several laws of great importance to his constituents; among them having been one authorizing all qualified electors in Colorado to vote upon the State constitution, the Enabling Act of March, 1875, having limited that suffrage to those qualified at the time it became a law; another was a law appropriating money for the pay and expenses of the members of the Colorado State constitutional convention; another providing for establishing Federal Courts in Colorado immediately upon its admission as a State.  In 1876, before Colorado’s admission, Mr. Patterson prevailed upon the National Democratic Committee when it issued the call for the St. Louis convention that nominated Samuel J. Tilden for President, to recognize Colorado as a State and to provide for its representation by delegates upon the same footing as those from the States.  He was then made the first Colorado member of the National Democratic Committee, elected a delegate to the St. Louis convention, and chosen chairman of the Colorado delegation in that historic assemblage.

After Colorado was admitted, the Democratic party unanimously nominated Mr. Patterson as its candidate for Representative in the Forty-Fifth Congress; the new State having been entitled at that time to but one member; and by the election in October, 1876, he became Colorado’s first member of the House of Representatives at Washington.  He was then under thirty-six years of age and in the fourth year of his citizenship here.  As a Representative in Congress he was active and influential, and was recognized as a leader among those of his party faith.  In that Congress he originated and brought to passage a half dozen or more measures of especial importance to the people of Colorado.

In 1878 Mr. Patterson was unanimously renominated for Representative but, after a brilliant canvass, shared the common defeat that befell his party in the campaign of that year.  He did not again become a candidate until 1888, when his party nominated him for Governor but failed in his election.  In January, 1901, the Thirteenth General Assembly of Colorado elected him United States Senator to succeed Edward O. Wolcott whose term expired March 4, 1901.

In the meantime, Mr. Patterson had actively engaged in the practice of his profession in which he had become as he remains, a master.  As a counsellor, a Court and a jury lawyer, few members of the bar anywhere have brought more profound legal learning, acumen, thoroughness, and brilliancy of intellect to the service of clients than he.  His fame as a lawyer and as an orator long since passed beyond the bounds of the State and became National.

Mr. Patterson had also continued his active interest and participation in political affairs with which he has been so long, conspicuously and ably identified.  He stands today among the leaders of the people in the west who are not in harmony with the policies of the present dominant National political organization.

In 1890 Mr. Patterson purchased a controlling interest in the pioneer Rocky Mountain News, and since then has devoted part of his time and attention to it.