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The Bloomington Attorney Who Became Indiana’s Governor

Blog post by Randi Richardson

DunningTwo men with deep roots in Monroe County served as governor of Indiana.  Paris Chipman Dunning was one of those two.  He came to Bloomington with his mother when he was quite a young man and studied law under Gen. Howard and James A. Whitcomb.  He obtained his law degree in 1833.  When Whitcomb became Indiana’s eighth governor, Dunning was appointed lieutenant governor.  Whitcomb later resigned to take a more prestigious position, and Dunning finished out the term in 1848-49 becoming Indiana’s ninth governor.

Dunning lived many years in Bloomington, but toward the end of his life he moved to Attica to be near one of his daughters.  In the spring of 1884 he indicated that he wished to return to Bloomington and visit the people and place he had once so loved.  His son-in-law made arrangements for him to stay at the National House until such a time that he wished to go back to Attica.  It was during this visit that Dunning passed away.  His obit, as noted below, was published on page three of the Bloomington Progress on May 14, 1884.  It read as follows:

“Some two weeks ago Ex-governor Paris C. Dunning came to Bloomington from Attica, Ind., where he has been residing with his daughter.  His son-in-law, George McDonald, came with him, the old gentleman having expressed a desire to pay a visit to his old home.  He had also at various times said that when the end came he wished to die in Bloomington and be buried in the public cemetery with which he had been familiar so many years.  On Thursday of last week he was seated inside the bar of the courtroom when he was stricken with paralysis.  He was immediate carried to his room at the National Hotel where he lay in a semi-conscious condition till Saturday morning last at 7:30 AM when he quietly breathed his life away.

“Paris C. Dunning, ex-governor of Indiana, was born near Greensborough, NC, March 15, 1806…His father died when he was a boy, and he came direct to Indiana locating at Bloomington which was at that time a village of not more than 300 inhabitants.  It has been his home ever since.

“He studied law in the office of Gov. Whitcomb whom he succeeded 25 years later as governor of the state.  He began the practice of law at Bloomington when quite a young man.  His political career began in 1833 when he was elected representative in the state legislature from Monroe County.  He was re-elected for three terms successively… He was president of the Senate during the sessions of 1863-1865.

“He was married to Sarah Alexander of Bloomington in July 1826.  She died in 1863 and two years later he was married to Mrs. Ellen D. Ashford of Evansville.  He has one son by the last marriage and three children by the first marriage are still living.

“For a number of years he has been quietly engaged in the practice of law at Bloomington and Evansville and has taken no active part in politics for several years.

“Gov. Dunning was in his 79th year at the time of his death.  Before beginning the practice of law he practiced medicine in Monroe and Owen counties in which practice he was quite successful.  As a lawyer, Gov. Dunning was very fortunate and at the age of 65 had amassed a competency, but this had been lost in various ways until at his death he had no estate…

“The funeral services occurred at 3 o’clock at the M. E. Church, Rev. J. E. Brant officiating…Rev. Brant read an interesting sketch of the life of deceased in which his religious life was specially referred to.  The exercises closed at the grave according to the simple ritual of the M. E. Church.  A very large crowd accompanied the remains to the cemetery where they were deposited alongside those of the wife of his younger days.”

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