William Walker Mansfield (1830–1912)

William Walker Mansfield was a lawyer, legislator, circuit judge, and associate justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. The Sebastian County town of Mansfield is believed to be named in his honor.

William Walker Mansfield was born on January 16, 1830, in Scottsville, Kentucky, the son of Colonel George Washington Mansfield and Frances Cockrill Mansfield. Mansfield received a “common-school” education before studying law under Judge William V. Loving in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He was admitted to the Kentucky bar in 1852. A short time later, Mansfield corresponded with fellow Kentucky native and noted Arkansas politician and attorney David Walker in Fayetteville (Washington County) about possible opportunities in the legal field within the state. Despite Walker’s encouragement to consider a practice in Huntsville (Madison County), Mansfield located to the town of Ozark (Franklin County) in early 1853 and began a long legal career.

In 1859, Mansfield married Sallie H. Shores of Franklin County. They had seven children.

Mansfield began his professional career in Ozark, initially teaching school while practicing law. His political career began in 1854 when he was appointed to serve as justice of the peace in Ozark, and he was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives in 1856. In February 1861, Franklin County voters sent Mansfield to Little Rock (Pulaski County) to participate in the state’s secession convention.

By 1868, advertisements in newspapers printed notices of legal services from the law firm of “Walker and Mansfield, Ozark, Arkansas,” presumably through an association with the newly elected Arkansas Supreme Court chief justice, David Walker.

Mansfield’s primary contributions to the Arkansas legal profession began in earnest in 1874, when he served as a member of the state’s constitutional convention. Laws passed in that session overhauled the state’s judicial boundaries and paved the way for his election to the Fifth Judicial Circuit bench.

In 1882, Mansfield ran an unsuccessful congressional campaign for an at-large seat on the Democratic Party ticket, losing in a primary to Clifton R. Breckinridge of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County).

The next year, newly elected governor James H. Berry appointed Mansfield to compile the first comprehensive collection of Arkansas statutes for publication since the passage of Arkansas 1874 constitution. Known as “Mansfield’s Digest,” the collection was first printed in 1884 after being “examined and approved” by Uriah M. Rose of the Rose Law Firm.

Mansfield returned to private practice upon completion of the project and was appointed reporter of the Arkansas Supreme Court in October 1887, serving until 1890. He would later be appointed associate justice on the court, where he served from 1891 until resigning due to his health in May 1894.

Mansfield died on July 27, 1912, and is buried in the Highland Cemetery in Ozark.

For additional information:
“Arkansas Bar Honors Late Judge Mansfield.” Arkansas Democrat, September 21, 1912, p. 13.

Fort Smith Weekly Herald, May 16, 1868, p. 4.

History of Benton, Washington, Carroll, Madison, Crawford, Franklin, and Sebastian Counties, Arkansas. Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889. Relevant section online at http://files.usgwarchives.net/ar/franklin/bios/mansfieldww.txt (accessed August 11, 2020).

Reaves, Lucy Marion. Arkansas Families: Glimpses of Yesterday Columns from the Arkansas Gazette. Conway, AR: Arkansas Research, 2000.

Len Pitcock
Hot Springs, Arkansas

Last Updated: 08/11/2020