The Journal of The DuPage County Bar Association

Back Issues > Vol. 12 (1999-00)

Hon. William J. Bauer
By James Bauer

I have been asked to write a brief biographical sketch of Judge William J. Bauer with an emphasis on his personal history to date.

Judge Bauer ("Bill" hereafter) was born in 1926 in Chicago and was the second of three children of William F. And Lucille R. Bauer. There was nothing in the family background remotely connected with the law, lawyers or (happily) courtrooms other than a general admiration for the dignified but kindly persona projected by Lewis Stone as Judge Hardy in the Andy Hardy series.

Family legend has it that Bill was a serious, quiet child content to let his older sister, Mary, do the talking for both of them, a practice he abandoned at an early age. He learned to read while quite young and as a boy read the many boy’s books popular, at the time, with their uplifting message that, in America, there was nothing a boy could not accomplish with a little talent, hard work and the luck (or care) to stay out of trouble. It was a message that, in the 1930’s, was at least arguable, but Bill never questioned, or had reason to question, its fundamental soundness. Although his views on America and the meaning of American life became considerably more sophisticated than whatever he retained from his boyhood reading, he has often spoken and lectured about his belief that America does offer unequaled opportunity for personal fulfillment and success and that much of that opportunity is grounded in our Constitution and legal system.

The family lived in the Brookdale section of the south side of Chicago and Bill attended St. Lawrence Grammar and St. Rita’s High School until we moved to Elmhurst in 1941. He was a good student adopting at an early age what was to become a life-long pattern of active participation in all that life had to offer - violinist in the school orchestra, football in both high school and college, writer for the school papers and yearbooks, leading roles in the annual plays and, always, dating the prettiest girls in class (and ultimately marrying one).

His first public success that I can recall occurred when, at the age of 14, he appeared on a radio quiz show with a group of older contestants (much older, it seemed then) and won the Grand Prize by correctly answering an obvious trick question that the then-President Roosevelt had been the Assistant-Secretary, not the Secretary, of the Navy, in the Woodrow Wilson administration.

He graduated from Immaculate Conception High School in Elmhurst in 1944 and, with time out for the Army, Elmhurst College in 1949. It was during his first week at Elmhurst College that he met Mary Nicol (Mike to all who know her) and they married in 1950 after his first semester at DePaul Law School.

Although the family was comfortably middle-class (our father was one of the few men in the neighborhood to retain his job through the Depression), Bill worked at a variety of jobs - shortorder cook, shirt-presser in a local hand laundry, service station attendant, cab-driver - while in school. Through a curious procedure then possible, he was admitted to the practice of law in 1951 before he graduated from DePaul in 1952. He joined the staff of the then-State’s Attorney in DuPage County, William Guild, immediately after graduation and the rest is, as they say, history (or if not history, part of the public record).

He was elected State’s Attorney in 1959, Circuit Judge in 1964, appointed U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois in 1970, United States District Judge in 1971 and to the United States Court of Appeals in 1975 (Chief Judge from 1986 to 1993) where he continues to serve on a full-time basis.

He continues to satisfy his activist drives being a member of the Board of Trustees of Elmhurst College, DePaul University, Elmhurst Memorial Hospital; and the Law Advisory Boards of Loyola University and University College, Dublin. In recent years he has taken a great interest in the culture and history of Ireland (our mother was Irish) and owns an impressive collection of books on Irish themes (among many, many other books). He has, deservedly, received many honors and awards for his achievements but few mean as much to him as the 1999 University College, Dublin President’s Medal recently awarded to him.

Bill has always been blessed with the capacity to enjoy (relish would perhaps be the more accurate word) whatever he might be doing at any particular time. I personally believe, however, that he particularly enjoyed his years as State’s Attorney. It was, in those years, a small staff crowded into a corner of the old courthouse and there was a spirit of camaraderie, almost of family, that, I imagine, would not be possible in today’s hectic world. Doc Hopf, Tony Peccarelli, Harris Fawell, Carl Henninger and the others were not only Bill’s trusted and capable assistants, but also his dear friends. I believe he left the office for the bench with some slight misgivings despite the inspiring image of Judge Hardy always before him.

Bill and Mike live in Elmhurst, have two daughters, Pat and Linda, and a granddaughter, Sidonie. He was always, and still is, actively involved in their lives and in the lives of all his family. He has an astonishing and admirable sense of loyalty to old friends - lunching often with a companion from the old south side neighborhood, regularly attending and organizing high school reunions, traveling across the country to see friends from his days in the Army and, or course, keeping in contact with the many friends he has made over the years.

James Bauer is the brother of Judge Bauer and practices law in Elmhurst. 

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