Hon. William I. Atkinson

The consensus of public opinion accords Hon. William I. Atkinson a prominent position in public regard. Attacks have been made upon him but they have been of a partisan nature and none questioned the integrity of his motives or the honesty of his position. It is said that no man in Butler county has a wider personal acquaintance and perhaps none has a larger circle of friends. Faith in him was strongly expressed in the election of November, 1912, when he was chosen to represent his district in the state legislature, being the first native son that Butler county has sent to the general assembly. He was born in Clarksville, March 17, 1876, his parents being Henry and Sophia Atkinson, of whom mention is made elsewhere in this volume. He was thirteen years of age when his father died at which time he left the farm. He was the youngest of seven children, but at an early age he realized the importance of acquiring an education and he spared no labor that would bring about this end. While attending high school the vacation months were devoted to farm work and later he taught school, whereby he was enabled to continue his own studies. His early teaching experience was in the rural schools of Butler county and subsequently he was engaged as assistant principal of the schools of Clarksville. He was also at one time principal of the school at Ridgeway, Winneshiek county, Iowa. He worked his way through three years at the Upper Iowa University of Fayette and next entered the State University, where he devoted a year to the study of history and political science before entering the law college from which he was graduated in 1906. He was then admitted to the bar, but has never engaged actively in practice. The elemental strength of his character is displayed in the resolute way in which he obtained an education in the face of difficulties and obstacles, which would have utterly  deterred many a young man of less resolute spirit and laudable ambition. While in college he became greatly interested in the lyceum business and following his graduation from the law department he gave his entire attention to lyceum work, which developed to large proportions and won him promotion from the position of agent to that of district manager for the Mutual Lyceum Bureau of Chicago, his territory comprising Iowa, South Dakota and southern Minnesota. He managed the interests of the bureau with such keen insight and capability that he won the commendation and approval not only of the home office, but of all those for whose interests he cared in connection with public entertainments. In September, 1913, at the convention in Chicago, Mr. Atkinson was elected vice president of the International Lyceum Association.

Mr. Atkinson was united in marriage to Miss Rachel Patti Maxon, a talented reader of Brooklyn, New York, who died in
1909. He has a circle of friends almost coextensive with the circle of his acquaintances and they reach far beyond the limits of Butler county, for he is now widely known in this and adjoining states. In Masonry he has attained the Knight Templar degree and is also a member of El Kahir Temple of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. He also belongs to the Knights of Pythias and the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks. In politics he has ever been a stalwart republican and following the suggestion of many friends he at length announced himself as a candidate for the position of general assemblyman from Butler county. His election followed and during his first session he was given a chairmanship — an unusual honor — being placed at the head of the committee of the college for the blind. He is also a member of the committees on state educational institutions, normal schools, roads and highways, public health, schools and text books, enrolled bills, appropriations and soldiers' and orphans' homes. He is greatly interested in legislation affecting schools and public health. He has studied the interests of humanity rather than material things and he strongly opposed the proposed change made by the state board of education in state schools and has been an unfaltering advocate for better rural schools. Speaking of his business career a contemporary biographer has written, ''The story of his rise from an agent to the district manager for the Mutual Lyceum Bureau, handling the territory embraced in his own state. South Dakota and southern Minnesota, is an inspiration to the many thousands who have since looked to him for their higher, nobler amusements ; their purposeful, profitable, mental and moral uplift, and those musical and literary treats that have turned thousands of dreary evenings into a joy forever. The lyceum and the chautauqua have been the greatest liberalizers in religion, politics and business, more so than any other institution extant. That is why Iowa appreciates William and looks to him as a candidate who will represent the state as well as Butler county. On March the 8th, 1912, William I. Atkinson of Clarksville, was elected a member of the State Historical Society in recognition of his work in that line. This is an honor that comes only by invitation. Here I have not said a thing about those traits of character, those tests of manhood's real worth that are revealed only to those who know the inward workings of our lives. I will simply say that God only makes a few men who always ring true and fortunate indeed is he who enjoys the friendship of one of these."

Such a one is William I. Atkinson, whose splendid physique is but the expression of a still broader, stronger and more stalwart nature. With him life is real and earnest and he attacks each duty with a contagious enthusiasm that produces gratifying results.