Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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OVERTON, John, jurist, born in Louisa county, Virginia, 9 April, 1766" died near Nashville, Tennessee, 12 April, 1833. As his family were in moderate circumstances, he received only a meagre education, but he supplied this deficiency by private study. He removed to Kentucky before he was of age, studied law, and, being admitted to the bar in 1787, began to practise soon afterward in Nashville, where he had for an associate Andrew Jackson, then district attorney. Much confusion existed in regard to the titles to land in the district, and giving his attention to this branch, Overton soon had an extensive practice, and in process of time became the acknowledged authority on the subject. A body of laws based upon the North Carolina acts of 1777 and 1783 had to be formed, and he set himself to mould a system to suit the condition and necessities of the new community. Being appointed by Governor Sevier in 1804 to succeed Andrew Jackson as judge of the superior court of law and equity, his decisions on these points soon came to be established law, and have never since been controverted. He held this post till 1810, and in 1811 was elected a judge of the supreme court of the state, which office he filled till his resignation in 1816. During this period he wrote "Overton's Reports," which include the time from 1791 to 1817, and are of great value as a repository of the land laws of Tennessee. After his retirement from the bench he devoted himself principally to the care of his estate, which at the time of his death was the largest in the state. Judge Overton and General Jackson were warm personal friends, and the latter held the judge's opinion in such high regard that he seldom took any important step without consulting him. Overton's large landed interests often brought him in conflict with others, but no suspicion ever sullied his integrity.
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