BACKUS, FRANKLIN THOMAS (6 May 1813-14 May 1870), a prominent Cleveland lawyer, was born in Lee, Berkshire County, Mass., to Thomas and Rebecca (Couch) Backus. He was completely self-taught and was admitted as a junior-year student to Yale in 1834. In 1837 Backus came to Cleveland and opened a school for the classics. After studying law with the firm of Bolton Kelley, he was admitted to the bar in 1839, forming a law partnership with Jesse P. Bishop in 1840. In 1841, Backus was elected prosecuting attorney for Cuyahoga County; being reelected in 1843. He was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives in 1846, and in 1848 became a state senator. In 1858, Backus, with 3 other prominent lawyers, RUFUS SPALDING, ALBERT G. RIDDLE, and Seneca O. Griswold, acted for the defense in the OBERLIN-WELLINGTON RESCUE case. As a Republican, Backus ran unsuccessfully for the Ohio Supreme Court and the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1868, he ran as a Democrat for Congress and lost. Despite these losses, Backus was considered an excellent lawyer, with the Cleveland bar stating he had "sound judgement, vigorous intellect and unsurpassed integrity." In 1869, Backus helped establish the Cleveland Law Library; after his death, his law books were donated there. He was also a founding member of the WESTERN RESERVE HISTORICAL SOCIETY. In 1892, his wife, Lucy (Mygatt), whom he married in 1842, donated $50,000 to Western Reserve University to found a law school named after her husband. Backus adopted his niece, Fanny, as his daughter. Backus died in Cleveland and was buried in WOODLAND CEMETERY.

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