John Shearing Pratt

John Shearing Pratt was a United States prosecutor and judge whose career spanned 45 years. Pratt was born in Toledo on June 5, 1875, (Toledo Biographical Scrapbook. Local History Room, Toledo Lucas County Public Library). the son of Charles and Catherine Pratt. In 1893 he graduated from Toledo High School. [Harvey Scribner, Memoirs of Lucas County and the City of Toledo, vol. 2 (Madison: Western Historical Association, 1910), p.95]. He attended the University of Michigan where he studied law. In June 1897, he received his degree and was admitted to the Ohio Bar Association that same year. (Toledo Biographical Scrapbook.)

Immediately after law school he went to work for the law firm of Swayne, Hayes & Tyler. In 1899, he became a junior member of his father's firm. The firm became known as Pratt, James & Pratt. His father died in 1900 and John became the copartner in the law firm. One year later, however, U.S. District Court Judge F.J. Wing appointed John as United States Commissioner. [Charles S. VanTassel, ed., The Story of the Maumee Valley, Toledo and the Sandusky Region, vol. 4 (Chicago: S.J. Clarke Publishing Co.,), p.678; Scribner, vol. 2, p.95]. In April of 1904, Pratt was appointed a city judge. In November 1905, he was reelected and served a full term until 1908. At this point he accepted the position of assistant United States attorney for the western division of the northern Ohio District; a position he held until May 1, 1917. At that time he decided to return to private practice in Toledo. He initially practiced alone, but later joined with O.B. Snider and C.A. Seiders.

In 1921, Pratt became a special assistant to the Attorney General. He specialized in mail and bank frauds and, from 1921 to 1934, was involved in major fraud cases. Pratt himself once claimed that the most interesting he ever took part in was the 1934 case when an Iowa farmer, Oscar Harzell, claimed to have bought the rights to the twenty billion dollar estate of Sir Frances Drake, the famous sixteenth century English admiral. Pratt tried the case and Harzell was found to have swindled more than one million dollars from contributors. Pratt ensured a long prison term for Harzell. He resigned in 1934 after investigating the Detroit bank failures and returned to private practice until 1942 when he again went back into federal service.

John Pratt was married to Miss Genevieve Doyle on June 9, 1906. They had one daughter, Miss Alice Doyle Brown. Mrs. Pratt died on January 6, 1912 Pratt was married to Helen Mitchell on June 29, 1918. (Toledo Biography Scrapbook, Local History Room, Toledo and Lucas County Public Library). During World War I, he was involved in rallying support for the war effort. He was chairman of the Four-Minute Speakers of Lucas County and was the director of the Speakers' Bureau of the Liberty Bond drives in Northwest Ohio during the war. In addition, Mr. Pratt was a member of the First Congregational Church, Psi Epsilon fraternity, the Toledo Yacht Club, Toledo Country Club, Toledo Chamber of Commerce. He was a high degree Mason who was well respected in many club circles. The 83-year-old Mr. Pratt died of natural causes on May 13, 1959, and was interred in Woodlawn Cemetery.

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