(Sept. 12, 1857-Apr. 15, 1937). John Barrett Cockrum was recognized as one of the city’s leading corporate lawyers. Born in Oakland City, Indiana, in Gibson County, Cockrum was the son of Col. William M. and Lucretia Cockrum. His father served in the 42nd Indiana Infantry during the Civil War and was a founder of the Indiana Republican Party.

Cockrum attended the Gibson County public schools and the Gibson County normal school. Graduating from high school at the age of 17, he then taught school during the winter months in Gibson County and attended the Cincinnati Law School, which later became part of the University of Cincinnati, during summer. He graduated from law school in 1879.

Following law school, Cockrum opened a law office in Boonville, Indiana, in partnership with Charles W. Armstrong and John B. Handy. In 1880, he married Fannie Caroline Bittroff of Evansville, Indiana. The couple had two children.

Cockrum moved to Indianapolis in 1889 after his appointment as assistant U.S. district attorney. He worked with the U.S. district attorney’s office until 1893 when he became the assistant general attorney for the Lake Erie and Western Railway Company, headquartered in Indianapolis for many years. Two years later, the company appointed him head of its legal department and then general solicitor, a position he retained for 40 years.

During this time he also represented local firms, including an electric railroad company seeking to construct a route between Indianapolis and Anderson in 1899. That year he also served as receiver for the Indianapolis and Broad Ripple Rapid Transit Company. Upon his retirement, he acted as advisory counsel to the Lake Erie and Western for a short time and in 1932 entered private practice. He retired from public life, due to illness, three years before his death. He was a delegate to the Republican national conventions of 1888, where he was an elector for President Benjamin Harrison, and 1908. He also was a charter member of the Columbia Club.

Revised June 2021

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