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Judge W. W. Witten. The name of Judge Witten, who is now engaged in the successful practice of law at Okmulgee, has always had a high place on the rolls of the original Oklahoma pioneers. Judge Witten has been a participant or a witness in nearly all the important openings by which the area of civilization was rapidly broadened until the entire original Indian Territory has been included in the State of Oklahoma. He was at the opening in 1889 and became a very important political figure in the early life and affairs of the territory. He was also at Tecumseh at the opening of the Pottawatomie Reservation, at the opening of the Cherokee Strip, and finally of the Cheyenne and Arapahoe country.
Judge Witten not only has solid attainments as a lawyer, but is a forceful and vigorous speaker and has appeared in many of the campaigns during the past twenty-five years, and always as an uncompromising democrat. In fact he is a southerner by birth, though he was reared and came into prominence professionally in the State of Missouri.
William Wirt Witten was born at Raleigh Court House, Virginia, March 29, 1860, a son of Robert W. and Sarah F. (Riggs) Witten, both of whom were natives of Virginia. His father was a descendant from Lord Baltimore, and members of the family participated in the Revolutionary war on the American side. His maternal ancestry is of Irish descent, and they also arrived in America during colonial days. In 1866 the Witten family moved out to Missouri and in the following-year located in Grundy County. Many years later, in 1892, the parents joined Judge Witten in his home at Oklahoma City. Robert W. Witten died while on a visit to Okmulgee in 1911 at the age of seventy-seven. The mother passed away in 1908 aged sixty-seven. Robert W. Witten was a physician by profession and practiced medicine for more than forty years. He used his profession as his principal office and opportunity for service during the war between the states, and was a surgeon on the Confederate side under Gen. John C. McCausland.
Judge Witten had three brothers, and all of them have been men with successful careers. His oldest brother. Dr. E. W. Witten, located in Oklahoma City in 1890. practiced medicine very successfully there until his death in 1911, and at one time held a chair in the medical college at Oklahoma City. The second brother, Thomas A., has for the past thirty years been a member of the bar at Kansas City, Missouri. The youngest is Robert Pickett, who is connected with the city government in Oklahoma City.
Though Judge Witten came out to Missouri with his parents when about seven years of age, he went back east in 1877 to Guyandotte, West Virginia, and pursued his studies in law there. He was admitted to the bar in 1880 and at once returned to Trenton, Missouri, where in addition to a budding practice as a lawyer he edited the Trenton Times. He also became a factor in local politics, and was twice elected recorder of deeds for Grundy County.
Soon after arriving in Oklahoma City at the opening of 1889, Judge Witten settled down to the quiet routine of legal practice, and participated in much of the exciting and important litigation that filled the court dockets at that time. He continued in private practice until 1895. He was elected the first police judge of Oklahoma City, and there are few men still living who have a more intimate and comprehensive insight as to early affairs in that now capital city. During the territorial days he was a candidate for governor of the territory, and was one of five good men who made the race. Grover Cleveland was then president, and his selection fell to another candidate than Judge Witten. Somewhat later he was appointed clerk of the United States District Court in Oklahoma, and he served until the opening of the Cherokee Strip in 1893. Afterwards he succeeded Sam Small as editor of the Oklahoman published in Oklahoma City. He also went back to Missouri and for a time edited the State’s Duty at St. Louis.
In January, 1900, Judge Witten established his home at Okmulgee in old Indian Territory, and for fifteen years has been regarded as one of the leaders of the local bar. At the beginning of statehood he made the race for nomination for district judge, of a district that then comprised the four counties of Creek, Okmulgee, Okfuskee and Hughes.
In 1885 Judge Witten married Miss Nannie L. Harber of Trenton, Missouri.