L. SEMPLE was born in Mount Holly, New Jersey on October 11,
1859. He was one of the most noted criminal defense lawyers of
his time. His life through 1900 chronicled below, excerpted from
he book titled BIOGRAPHICAL, GENEALOGICAL AND DESCRIPTIVE
HISTORY OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, Edited by William Brown,
which was published by the New Jersey Historical Publishing
Company in 1900.
SEMPLE, A prominent young lawyer of Camden, New Jersey, having an office at No. 312
Street, was born October 11, 1859, in Mount Holly, New Jersey, son of
John and Elizabeth (Little) Semple, through whom he has inherited some of the noblest qualities of the English and Scotch people. His grandfather, Samuel Semple, who came from Scotland to take charge of the thread mills at Smithfield, New Jersey, afterward established at Mount Holly the Semple Thread Mills, which were conducted by himself and three sons. This firm was known throughout the United States, and for nearly half a century did a large business, and employed about five hundred hands. Samuel Semple died when eighty-two years of age.
John Semple, whose birth occurred in Glasgow, Scotland, was brought up in the business of manufacturing thread, and was a member of the firm. He retired
from active business in 1876, and has since lived in Mount Holly. He is a director of the Mount Holly Gas Company and the bank of Mount Holly, and one of the best known men in Burlington county. His wife, Elizabeth, is a daughter of John Little and was born in Paisley, Scotland, of English and Scotch ancestry. Her father, who was a civil engineer, died in Scotland. Mr. and Mrs. John Semple are the parents of seven children, of whom three are living, namely: Samuel W., John L. and Margaret. Samuel W. Semple, formerly the editor and proprietor of the Camden "Democrat," after selling this paper, became private secretary, successively, to Speakers O'Connor and Stoney, of the New Jersey House of Representatives, then of the State Board of Genealogical Survey, and now is a member of the Common Council of Burlington, where he has made his home of late years. He married Rebecca Lippincott, a sister of ex-Postmaster Lippincott, one of the leading citizens of Burlington, and well known throughout the State. His father, John Semple, is a member of the Episcopal church, and one of its most liberal supporters.
After attending for some time a private school in Mount Holly, John L. Semple graduated in due course at Nazareth, Pennsylvania, and then for a year studied at a classical academy in Philadelphia. After this he was prepared to enter Princeton College by a private tutor, but his father instead was persuaded to place him in the office of Frederick H. Voorhees, a celebrated lawyer. He was admitted to the bar in 1880, within a month after attaining his majority, after which he remained with Mr. Voorhees one year. Then he opened an office in Camden and engaged in general practice. He was admitted as a counselor at the February term 1885, and to practice in the United States Supreme Court in February, 1895. In 1894 he was unexpectedly brought into prominence, when assigned, as defendant's counsel, by Judge Garrison of the Supreme Court in the celebrated case of George
Alorris. In a period of three years, of the fourteen murder cases in which he conducted the defense, thirteen ended in a verdict of acquittal for his clients. One of the latter, that of Charles Jordan, is perhaps, the shortest homicide case in criminal annals. The evidence, summing up of counsel, charge of the trial Judge, and the verdict of the jury, consuming less than two hours.
Mr. Semple made his reputation as a remarkably clever criminal lawyer in his successful defense of over a dozen homicide cases, and it was owing to this success, and his knowledge of criminal law, that he was associated with former
Governor Pattison, of Pennsylvania, in the recent cases of Bredell and Taylor, the engravers in the noted counterfeit plot, in which the Secretary of the United States Treasury was compelled to withdraw the entire series of one hundred dollars Monroe notes. The scheme was unearthed in Philadelphia by the Secret Service officials and proved a great sensation, as it was regarded as one of the greatest attempts ever made to flood the country with counterfeit money.
But Mr. Semple's name will ever be associated with the Lambert homicide case, as that is the one that brought him most fame and made his name known all over the country, and gave him a world-wide reputation. He persistently carried the latter case through all the State courts and twice to the United States Supreme Court unaided, but in such a manner that he received the commendation of the court, where it was regarded as the most successful attempt ever made to evade the verdict of a jury.
Shortly after having been admitted to the bar he was a candidate for the office of Prosecutor of Pleas of Burlington county. About this time he was chosen a delegate to the Democratic State Convention, since which time he has eschewed active participation in politics, giving his entire attention to his extensive practice. He is a member of the
Benevolent and Protective Order of
Elks, and an attendant of the Episcopal Church..
not attending to work and his education John L. Semple was quite
interested in baseball. In 1881 he helped organize a team in
Camden with fellow lawyers J.K.R. Hewitt and Howard
Carrow, who later became a judge. John L. Semple married
Elizabeth Skill, however the couple was not blessed with
the l890s John L. Semple was accused of aiding and abetting two of
his clients, who were imprisoned in Pennsylvania, in a
counterfeiting scheme. The first trial resulted in a hung jury, in
the second trial John L. Semple was acquitted.
his last years John L. Semple worked from his home at 320 Market
Street in Camden, in partnership with J. Harry Switzer.
Suffering from rheumatism, all but paralyzed and in great pain, on
February 6, 1915 John L. Semple took his own life, shooting
himself in the heart while sitting at his desk in his Market