John G. Woolley, one of the most eloquent and convincing of his time, was born at Collinsville, Ohio, near Cincinnati, on 15 February 1850. He was the son of Edwin C. and Elizabeth K.H. Woolley.
Woolley graduated from Ohio Wesleyan College in 1871 and attended the University of Michigan law school the following year. He was admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court of Illinois in 1873, of the Supreme Court of Minnesota in 1878, and of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1886. He was City Attorney of Paris, Illinois 1876-77 and State’s Attorney at Minneapolis, Minnesota 1884-86.
In his own words, Woolley became a Christian and a party Prohibitionist at the same instant, 31 January 1888, in New York City. He joined Dr. Deems “Church of the Strangers” and launched into active Christian and Prohibition Party work. Soon acquiring a reputation as a speaker of wonderful power and marvelous flexibility of language, Woolley was sought upon all
occasions in Prohibition and temperance work. Since 1888, he has, on average, made one speech a day.
In the fall of 1892, he went to England as the guest of Lady Henry Somerset and spoke nearly every day during 7 months in the cities of England, Scotland, and Wales. The next year, he was engaged by the Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavour of Illinois to lecture for 300 nights
in succession on “Inalienable Rights.” For several years, Woolley was the speaker par excellence at many of the largest and most important religious, political, and temperance conventions.
A gathering of his speeches was published as the collection,” Seed.”
Data from An Album of Representative Prohibitionists, 1895
John Granville Woolley was an Illinois lawyer, graduating from Ohio Wesleyan College and from the University of Michigan.
Woolley soon became an alcoholic and for a time fell into the gutter. Following his rescue, he became a temperance lecturer and edited the influential Prohibition newspaper, the Chicago Lever. He declined to seek the Prohibition nomination in 1896. However, in 1900 he was again urged to be a candidate and accepted the nomination.
Woolley’s campaign train, the “Prohibition Special,” carried Woolley and Metcalf over 23,000 miles, in the course of which they made over 500 speeches. The 1900 campaign was one of the Prohibition Party’s most successful. Nonetheless, Woolley was disappointed in the results. He criticized the Party leadership, turned to the Republican Party, and eventually gave up politics altogether – becoming a temperance evangelist to drunkards.
-- Gammon, 2007, pp. 60-62