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Dudley Family Background


Eastern Illinois University

Charleston, Illinois


Coles County



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James and Guildford Dudley moved from Raymond, New Hampshire to Ashmore in Coles County, Illinois between 1825 and 1829. James Dudley eventually moved to Boston, but Guildford remained in Ashmore, where he became Justice of the Peace and the Township treasurer. He married Mary Wiley of Lexington, Kentucky, and lived in Ashmore for the remainder of his life. 

Eli Dudley, the son of Guilford and Mary, married Margaret Brown and lived in the Ashmore farmhouse of his parents. Their son, Gerry Brown Dudley, was born in 1875. Gerry received a medical degree from Cornell University, began his private practice in Charleston in 1906, and married Esther Shoot. Gerry and Esther bought the house at 895 Seventh Street that is today maintained by the Coles County Historical Society as the “Dudley House.” The family of Dr. Gerry Brown Dudley occupied the house from 1920 to 1982.

Gerry Brown Dudley volunteered for military service in 1917, serving as a captain in the United States Army. He was stationed in France in 1918, and worked at Evacuation Hospital No. 1. Captain Dudley was reassigned in September of 1918 to the 165th Infantry, (the Rainbow Division), as a doctor on the front lines. He was part of the Army of Occupation in Germany until his voyage home in April 1919. He resumed his medical practice in Charleston after his discharge from the army, assisted as an examining physician during World War II, and continued his local practice until his retirement in 1957. The children of Gerry and Ester Dudley were Tilford Dudley, Dorothy Ann Zentmeyer, and Ester E. Swern.

Tilford Eli Dudley married Martha Ward Dudley in 1937. The children of Tilford and Martha Dudley were Gerric “Rick” Dudley of Bellingham, Washington; Donica Ward Dudley of Davis, California; and Martha “Lass” Fairchild Dudley of Augusta, Montana. Tilford graduated cum laude from Wesleyan University in 1928 and received his law degree from Harvard University in 1931. He practiced labor law in Aurora, Illinois for three years before moving to Washington, D.C. to serve in the New Deal administration of President Franklin Roosevelt. He left government service in 1944.

Tilford worked as a trial examiner lawyer for the National Labor Relations Board in the late 1930s and as a union official from 1944 to 1969.  He represented labor cases against the Ford Motor Company, Fansteel, and the New York Times for unfair labor practices. He was affiliated with the Congress of Industrial Organizations, and continued that association after its merger with the American Federation of Labor. He was director of the AFL-CIO Speakers Bureau from 1959 to 1969.

Tilford Dudley also served as director of the Washington Office of the Council for Social Action of the United Church of Christ from 1969 to 1975, and as deacon of the Cleveland Park United Congregational Church in Washington, D.C. He received a service award from the Democratic Party, the United Church of Christ, and the Eugene V. Debs Foundation. Dudley drafted the Debs Foundation charter, did the legal work for its incorporation, assisted in fundraising, and provided organizational leadership. 

Tilford Dudley donated his family home, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and its contents in Charleston to the Coles County Historical Society in 1982. The society acquired the Dudley Family Papers in 1988.