He attended the common schools and received additional instruction from a private tutor. In 1882, he graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in law.
He began his practice in Independence, Iowa, moving to Pierre, in what was the Dakota Territory, in 1883. He was twice married. He had five children.
He was the prosecuting attorney for Hughes County, South Dakota in 1887 and 1888.
In 1889, he was elected to the Territorial Council, the upper house of the Dakota Territorial Legislature. He went on to serve as the state Attorney General from 1893 to 1897.
He ran for the United States House of Representatives seat for South Dakota in 1896, but lost the election. He then moved to Huron, South Dakota, and served as an attorney for the Chicago & North Western Railway from 1897 to 1903, when he resigned.
He was elected as a Republican to the position of Governor of South Dakota in 1907, and served in that capacity through 1908.
He served in the Senate through 1914, when he lost his bid for renomination. He then returned to Huron and the practice of law until 1934, when he retired from active business and political life. He died in Yankton, South Dakota in 1944.
His burial was in Oakland Cemetery, Iowa City, Iowa.
When South Dakota was admitted as a state in 1889, he was elected as a member of the first South Dakota State Senate.
Married May Robinson, October 4, 1884. Married second, Lavinia Robinson, of Iowa City, Iowa.