While representing creditors in a jury trial in federal bankruptcy court in Mankato, Minnesota, on November 8, 1899, William Elmer Todd suffered a stroke. Paralyzed on his left side, he was treated by several doctors, who performed surgery the next day. He briefly regained consciousness. He died on November 11th. He was 46 years old.
He had a large business clientele and a growing reputation for excellence in the bar of southern Minnesota. In memorial proceedings in District Court on December 5, 1899, Clement S. Edwards, a friend and fellow lawyer, recalled:
"One has said that the career of a lawyer might be divided into three parts -- the periods of struggle, compensation and success. The life of Mr. Todd fully exemplified these three periods. I frequently heard him tell of his early struggles in this county to win recognition and secure a place at this bar. Through the pleasanter period of compensation, he passed to an easy competence, and unfortunately was stricken at a moment when he was approaching the very zenith of his success, and at a time when he was fully justified in looking forward to the early enjoyment of the fruits of his many years of mental toil and labor, and at an age, as well, when one may be warranted in looking forward to an early retirement for the calmer and more composed pursuits of intellectual enjoyment."