He was the great-grandfather of Charles Marion LaFollette.
Born in Albig, Duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany, Heilman immigrated to the United States in 1843 and settled on a farm in Posey County, Indiana. After moving to Evansville, Indiana, he worked for a manufacturing company and subsequently became president of a cotton mill. In 1847, he founded a machine shop for the manufacture of drills.
He served as member of the city council 1852-1865, as member of the Indiana House of Representatives 1870-1876 and as delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1876. He served in the Indiana State Senate from 1876 until March 3, 1879.
Heilman was elected as a Republican to the Forty-sixth and Forty-seventh Congresses (March 4, 1879 – March 3, 1883). He was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1882 to the Forty-eighth Congress.
Later career and death
He resumed his former business activities.
- United States Congress. "William Heilman (id: H000451)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.