Senator James M. Wilson View All Years

Compiled Historical Information
Date of Death: 5/2/1924
Birth Place: Monmouth, Illinois
Party Affiliation: Republican
Assemblies Served:
Senate: 35 (1913) - 38 (1919)
Home County: Appanoose
James M. Wilson
Appanoose County


MR. PRESIDENT: Your committee appointed to prepare resolutions commemorating the life, character, and services of James M. Wilson of Centerville, Appanoose county, Iowa, begs leave to submit the following report:

James M. Wilson was born on September 8, 1866, near Monmouth, Illinois, being the son of James and Elizabeth Welsh Wilson, both natives of Scotland. His early youth was passed in Illinois where he attended the country schools and assisted his father in the operation of a coal mine, being employed in hauling coal from the mine to the town of Monmouth. His mother has been heard to say frequently that he had a natural bent for politics and affairs of state, manifested in early life, and as illustrating this inclination, at times when her son would be later returning from one of his trips, his explanation would be that he was interested in a political speech or the election returns.

In the year 1882 he came with his parents to Centerville, Iowa, where his father engaged in the coal business, the son James going to work as weighmaster for his father’s mine. He was ambitious for an education and attended high school, graduating in the class of 1886 as valedictorian. He attended Monmouth College for three years and later read law in the office of judge T. M. Fee, and attended the Iowa State University at Iowa City, graduating in the law as president of his class. He married Miss Flora White on December 24, 1891, two children being born, Miss Eva, now Y. W. C. A. secretary at Marshalltown, Iowa, and Mrs. Jean Goodsell, Des Moines, Iowa, who, with his widow, survive.

Soon after his admission to the bar of Iowa he returned to Centerville and soon established himself in the practice of law. He served as City Attorney of Centerville and in 1896 was elected County Attorney and re­elected in 1898, serving in both capacities with credit. He was an able and forcible prosecutor, yet recognizing that the office of prosecutor was a position to be used not only as a means of enforcing the laws when violated but as well to protect the rights of those wrongfully accused. He was recognized as one of the foremost trial lawyers of Southern Iowa and commanded a large and varied practice in the courts of the state. He was a strong advocate, resourceful and ready in all emergencies to meet any question arising in the trial of a case. He had a high sense of honor in his dealings with his clients and the court, always having in mind the ethics of the profession and his duty as an attorney to all parties. Being naturally a gifted speaker, with a command of language possessed by few, before a jury he had the ability to present the facts and the application of the law to the situation in a most convincing manner.

From early manhood he took an active interest in the public affairs of the state and nation and his services were in demand as a public speaker in almost every political campaign. In 1912 he was elected to the State Senate from the third district, composed of Appanoose and Davis counties, and was re-elected in the year 1916. He served with marked distinction in the State Senate, being a commanding figure and leader in the legislature, serving on important committees and exerting a great influence in shaping legislation at that time. His advice was invaluable and eagerly sought on all constitutional questions arising in the enacting of the laws of the state. He was never too busy to give attention to advice sought by the most humble client and no appeal for charity ever went unheeded. He rendered professional services on numerous occasions without reward or the hope of receiving any compensation therefor. He was interested in all public movements, and gave of his time and services in behalf of any such movements. To know him was to be his friend. He was tolerant of the opinions and views of others and believed that there was good in everyone. He was generous and unselfish to a marked degree and was beloved and respected by all. He died May 2, 1924.

Now Therefore, Be It Resolved by the Senate of the Forty-first General Assembly of Iowa, that in the death of James M. Wilson the state and the community where he lived have suffered the loss of an influential and honorable citizen; and

Be It Further Resolved, That a copy of these resolutions be spread upon the Journal of the Senate and that the secretary be directed to send an engrossed copy thereof to the family of the deceased.