JAMES B. SIMPSON
Biography and Genealogy
(Nov. 23, 1857 – Jan. 1898)
Greenville and Montgomery County, Alabama
James B. Simpson or “Jim Simpson,” as he was known to all, was an estimable character. He was a man of modest worldly estate, but employed in a marked degree the confidence, the regard and the
intimate friendship of the foremost men of Alabama. He was born in Greenville, Ala., Nov. 23d, 1857, his parents being natives of Ireland. The family moved to Montgomery in 1861, and all, except the first four years of Mr. Simpson’s life, was spent here.
His advantages as a boy were limited. He attended the public schools of Montgomery, but this was during the days of reconstruction, when the opportunities in this section to acquire even the rudiments of an education were not the best. While still a youth he entered the office of the late Wm. P. Chilton as a student of law, but was soon forced by the emergencies of the times to engage in something more immediately profitable.
He was employed as a hardware salesman for several years afterward and until 1884, when he accepted a position as a reporter with the Montgomery Dispatch. After a year or two he was promoted to the city editorship, and retained that position until 1889, when the Dispatch was absorbed by a rival newspaper, whereupon Mr. Simpson became associated in the organization and publication of the Montgomery Journal.
In 1885 he disposed of his interest in the Journal to his partner and engaged his services to a syndicate of non-resident newspapers as correspondent at Montgomery. In 1896 he was appointed by Gov. Joseph F. Johnston to be his recording secretary, and filled that position to the greatest satisfaction of the governor and the public and with the highest credit to himself, till the time of his death, which occurred in January, 1898.
Mr. Simpson left a widow and three little daughters. His wife was Miss Ellie Dawes of Mobile, a lovely lady, who as wife and mother, illustrates the highest and best virtues of womanhood. They were married in 1885, and three little girls blessed the short but happy union.
That which lends peculiar interest and value to this, the history of the Alabama Capitol, is the special fitness of Mr. Simpson for the work. His memory was marvelously retentive, he was a close observer, and among all the young men in the State he was the best posted as to public men and public affairs!
In the Governor’s office, where questions along this line are constantly coming up, he was authority. His information was accurate. He remembered the transactions of conventions, the events of campaigns, who were the actors and the part they bore. His gentle and amiable spirit impelled him to recall and to tell the good that men had done. The mistakes, the tricks and the treacheries that blot the pages of politics, he found no pleasure in remembering. He had no enemies, was loved by many men, and through the turmoil of active political work dealt stout blows in such good faith and honesty that the bitterest of his opponents, when he came to his last long sleep, were first to pay him the tribute of a tear.
NOTE: A copy of a manuscript about Alabama’s Early Days by James B. Simpson was found in his desk in the Governor’s office at the Capitol after his death in 1898. The historic manuscript was published in The Alabama Historical Quarterly, Vol. 18, No. 01, Spring Issue 1956. Excerpts from this historic document about the beginning of Alabama will be posted on www.alabamapioneers.com over coming days and months in honor of this great man’s work in recording Alabama’s history.
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