John Finis Philips

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

John Finis Philips (December 31, 1834 - March 13, 1919) was a lawyer, a cavalry colonel, a U.S. Representative from Missouri, and a judge.

Birth, education, and early career[edit]

Born in Thralls Prairie, Boone County, Missouri,[1] Philips attended the common schools, the University of Missouri, and was graduated from Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, in 1855. He studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1857 and commenced practice in Georgetown, Missouri.

American Civil War[edit]

Philips served as member of the Missouri Constitutional Convention in 1861. During the Civil War, he was commissioned colonel May 1, 1862 and commanded the 7th Missouri State Militia Cavalry.[2] During the Battle of Westport he was placed in command of a brigade when his superior, Brig. Gen. Egbert Brown, was placed under arrest by Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasanton for not promptly attacking at Byram's Ford. Continuing in command after having taken the ford, Philips' brigade played a key role in the crushing victory at Mine Creek two days later. According to his diary he suffered an irritating wound to his right eye during the battle.[3]

Post war political career[edit]

Following the war he resumed the practice of his profession at Sedalia, Missouri. He served as mayor and later as delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1868. He was an unsuccessful candidate for election in 1868 to the Forty-first Congress.

Philips was elected as a Democrat to the Forty-fourth Congress (March 4, 1875-March 3, 1877).

Philips was elected to the Forty-sixth Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Alfred M. Lay and served from January 10, 1880, to March 3, 1881. He was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1880 to the Forty-seventh Congress.

He moved to Kansas City, Missouri, in 1881 and resumed the practice of law. He was a member of the defense team for the 1883 Gallatin, Missouri, murder trial of Frank James.

He served as commissioner of the Missouri Supreme Court 1883-1885 then as judge of the Kansas City Court of Appeals 1885-1888. He was appointed judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri by President Cleveland in 1888 and served until 1910, when he retired from public life.


He died at Hot Springs, Arkansas, March 13, 1919 and was interred in Mount Washington Cemetery, Independence, Missouri.


  1. ^ Directory of Towns...Boone Co. Missouri
  2. ^ MO A.G. report, p. 494
  3. ^ Lee, pp. 34-35