David James (American politician)

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David Goodrich James (August 8, 1843 - October 3, 1921) was an American businessman, tinner and Civil War veteran from Richland Center, Wisconsin who served one term as a Republican member of the Wisconsin State Senate from the 28th District (Richland and Vernon counties). His brother Norman L. James had previously held what was basically the same seat in the Senate.


James was born in Deerfield, New Hampshire on August 3, 1848, moving with his family to Richland County (where he would live the rest of his life) in 1815.

Civil War service[edit]

James enlisted in the 16th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment upon the outbreak of the American Civil War on October 13, 1861 at the age of 13. In 1864 he was captured and taken to Andersonville Prison. He survived Andersonville, and when he was mustered out July 18, 1865, it was with the brevet rank of Captain, backdated October 3, 1861, "for conspicuous bravery manifested by him at the battles of Corinth and Atlanta."

After the war[edit]

After the War James returned to Richland Center, where he learned the tinner's trade, and in 1866 became a member of the firm of G. H. & N. L. James with his brother Norman. He became sole proprietor in 1881. In 1888 he was a delegate to the Republican National Convention. In 1900 he was made Wisconsin Department Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. He served as a trustee of the Wisconsin Soldiers' Home for many years.

He was elected state senator in 1908 for a four-year term (succeeding fellow Republican Oliver Munson), receiving 6,358 votes against 3360 for Democrat J. K. Schreiner. He was assigned to the standing committees on agriculture, on military affairs, and on villages and cities.[1] A 1911 redistricting totally changed the Senate; his old district was split between the new 16th and 31st Districts, each of which elected Republicans in 1912.


James' wife Laura, in 1882, was one of the founders of the Richland Center Woman's Club that worked tirelessly for women's suffrage, and may have been the first suffrage organization formed in the state. In 1892, their daughter Ada James and several other high school girls formed the Equality Club to assist in the campaign for women's suffrage. Ada was to become one of Wisconsin's most prominent suffragists; in 1911, she was a founding member of the statewide Political Equality League, and would become its president.

In 1919, Wisconsin became the first state officially to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, granting women the vote. Wisconsin won this distinction because David James traveled to Washington, D.C. by train and hand-delivered the documents to just nose out Illinois for this honor.