James B. Beck

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James Beck
James B. Beck - Brady-Handy.jpg
Chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus
In office
March 4, 1885 – May 3, 1890
Preceded byGeorge H. Pendleton
Succeeded byArthur Pue Gorman
United States Senator
from Kentucky
In office
March 4, 1877 – May 3, 1890
Preceded byJohn W. Stevenson
Succeeded byJohn G. Carlisle
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Kentucky's 7th district
In office
March 4, 1867 – March 3, 1875
Preceded byGeorge S. Shanklin
Succeeded byJoseph Blackburn
Personal details
James Burnie Beck

(1822-02-13)February 13, 1822
Dumfriesshire, Scotland, UK
DiedMay 3, 1890(1890-05-03) (aged 68)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
EducationTransylvania University (BA)

James Burnie Beck (February 13, 1822 – May 3, 1890) was a United States Representative and Senator from Kentucky.


Born in Dumfriesshire, Scotland, Beck immigrated to the United States in 1838 and settled in Wyoming County, New York. He moved to Lexington, Kentucky in 1843 and graduated from Transylvania University in 1846. Beck was admitted to the bar and commenced the practice of law in Lexington. Until shortly before the Civil War, he was law partner of John C. Breckinridge, the U.S. Vice President who became a Confederate general; during the Civil War, Beck was interrogated by a military commission about his knowledge of his former partner's activities.

After the war Beck was elected as a Democrat to the United States House of Representatives serving Kentucky's district 7. He was appointed to the Committee on Reconstruction where it was expected that as a newcomer and an immigrant he would be no obstacle to Republican intentions, but he immediately became a tenacious advocate of the rights of the defeated states. A White supremacist, he opposed Civil Rights for African Americans.[1] He was elected to the Fortieth and to the three succeeding Congresses, serving in all from March 4, 1867 to March 3, 1875.

In 1876, Beck was appointed a member of the commission to define the boundary line between Maryland and Virginia. He was then elected to the United States Senate in 1876, being reelected twice and serving in all from March 4, 1877, until his death in Washington, D.C., on May 3, 1890. While in the Senate, Beck was the Democratic Conference Chairman from 1885 to 1890, and the chairman of the Committee on Transportation Routes to the Seaboard. He was prominent in the discussion of tariff and currency questions.

He is interred at Lexington Cemetery. His son, George T. Beck, was a noted politician and entrepreneur in the state of Wyoming.

See also[edit]



  • United States Congress. "James B. Beck (id: B000289)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  • U.S. Congress. Memorial Addresses for James Beck. 51st Cong., 2nd sess. from 1890 to 1891. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1891.
  • Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Beck, James Burnie" . New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
  • Wilson, J. G.; Fiske, J., eds. (1900). "Beck, James Burnie" . Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
George S. Shanklin
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Kentucky's 7th congressional district

Succeeded by
Joseph Blackburn
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
John W. Stevenson
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Kentucky
Served alongside: Thomas C. McCreery, John Williams, Joseph Blackburn
Succeeded by
John G. Carlisle
Preceded by
Angus Cameron
Chair of the Senate Seaboard Transportation Routes Committee
Succeeded by
Benjamin Harrison
Party political offices
Preceded by
George H. Pendleton
Chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus
Succeeded by
Arthur Pue Gorman