James W. Grimes

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James Wilson Grimes
Hon. James W. Grimes, Iowa - NARA - 528410 (cropped).jpg
United States Senator
from Iowa
In office
March 4, 1859 – December 6, 1869
Preceded byGeorge W. Jones
Succeeded byJames B. Howell
3rd Governor of Iowa
In office
December 9, 1854 – January 13, 1858
Preceded byStephen P. Hempstead
Succeeded byRalph P. Lowe
Personal details
Born(1816-10-20)October 20, 1816
Deering, New Hampshire, U.S.
DiedFebruary 7, 1872(1872-02-07) (aged 55)
Burlington, Iowa, U.S.
Resting placeAspen Grove Cemetery
Political partyWhig, Republican
Alma materDartmouth College
  • Politician
  • lawyer

James Wilson Grimes (October 20, 1816 – February 7, 1872) was an American politician, serving as the third Governor of Iowa and a United States Senator from Iowa.


Born in Deering, New Hampshire, Grimes graduated from Hampton Academy and attended Dartmouth College. He studied law, moved west and commenced practice in a settlement in 'Black Hawk Purchase', Wisconsin Territory, that was later incorporated as Burlington, Iowa. He also farmed. Grimes served as a member of the Iowa Territorial House of Representatives for the 1838–1839 and 1843–1844 terms. He served as Governor of Iowa from 1854 to 1858. While elected as a Whig in 1854, he was a guiding light in the Republican Party's establishment in Iowa in 1855 and 1856.[1]

U.S. Senate[edit]

Grimes was elected as a Republican to the U.S. Senate in 1859 and reelected in 1865. He served in the Senate from March 4, 1859, until December 6, 1869, when he resigned due to ill health.

In the Senate, he served as chairman of the Committee on the District of Columbia (in the 37th and 38th Congresses), and the Committee on Naval Affairs (in the 39th through 41st Congresses). He also served on the Joint Committee on Reconstruction which drafted the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

In 1861, Grimes was a member of the peace convention held in Washington, D.C., in an effort to devise means to prevent the impending Civil War. In December 1861, he introduced the senate bill which led to the creation of the Medal of Honor (initially only for Navy and Marine personnel).[2]

During President Andrew Johnson's impeachment trial, Grimes broke party ranks, along with six other Republican senators and voted for acquittal. Senators William Pitt Fessenden, Joseph S. Fowler, Grimes, John B. Henderson, Lyman Trumbull, Peter G. Van Winkle,[3] and Edmund G. Ross of Kansas, who provided the decisive vote,[4] defied their party and public opinion and voted against convicting Johnson because they were disturbed by how the proceedings had been manipulated in order to give a one-sided presentation of the evidence.[5] They were joined in bucking their party by three other Republican senators, James Dixon, James Rood Doolittle, Daniel Sheldon Norton[6] After the trial, Congressman Benjamin Butler conducted hearings on the widespread reports that Republican senators had been bribed to vote for Johnson's acquittal. In Butler's hearings, and in subsequent inquiries, there was increasing evidence that some acquittal votes were acquired by promises of patronage jobs and cash cards.[5]

Death and legacy[edit]

Grimes died in Burlington on February 7, 1872, aged 55. He is buried in the Aspen Grove Cemetery in Burlington.[7]

The plot of land that his home was once located on is now home to an elementary school that bears his name.[citation needed]

The town of Grimes, Iowa, is named for Grimes,[8] as well as the Grimes State Office Building in Des Moines.[9]: 206 


  1. ^ Cyrenus Cole, "A History of the People of Iowa," pp. 310-12 (Torch Press 1921).
  2. ^ "History and Timeline of the Medal of Honor". Congressional Medal of Honor Society. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
  3. ^ "Andrew Johnson Trial: The Consciences of Seven Republicans Save Johnson".
  4. ^ "The Trial of Andrew Johnson, 1868".
  5. ^ a b David O. Stewart, Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln's Legacy (2009), pp. 240-249, 284-299.
  6. ^ "Senate Journal. 40th Cong., 2nd sess., 16 / 26 May 1868, 943–51". A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774–1875. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress. Retrieved June 7, 2019.
  7. ^ "Bioguide Search|GRIMES, James Wilson". bioguide.congress.gov. Retrieved March 31, 2022.
  8. ^ "Our Community | City of Grimes, IA". www.grimesiowa.gov. Retrieved March 31, 2022.
  9. ^ Pratt, LeRoy G. (October 1, 1975). "Discovering Historic Iowa -- American Revolution Bicentennial Edition" (PDF). eric.ed.gov. Retrieved March 31, 2022.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
James L. Thompson
Whig nominee Governor of Iowa
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Governor of Iowa
Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. senator (Class 2) from Iowa
March 4, 1859 – December 6, 1869
Served alongside: James Harlan, Samuel J. Kirkwood and James Harlan
Succeeded by