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J. Hamilton Lewis

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

J. Hamilton Lewis
Senate Majority Whip
In office
March 4, 1933 – April 9, 1939
LeaderJoe Robinson
Alben W. Barkley
Preceded bySimeon D. Fess
Succeeded bySherman Minton
In office
May 28, 1913 – March 3, 1919
LeaderJohn W. Kern
Thomas S. Martin
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byCharles Curtis
United States Senator
from Illinois
In office
March 4, 1931 – April 9, 1939
Preceded byCharles S. Deneen
Succeeded byJames M. Slattery
In office
March 26, 1913 – March 3, 1919
Preceded byShelby Cullom
Succeeded byMedill McCormick
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Washington's at-large district
In office
March 4, 1897 – March 3, 1899
Preceded byWilliam H. Doolittle
Succeeded byFrancis W. Cushman
Personal details
James Hamilton Lewis

(1863-05-18)May 18, 1863
Danville, Virginia, C.S.
DiedApril 9, 1939(1939-04-09) (aged 75)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Resting placeFort Lincoln Cemetery, Brentwood, Maryland
Political partyDemocratic
SpouseRose Lawton Douglas (m. 1896–1939, his death)
EducationUniversity of Virginia
Ohio Northern University
Baylor University

James Hamilton Lewis (May 18, 1863 – April 9, 1939) was an American attorney and politician. Sometimes referred to as J. Ham Lewis or Ham Lewis, he represented Washington in the United States House of Representatives, and Illinois in the United States Senate. He was the first to hold the title of Whip in the United States Senate.

Born in Danville, Virginia and raised in Augusta, Georgia, Lewis attended several colleges, studied law, and attained admission to the bar in 1882. He moved to Washington Territory in 1885, where he became active in politics as a Democrat; he served in the territorial legislature, worked with the federal commission that helped establish the U.S.-Canada boundary, and ran unsuccessfully for governor. He served in the United States House of Representatives from 1897 to 1899.

After service in the Spanish–American War, Lewis relocated to Chicago, Illinois. After serving as the city's corporation counsel, and running unsuccessfully for governor, Lewis won election to the United States Senate in 1912, and served one term (1913-1919). He was chosen to serve as Majority Whip, and was the first person to hold this position. He ran unsuccessfully for reelection in 1918, and for governor in 1920. In 1930, he was again elected to the U.S. Senate, and served from 1931 until his death. He died in Washington, D.C., and was interred first in Arlington, Virginia, and later at Fort Lincoln Cemetery in Brentwood, Maryland.

Early life

Lewis was born in Danville, Virginia on May 18, 1863, and grew up in Augusta, Georgia.[1] His mother had traveled to Virginia to nurse his father, who was wounded while serving for the Confederacy in the American Civil War. His mother died in childbirth, and his father was left an invalid, so Lewis was raised by relatives.[2] He attended Augusta's Houghton School, the University of Virginia, Ohio Northern University and Baylor University, and studied law in Savannah, Georgia.[1] He was admitted to the bar in 1882, and moved to Seattle in 1885, where he continued to practice law.[1] A Democrat, he served in Washington Territory's legislature from 1887 to 1888. In 1889 and 1890, Lewis worked with the Joint High Commission on Canadian and Alaska Boundaries to present the U.S. position.[1] He was an unsuccessful candidate for Governor of Washington in 1892.[1]

Continued career

Lewis was one of the few politicians to represent two states in the United States Congress. He represented Washington (1897–1899) in the United States House of Representatives, and was an unsuccessful candidate for election in 1898.[1] In 1899, he served as a U.S. Commissioner for regulating customs laws between the United States and Canada, and was an unsuccessful candidate for the United States Senate.[1] During the Spanish–American War, Lewis served on the staff of the adjutant general of the Washington National Guard as an assistant inspector general with the rank of lieutenant colonel.[1] He was subsequently promoted to colonel, and served in a similar role in Cuba on the staff of John R. Brooke, followed by service on the staff of Frederick Dent Grant.[1]

In 1896, Lewis received 11 votes for the vice presidential nomination on the first ballot at the Democratic National Convention despite not yet having attained the constitutionally required minimum age of 35.[3] In 1900, he was an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic vice presidential nomination;[1] he withdrew before the balloting, and the nomination was won by Adlai Stevenson.[4] In 1903, Lewis relocated to Chicago, where he continued to practice law, and served as the city's corporation counsel from 1905 to 1907.[1] In 1908, he was an unsuccessful candidate for Governor of Illinois.[1]

In 1913, Lewis was elected to the U.S. Senate from Illinois; he served one term (1913–1919), and was the Majority Whip for his entire term. In 1914, he was the Senate's representative at a London conference that considered way to ensure that laws and treaties guaranteeing safe sea travel could still be implemented as World War I was beginning.[1] Lewis also served as chairman of the Committee on Expenditures in the Department of State from 1915 to 1919.[1] A close ally of President Woodrow Wilson, Lewis was a leader in getting much of Wilson's "New Freedom" legislation passed. Lewis also performed unspecified special wartime duties in Europe which led to him receiving knighthoods from the kings of Belgium and Greece.[1] In October 1918, Lewis was aboard an army ship, USS Mount Vernon, when it was hit by German fire.[5] Lewis and others survived the blast, but 35 of the ship's crewmen perished.[6]

Upon his defeat for reelection in 1918, Lewis was offered the ambassadorship to Belgium, but he declined and returned private legal practice in Chicago, Illinois. In 1920, he ran unsuccessfully for governor. He eventually became a partner in the newly named Lewis, Adler, Lederer & Kahn (now known as Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr, LLP).[7]

J. Hamilton Lewis, 1921.[8]

In 1921, 1922, and 1925, Lewis was part of the U.S. delegation to League of Nations conferences held to settle wartime damage claims.[9]

Later career

In 1930, Lewis was again elected to the Senate; he was reelected in 1936 and served from March 4, 1931 until his death.[9] He again served as the Majority Whip, this time from 1933 until his death. In addition, he was chairman of the Committee on Expenditures in Executive Departments from 1933 until his death.[9]

In 1932, Lewis went to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, as the "favorite son" candidate of Illinois, at the behest of Chicago mayor Anton Cermak. Cermak's hope was to use Lewis to keep the Illinois delegates from supporting Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but Lewis later withdrew his name from consideration and released his delegates, many of whom went to FDR and helped secure him the nomination.[10]

As a member of the foreign relations committee, he told the Associated Press in 1938 that Hitler was not going to fight over Czechoslovakia saying, "(Czechoslovakia) is a small matter that could be settled at any time." Sixteen days later Hitler annexed parts of Czechoslovakia, with the assent of Great Britain and France.[11]

Lewis was one of the first to befriend Harry S. Truman after Truman's election to the Senate. During Truman's first few weeks in office in 1935, Lewis sat next to Truman and advised him: "Harry, don't start out with an inferiority complex. For the first six months you'll wonder how the hell you got here. After that you'll wonder how the hell rest of us got here."[12]

Personal life

In 1896, Lewis married Rose Lawton Douglas (1871–1972).[13] Lewis was known to be something of an eccentric in manner and dress, wearing spats well into the 1930s even though they were out of fashion, and sporting Van Dyke whiskers during an era when most men were clean shaven, as well as a collection of "wavy pink toupees".[14] He was courtly in manner, and while some considered him verbose, he was generally acknowledged to be a talented orator.[15][16]

Death and burial

Lewis died at Garfield Hospital in Washington, DC, and his funeral service was held in the Senate Chamber.[9] He was interred at the Abbey Mausoleum near Arlington National Cemetery;[9] he was later reinterred at Fort Lincoln Cemetery in Brentwood, Maryland.[17]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o James Hamilton Lewis, Late a Senator from Illinois, p. 5.
  2. ^ Kirby, Bill (December 20, 2021). "Monday Mystery: Headlines followed U.S. Sen. Hamilton Lewis until he vanished into history". The Augusta Chronicle. Augusta, GA.
  3. ^ "Sewell of Maine Nominated". Los Angeles Evening Express. Los Angeles, CA. July 11, 1896. p. 1 – via
  4. ^ "Stevenson Chosen as Mate for Bryan". The Lincoln Evening News. Lincoln, NE. July 6, 1900. p. 1 – via
  5. ^ Chicago Tribune, October 8, 1918
  6. ^ Chicago Tribune, October 8, 1918
  7. ^ Chicago Tribune, November 11, 1923
  8. ^ Taylor, Julius F. "The Broad Ax". Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections. Retrieved June 18, 2015.
  9. ^ a b c d e James Hamilton Lewis, Late a Senator from Illinois, p. 6.
  10. ^ Hill, Ray (December 16, 2012). "The Senate's Dandy: James Hamilton Lewis of Illinois - The Knoxville Focus". The Knoxville Focus. Retrieved December 16, 2020.
  11. ^ Associated Press (September 13, 1938). "Hitler's Speech Relieves America of War Fears". Fort Myers News-Press. LIV (299): 1. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  12. ^ McCullough, David: Truman. Simon and Schuster, New York, New York. 1992. P. 214
  13. ^ "Wedding Announcement: James Hamilton Lewis and Rose Lawton Douglas". The Constitution. Atlanta, GA. November 30, 1896. p. 7 – via
  14. ^ Brave Companions: Portraits in History, p. 230.
  15. ^ "Hon. James Hamilton Lewis", p. 376.
  16. ^ The Senate, 1789-1989, p. 470.
  17. ^ Historian of the United States Senate. "Biography, James Hamilton Lewis". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Washington, DC: United States Senate. Retrieved April 20, 2022.




  • George, Charles E. (October 1, 1915). "Hon. James Hamilton Lewis". The Lawyer & Banker and Southern Bench & Bar Review. New Orleans, LA: Lawyers and Bankers Company.

External links

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Washington's at-large congressional district

Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Illinois
Served alongside: Lawrence Yates Sherman
Succeeded by
New office Senate Majority Whip
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chair of the Senate State Department Expenditures Committee
Succeeded by
Preceded by U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Illinois
Served alongside: Otis F. Glenn, William H. Dieterich, Scott W. Lucas
Succeeded by
Preceded by Senate Majority Whip
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chair of the Senate Executive Expenditures Committee
Succeeded by
Party political offices
New office Senate Democratic Whip
Succeeded by
First Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Illinois
(Class 2)

Succeeded by
Albert Sprague
Preceded by Democratic nominee for Governor of Illinois
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Albert Sprague
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Illinois
(Class 2)

1930, 1936
Succeeded by
Preceded by Senate Democratic Whip
Succeeded by
This page was last edited on 18 September 2023, at 02:42
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