Biography of James W. White, Judge

Last Updated on September 29, 2011 by

Judge James W. White, judge of the Probate Court at Winfield, is a Kansas man whose courage and resourcefulness deserve the admiration of every citizen. With health, vigor, in full possession of his faculties, and looking forward to an active career, he was suddenly stricken blind and deprived of all those benefits and prospects which otherwise he might have expected to realize. He could not accept complete defeat. He learned to read, as the blind must, by the sense of touch, acquired a trade and for a number of years had not only made himself a useful factor but one of the prominent men in the community of Cowley County.

Perhaps some of his dogged perseverance in the face of difficulty is derived from his Scotch ancestors. The Whites came out of Scotland and settled in Pennsylvania in colonial times. James Wilson White is a native of Kansas, being born at Wakarusa March, 31, 1875. His father was Capt. Thomas White, a veteran officer of the Union army during the Civil war and a pioneer Kansan. Captain White was born in 1833, and in 1861 enlisted as a private in the Seventy-seventh Illinois Infantry. He was with that regiment in all its severe and varied service until the close of the war. Captain White by a loyal performance of his duties rose to the rank of captain and was mustered out as captain of the Mounted Mississippi Riflemen. Soon after the close of the war, in 1866, he drove from Concord, Ohio, to Topeka, Kansas, being accompanied by his wife and five children. When he arrived his total possessions were a wagon and $10 in cash. He soon located on a farm near the interesting old Town of Wakarusa, and then took a homestead claim of 160 acres at Blacksmith Creek in Shawnee County. He hauled posts and lumber from Wakarusa to build fences and the house on his farm, and after living there six years sold the place and bought another farm in Mission Township of Shawnee County. He lived there until 1893, when he retired and spent his last years in Arkansas City, Kansas, where he died in 1897. Though retired from farming, he continued buying and selling farms and became a large land owner in Cowley County. He was a republican and a member of the Presbyterian Church. Captain White married Maria Kelley Sterling, who was born in 1834 and died at Arkansas City in 1910. They had a large family of children. Martha is the wife of W. E. Fitzgerald, a veteran of the Civil war and a retired resident at Topeka. Alice married John Booth, they became farmers north of Topeka and both died there. Alvin J. is in the real estate business at Topeka. Charles Evans had given his time to a career as inventor and lives in Chicago. John H. is a miner at Tucson, Arizona. Minnie B. married W. I. Martin, a newspaper man at Arkansas City. Lieutenant French had had rather a remarkable career. During his residence at Arkansas City he became a leader in the populist party, held an official position in the State House through appointment from L. P. King, then State Senator, was for two years a teacher in the Topeka Reformed School, later was called to a similar position in the Reformed School of Iowa for two years, and in 1900 went back to the State of Nevada, where he now lives. He is a resident of Reno and is now serving his second term in the State Legislature, having been elected a republican in the democratic stronghold. His business is house furnishing, and he had a large establishment at Reno. Della May, the next in age, is unmarried and is a teacher and principal of a ward school in Arkansas City. Etta married Walter Thomas, and they live on a farm near Eearlsville, Illinois. The tenth in age is Judge White. Maude H. married Harry Burns, a railroad man living at Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

James Wilson White was educated in the public schools of Shawnee County and at Topeka, attended high school in Arkansas City, and completed the junior year there. He also attended a private academy at Arkansas City, but left school at the age of nineteen and put in two years of hard work on a farm. For one year he was employed by the Frisco Railway Company and for another year by the Santa Fe. Judge White was with the Ranney-Davis Mercantile Company at Arkansas City a year, and for a similar length of time was with the Kronert Brothers Wholesale and Retail Grocery Company.

In July, 1899, he went West to the Table Mountain Range in Nevada and took up work in the copper mines. He was there only a few months when, as a result of copper poisoning, he lost the sight of both his eyes and had to give up his work in January, 1900. He spent three months in a hospital in San Francisco, and from there returned to Arkansas City. After recovering in a measure his health, Judge White faced his situation bravely and gave earnest thought to the future. In 1904 he attended the institution for the blind at Kansas City, and while there learned to read and also acquired a knowledge of the broom maker’s trade. Thus he was fitted for a place of usefulness and had found a way in spite of his severe handicap to give his talents to worthy and honorable service.

In 1911 Judge White was elected judge of the city court of Arkansas City and filled that position most acceptably for five years. In 1916 he was chosen to the position of probate judge of Cowley County, and now had residence and offices at Winfield. Judge White is a republican, a member of the United Presbyterian Church, and is affiliated with Tohee Tribe No. 8 of the Improved Order of Red Men at Arkansas City, and Winfield Lodge No. 1157, Loyal Order of Moose, of Arkansas City.

Judge White by a former marriage had one child, Helen May, who completed her education in Harden College at Mexico, Missouri, and is now living at Arkansas City. In December, 1916, Judge White married Miss Alsadie Marie Guidinger, daughter of P. G. Guidinger, of Northwood, Iowa, a retired farmer.



Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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