James Edward Fenton
J. E. FENTON is an able member of the Nome bar and a lawyer who has acquired preeminent distinction in the practice of criminal law. He was born in Clark County, Missouri, April 6, 1857, and crossed the plains in a prairie schooner
with his parents in 1865. The family settled in Yamhill County, Oregon, in the
wonderfully fertile valley of the Willamette, where his father engaged in farming. The
subject of this sketch received a public school education and took a classical course in
Christian College, Monmouth, Oregon.
He began his career in educational work, and taught in an academy for two years. He subsequently studied law under Judge William
Ramsay, of Salem, Ore., and was admitted to the bar in 1882. He practiced law at
Eugene, Ore., until 1900, when he moved to Spokane, Washington, and engaged in
practice with his brother under the name of Fenton & Fenton. In 1892 he was elected
prosecuting attorney for the county, a majority of 1,257 votes attesting his popularity.
In 1896 he was elected as a delegate from Washington to the Democratic National
Convention at Chicago, and was subsequently chosen as the messenger to carry the
vote of his state to the electoral college and cast it for Bryan. He practiced law in
Spokane until September, 1899, when he went to Nome. He returned to Washington that winter and went back to Nome the following spring, residing there continuously
until the fall of 1902. Since then he has spent his winters in the states returning to
Nome each spring where he has a large clientage and a lucrative law practice.
He has been retained as the leading attorney in the most noted criminal suits that have
been tried by the Nome court. Some of these cases have been hard fights in which
appeals were carried to the Supreme Court, but Mr. Fenton has skillfully secured a
Mr. Fenton's judgment of character makes him tactful in the selection of a jury, and
he is fluent and logical in argument; but his greatest strength lies in his knowledge of the
law, and the ingeniousness of a resourceful mind. In behalf of a client he is like an optimistic doctor who believes that "while there is life there is hope." He is a highly esteemed
member of the bar, and he has many friends in Nome who appreciate his worth as a man
as well as a lawyer.
Source: Nome and Seward Peninsula by
R. S. Harrison. Seattle: The Metropolitan Press, 1905.