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Judge James Wickersham

JAMES WICKERSHAM is judge of the District Court of the Third Judicial Division of Alaska. When Judge Noyes was called before the appellate court of San Francisco to answer the charge of contempt, Judge Wickersham was instructed by the Attorney General to hold a term of court in Nome. Although he was in a strange bailiwick and confronted with extraordinary conditions, Judge Wickersham soon earned the commendation of the public and commanded the respect of litigants. Judge Wickersham was born in Marion County, Illinois, August 24, 1857.

He received his education in the common schools of his native state, and was a law student under Governor Palmer of Springfield, Illinois, from 1878 until 1880. He subsequently filled the position of law clerk in the Census Bureau of the United States until 1883, when he moved to Tacoma, Washington. In 1884 he was elected probate judge of Pierce County, Washington. He filled this position for two terms. He was city attorney of Tacoma in 1894 during the famous million-dollar law suit between Tacoma and the water company. He was successful in this litigation. In 1898 he was elected to the legislature, and had the distinction of nominating Senator Foster for the United States Senate.

June 6, 1900, he received his appointment as District Judge of the Third Judicial Division of Alaska, and in the following summer came to Nome by direction of the United States Attorney General and filled the position on the Nome bench until the appointment of Judge Alfred S. Moore to succeed Arthur H. Noyes. During Judge Wickersham's connection with the judicial affairs of the Nome District it was necessary for him to hold a term of court at Dutch Harbor. He left Nome August 10, taking with him besides the officers of the court, a grand and petit jury, as there were not enough citizens of the United States at Dutch Harbor from whom to impanel a jury. The case to be tried was one of great importance. The defendant was Fred Hardy, charged with murder. The result of the trial was the conviction of Hardy for murder in the first degree and he was sentenced to be hanged.

Judge Wickersham possesses great executive ability. He has a keen intellect and an active mind. Possessing a temperament indicative of nerve energy he thinks and works with great rapidity. He is prompt in decision, aggressive in action and resolute and determined in a course which he believes to be right. His work in Alaska has obtained for him the approval and confidence of the Department of Justice in Washington.  

Source: Nome and Seward Peninsula by R. S. Harrison. Seattle: The Metropolitan Press, 1905.




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