Lee County Biography


James W. Watts, one of the distinguished members of the Lee county bar, has been engaged in general practice at Dixon since 1886. A large and representative clientage has always been accorded him and in addition to his work as advocate and counselor he has become widely known as an educator, having been dean of the law department of Dixon College since June 10, 1889, while in May, 1913, he in connection with a number of students, organized the James W. Watts College of Law.

Born in 1850 in Terre Haute, Indiana, Mr. Watts was but two years of age when his parents removed from that state to Illinois. Settlement was made in Lafayette township, Ogle county, in 1853. and there James W. Watts remained until he reached early manhood, his education being acquired in the public schools. He was reared to farm life and early became familiar with all of the duties and labors that fall to the lot of the agriculturist. In 1869 he began teaching, following this occupation for three years in the country schools of Lee county, and in 1872 he went to Ashton, where he remained as a student until the fall of 1874. He desired to leave the schoolroom for professional activity, however, and at that time entered the law department of the University of Michigan, from which he was graduated on the 30th of March, 1876. He applied himself assiduously to the mastery of the principles of jurisprudence and was well qualified for the arduous duties of the profession when he returned to Ashton and opened a law office. He remained in practice there for nine years and then, seeking a still broader field of labor, came to Dixon in the fall of 1886. Here he has since engaged in general practice and his pronounced ability has given him rank with the foremost members of the bar in this part of the state. The legal profession demands not only a high order of ability but a rare combination of talent?learning, tact, patience and industry. The successful lawyer must be a man of well balanced intellect, thoroughly familiar with the law and practice, of comprehensive general information and possessed of an analytical mind. Possessing all of these requisites, James W. Watts has long been accounted one of the foremost representatives of the Dixon bar, and his ability as an educator in the field of his profession is widely acknowledged. On the 10th of June, 1889, he entered upon the, duties of dean of the law department of Dixon College and is as well a teacher of law in that institution, in May, 1913, the James W. Watts College of Law was organized by students of the law department of the Northern Illinois College of Law and at its head Mr. Watts is taking an active part in maintaining the high standards of legal education in this state.

He is as well intensely interested in general education and the cause of the public schools, recognizing in them one of the chief bulwarks of the nation. Fur six years he served as president of the board of education at Ashton and while there residing was also assessor of the town of Ashton for five years and was supervisor in 1881 Following his removal to Dixon he was elected president of the board of education of North Dixon and so continued for fifteen years. He likewise filled the office of city attorney for two years and his official service has been characterized by the utmost fidelity to duty. In 1889 he was elected justice of the peace and remained in that office until the 1st of May, 1898.

On the 25th of May, 1875, in Ashton, Mr. Watts was united in marriage to Miss Mary Alice Williams and they have one child, Mrs. Clea Bunnell, who was born September 18, 1876. and is the widow of Elwin M. Bunnell. She has two sons, Willard and Elwin, and she and her sons reside with her father.

Mr. Watts is prominently known in fraternal circles. He belongs to the Masonic lodge at Ashton, the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Modern Woodmen of America. As a lawyer and educator he has left the impress of his individuality upon the history of the bar of northern Illinois and, moreover, his personal worth of character commands for him the respect and confidence of all.

Transcribed by Karen Holt - 1914 History of Lee County Illinois Vol 2 by Frank E. Stevens.

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