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James A. Reed

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Title: James A. Reed  
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Subject: United States presidential election, 1928, Electoral history of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Bridge Murder case, United States presidential election, 1932, George Howard Williams
Collection: 1861 Births, 1944 Deaths, Coe College Alumni, Democratic Party United States Senators, Iowa Lawyers, Mayors of Kansas City, Missouri, Missouri City Council Members, Missouri Democrats, Missouri Lawyers, Old Right (United States), People from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, People from Richland County, Ohio, Politicians from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, United States Presidential Candidates, 1928, United States Presidential Candidates, 1932, United States Senators from Missouri
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

James A. Reed

James A. Reed
United States Senator
from Missouri
In office
March 4, 1911 – March 4, 1929
Preceded by William Warner
Succeeded by Roscoe C. Patterson
Personal details
Born James Alexander Reed
(1861-11-09)November 9, 1861
Mansfield, Ohio
Died September 8, 1944(1944-09-08) (aged 82)
Fairview, Michigan
Political party Democratic

James Alexander Reed (November 9, 1861 – September 8, 1944) was an American Democratic Party politician from Missouri.


  • Biography 1
  • See also 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4


Reed was born on a farm in Richland County, Ohio. He was a descendant of David Reed.[2] He moved with his family to Cedar Rapids, Iowa at the age of 3. He went to public schools and attended Coe College. He became a lawyer and moved to Kansas City, Missouri in 1887.

Reed served as a city councilor of Kansas City from 1897 to 1898, and as prosecutor of Jackson County from 1898 to 1900. He unsuccessfully prosecuted Jesse E. James, son of the bandit Jesse James, for train robbery in 1899.[3] He was elected Kansas City mayor from 1900 to 1904.

As mayor, Reed rocketed to national fame after overseeing the "Kansas City Spirit" construction of Convention Hall in 90 days in order to host the 1900 Democratic National Convention. The original Convention Hall had opened in 1899. It burned down on April 4, 1900. The Convention was scheduled to be held on July 4. Reed marshaled resources and it opened in time for the convention.

In 1910, he was elected to the United States Senate from Missouri as a Democrat. He served in the Senate for three terms, from 1911 until 1929, when he decided to retire. Unlike many members of his party, he opposed the League of Nations. He sought and failed to receive the Democratic nomination for President. He served as chairman of the Committee on Weights and Measures from 1917 to 1921.

One of his biggest contributions to the State of Missouri came in 1913 when as a member of the Senate Banking Committee he changed his vote to break a deadlock to pass the Federal Reserve Act which resulted in Missouri getting 2 of the 12 Federal Reserve Banks (in St. Louis and Kansas City).[4] Missouri is the only state with multiple headquarters of the Federal Reserve.

Reed was the only senator to vote against the Emergency Quota Act of 1921, which enacted strict limits on immigration.

In 1927 he opposed the reauthorization of the Sheppard–Towner Act, which had been enacted in 1921 to reduce maternal and infant mortality and improve the health of mothers and babies, and attacked the Children's Bureau for its "excessive" federal funding and the "power and control" Sheppard-Towner gave to Grace Abbott, Bureau Chief. On the floor of the Senate, Reed ridiculed the Children's Bureau and suggested, "We would better reverse the proposition and provide for a committee of mothers to take charge of the old maids [in the Children's Bureau] and teach them how to acquire a husband and have babies of their own."

The same year, Reed unsuccessfully represented Henry Ford in Shapiro v. Ford, a federal libel lawsuit, brought by Aaron Shapiro, leader of the American husbandry movement.[5][6] Through his newspaper, The Dearborn Independent, Ford had published a series of articles containing excerpts from his book, The International Jew, which amongst other allegations, contended that Shapiro, who was Jewish, and the American husbandry movement were part of an international Jewish conspiracy to defraud American farmers.[6]

In 1929, as Reed was retiring from the Senate, H.L. Mencken wrote a tribute to him, praising Reed for his opposition to what Mencken called "demagogues" and "charlatans" from both political parties.[7] Reed then retired from politics and moved back to Missouri where he continued to practice law. He was also an active Civitan during this time.[8] He died at his summer home in Oscoda County, Michigan.

In March 1931, Reed was the attorney for Myrtle Bennett, who had shot her husband John Bennett, a perfume salesman, on September 29, 1929, after a quarrel about a just completed bridge game. The trial, held in Jackson County, Missouri, courthouse, received world-wide coverage.[9] During the trial he discovered that his neighbor and married mistress Nell Donnelly Reed was two months pregnant with his child.[10] Donnelly's husband had threatened to kill himself if she ever became pregnant since he was unable to have children.[10] Reed refused to divorce his wife of 43 years, especially to marry an Irishwoman.[10] Donnelly travelled to Europe and returned in the Fall with a supposedly adopted son named David, born September 10, 1931. Reed and Donnelly agreed not to take any further steps until his wife died.[10]

In December 1931 Donnelly and her chauffeur were abducted at gunpoint and held to ransom.[11] Reed closely involved himself in the case, and was alleged to have called upon the assistance of

Political offices
Preceded by
James M. Jones
Mayor of Kansas City, Missouri
Succeeded by
Jay H. Neff
United States Senate
Preceded by
William Warner
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Missouri
Served alongside: Harry B. Hawes
Succeeded by
Roscoe C. Patterson

External links

James A. Reed, "The Pestilence of Fanaticism", American Mercury, v. 5, no. 17 (May 1925) 1-7.

Lee Meriwether, Jim Reed: Senatorial Immortal; A Biography. Webster Groves, MO: International Mark Twain Society, 1948. 273 pp. illus., ports. 22 cm.

Jan Hults, The Senatorial Career of James Alexander Reed. Unpublished Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Kansas, History, 1987. Bibliography: leaves 317-331.

Lela B. Costin, Two Sisters for Social Justice, Illinois, 1983.

  1. ^ a b Wilding, Jennifer (24 May 1987). "First A Lady: The unlikely story of gentlewoman Nell Donnelly, tycoon." (PDF). Star Magazine. Retrieved 7 July 2013. 
  2. ^ "The Speer-Aiken Family" (PDF). August 13, 1979. Retrieved January 7, 2014. 
  3. ^ Little,, L. A. (2012). The Trial of Jesse James, Jr.  
  4. ^ A Foregone Conclusion: The Founding of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis by James Neal Primm - - Retrieved January 1, 2007
  5. ^ Saker Woeste, Victoria. "Suing Henry Ford: America's First Hate Speech Case". Suing Henry Ford: America's First Hate Speech Case. American Bar Foundation. Retrieved June 1, 2012. 
  6. ^ a b Victoria Saker Woeste | Insecure Equality: Louis Marshall, Henry Ford, and the Problem of Defamatory Antisemitism, 1920–1929 | The Journal of American History, 91.3 | The History Cooperative
  7. ^ H.L. Mencken, "Editorial," American Mercury, v. 16, no. 64 (April 1929) 410.
  8. ^ Leonhart, James Chancellor (1962). The Fabulous Octogenarian. Baltimore Maryland: Redwood House, Inc. p. 277. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b c d e Pomerantz, Gary M. (2009). The Devil's Tickets: A Vengeful Wife, a Fatal Hand, and a New American Age. New York: Crown Publishing Group. pp. 108–109.  
  11. ^ a b c McMillen, Margot Ford; Roberson, Heather (2002). Called to courage four women in Missouri history. Columbia: University of Missouri Press. pp. 100–126.  
  12. ^ Harper, Kimberly. "Historic Missourians: Nell Donnelly Reed". The State Historical Society of Missouri. Retrieved 6 July 2013. 


See also

After Reed's wife died in 1932, Donnelly divorced her husband and the two were married in December 1933.[1][11] He died just two days short of his biological son's thirteenth birthday, having caught pneumonia after spending a morning fishing in the rain.[10]

[11] The subsequent court cases led to three men being imprisoned for the crime and the controversial acquittal of a fourth who claimed to have thought he was abducting someone else.[12]

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