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Past and Present of Livingston County
Volume 2. Biographies
by Major A. J. Roof. 1913
James Edward Watkins exerts as editor and publisher of the Chillicothe Constitution an important and beneficial influence upon the community in wielding public opinion in the interests of the betterment and upbuilding of the city which he calls his home. He was born August 1, 1866, in Adams county, Illinois, and is a son of Arthur Watkins, a native of Indiana, who was born June 14, 1830, in Scott county, The father removed with his family to Adams county, Illinois, at an early date and there he was reared and grew to manhood. In 1870 he made his entrance into the state of Missouri and first located in Harrison county, where he successfully engaged in agricultural pursuits until the spring of 1879, when he removed to Jamesport, making his home there until June, 1890. In that year he came to Chillicothe, where he now makes his home at 1122 West Webster street. He has lived an active and industrious life and has attained prosperity along his lines of endeavor. His political views are coincident with the democratic party. On July 30, 1856, Arthur Watkins married in Adams county, Illinois, Miss Martha Elizabeth Craig, who was born in that county and state, April 12. 1838. She passed her girlhood days there until her marriage and then made it her home with her husband until 1870, when they removed to Missouri. She passed away March 21, 1890, at Jamesport, this state. The paternal grandfather of James Edward Watkins was William Watkins, who was born in Kentucky in 1793 and during all his life followed farming pursuits. His political association was with the democratic party. He died in Adams county, Illinois, in 1869. In 1828 he was married to Mary Elizabeth Craig, who also was born in the state of Kentucky in 1797, but their marriage took place in Scott county, Indiana. They were the parents of seven children: William, who died in 1868; Andrew. who died in 1889; David, who passed away in 1892; Priscilla, whose demise occurred in 1907; Hester, living at Quincy, Illinois; James H., of Cambridge, Illinois; and Arthur, the father of our subject. The maternal grandfather, John Craig, was a native of Indiana but was reared in Adams county, Illinois, where he grew to manhood and subsequently engaged in agricultural pursuits. He was a democrat in politics and a member of the Christian church. He passed away in Adams county, Illinois, in 1859. Mrs. Arthur Watkins had one sister, Mrs. Margaret Craig Leach, who is making her home at Coquille, Oregon, and is sixty-five years of age. Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Watkins were the parents of six children, including Charles D., who was born September 17, 1860, and makes his home in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and Emma J. Watkins Fife, born May 29, 1872, who now lives at Phoenix, Arizona. William L. Watkins, another member of the family, was for many years the owner and editor of the Chillicothe Constitution and died in that city July 6. 1912. As such he exerted an influence upon the community which has always been for good, decrying lawlessness and dishonesty and promoting every measure and movement which might result to the betterment and welfare of the city.
James Edward Watkins was graduated front the public schools of Jamesport, Missouri. under Superintendent Ben F. Carroll, who is the present governor of Iowa, in the spring of 1888. After the completion of his fundamental education he entered the office of Callison & Divorss at Jamesport and studied law for a period of two years. In June, 1889, he was admitted to the bar at Gallatin, Missouri, and in June, 1890, removed to Chillicothe, where he has since continuously resided, having practiced law successfully since being admitted to the bar. He is well versed in matters of legal procedure, has a clear and receptive mind and well knows how to apply the principles of jurisprudence to the cases with which he is entrusted. He has built up a practice of considerable proportions and enjoys a reputation for carrying his cases to a successful end. He served as attorney for the State Building and Loan Department from June, 1905, to June, 1909, under William L. Watkins, his brother, who held the position of state supervisor of building and loan associations. On July 6, 1912, upon the death of his brother, William L., owner and publisher of the Chillicothe Constitution, J. E. Watkins fell heir to a large share and interest in the publication and plant and became the editor and publisher of this paper. Its editorials are forceful and reflect the stand the paper takes upon all public questions. Its news columns are well written and its circulation is extensive.
On July 7, 1892, Mr. Watkins was married at Chillicothe, Missouri, to Miss Martha Pearl Ireland, who was born in Livingston county, this state, March 10, 1870, They are the parents of two sons: Clarence Edwin, born July 1, 1894; and William Irvin, born June 3, 1898.
Mr. Watkins affiliates with the democratic party and he is influential in the local councils of its organization. From May, 1898, to May, 1900, he served as police judge and city clerk and made a record in these positions which is highly creditable. He is a member of the Christian church and serves at the present time as a board member thereof. His fraternal relations extend to the Masons, the Knights of Pythias, the Modern Woodmen of America, the Knights of the Maccabees and the National Americans. Viewed from every angle, the life work of Mr. Watkins has been useful and he has attained a position in the community as one of its foremost citizens. At all times lie has been actuated by laudable ambition which has carried him forward to success. He is unusually broad minded and tolerant and entertains intelligent views upon all public questions, and what he has achieved redounds to the credit and benefit of the community as much as it has contributed to his individual interests.