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James Wolcott Wadsworth, Jr.
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from New York

In office
March 4, 1933 – January 3, 1951
Preceded by Archie D. Sanders
Succeeded by Harold C. Ostertag
Constituency 39th district (1933–45)
New York's 41st congressional district|41st district (1945–51)
Senate Minority Whip

In office
December 6, 1915 – December 13, 1915
Leader Jacob H. Gallinger
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Charles Curtis
United States Senator
from New York

In office
March 4, 1915 – March 4, 1927
Preceded by Elihu Root
Succeeded by Robert F. Wagner
Speaker of the New York Assembly

In office
January 1906 – December 31, 1910
Preceded by S. Frederick Nixon
Succeeded by Daniel D. Frisbie
Member of the State Assembly
from the Livingston County district

In office
January 1, 1905 – December 31, 1910
Preceded by William Robinson
Succeeded by John Winters
Personal details
Born (1877-08-12)August 12, 1877
Geneseo, New York, U.S.
Died June 21, 1952(1952-06-21) (aged 74)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political party Republican
Alma mater Yale University (BA)

James Wolcott Wadsworth Jr. (August 12, 1877 – June 21, 1952) was an American politician, a Republican from New York. He was the son of New York State Comptroller James Wolcott Wadsworth, and the grandson of Union General James S. Wadsworth.[1]

Early life

Wadsworth was born in Geneseo, New York on August 12, 1877. He was the son of New York State Comptroller James Wolcott Wadsworth (1846–1926) and Louisa (née Travers) Wadsworth (1848–1931).[2]

His paternal grandparents were Union General James S. Wadsworth[1] and Mary Craig (née Wharton) Wadsworth (1814–1874). His grandfather built a 13,000 square-foot house in Geneseo in 1835.[3]

Wadsworth attended St. Mark's School, then graduated from Yale in New Haven, Connecticut in 1898, where he was a member of Skull and Bones.[4]:35


After Yale, he served as a private in the Volunteer Army in the Puerto Rican Campaign during the Spanish–American War. Upon leaving the Army, he entered the livestock and farming business, first in New York and then Texas.

He became active early in Republican politics. He was a member of the New York State Assembly (Livingston Co.) in 1905, 1906, 1907, 1908, 1909 and 1910; and was Speaker from 1906 to 1910.

In 1911, while Wadsworth was on a European tour, he met his aunt, Cornelia Wadsworth Ritchie Adair (1837–1921), the widow of Irish businessman John George Adair. She maintained residences at Glenveagh Castle in Ireland and at the JA Ranch in the Texas Panhandle that her husband had financed. Mrs. Adair invited Wadsworth to become general manager of the JA, located southeast of Amarillo. The ranch was begun by her second husband, John "Jack" Adair (hence the initials "JA"), and his partner, the legendary Texas cattleman Charles Goodnight. Wadsworth accepted his aunt's offer and ran the ranch until 1915 when he took his U.S. Senate seat. He once joked that he "had no change of clothes for twelve days and fully expected the Board of Health to be after me." Wadsworth was succeeded as JA manager by Timothy Dwight Hobart.[5]

In 1912, he ran for Lieutenant Governor of New York on the Republican ticket with Job. E. Hedges, but was defeated. In 1914, at the first popular election for the U.S. Senate (until 1911, the U.S. senators had been elected by the New York State Legislature), Wadsworth defeated Democrat James W. Gerard (the incumbent United States Ambassador to Germany) and Progressive Bainbridge Colby. Wadsworth was the Senate Minority Whip in 1915 because the Democrats held the majority of Senate seats. He was re-elected in 1920 but defeated by Democrat Robert F. Wagner in 1926. In 1921, Wadsworth was considered for the post of Secretary of War by President Warren G. Harding but was ultimately passed over in favor of John W. Weeks.

Time, December 28, 1925

Wadsworth was a proponent of individual rights and feared what he considered the threat of federal intervention into the private lives of Americans. He believed that the only purpose of the United States Constitution is to limit the powers of government and to protect the rights of citizens. For this reason, he voted against the Eighteenth Amendment when it was before the Senate. Before Prohibition went into effect, Wadsworth predicted that there would be widespread violations and contempt for the law.[6]

By the mid-1920s, Wadsworth was one of a handful of congressmen who spoke out forcefully and frequently against prohibition. He was especially concerned that citizens could be prosecuted by both state and federal officials for a single violation of prohibition law. This seemed to him to constitute double jeopardy, inconsistent with the spirit if not the letter of the Fifth Amendment. The Fifth Amendment in criminal cases prevents two trials for the same offense in the same level of court, not two trials for the same charge in separate state and national jurisdictions.

In 1926, he joined the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment and made 131 speeches across the country for the organization between then and repeal. His political acumen and contacts proved valuable in overturning prohibition.

He served in the U.S. House from 1933 to 1951, and, like Alton Lennon, Garrett Withers, Claude Pepper, Hugh Mitchell, Matthew M. Neely, and Magnus Johnson, is one of the few modern Senators to serve later in the House of Representatives. In the House of Representatives, he opposed the isolationism of many of his conservative Republican colleagues, opposed anti-lynching legislation on state's rights grounds, rejected minimum wage laws and most of FDR's domestic policy. Although Wadsworth never ran for president, his name was mentioned as a possible candidate in 1936 and 1944.

A confidential 1943 analysis of the House Foreign Affairs Committee by Isaiah Berlin for the British Foreign Office described Wadsworth as[7]

A newcomer to the committee; in the House since 1933. A highly respected and well-liked Congressman, who has voted in support of nearly all the President's foreign policy measures. One of the most forceful and independent-minded men in Congress and a highly skilled parliamentarian. While not favoring any "World New Deal", he is apparently in favor of American co-operation with the rest of the world and United States definite commitments to establish a secure peace but disagrees with any attempt by the United States to interfere with other nations' internal politics or forms of government. A very effective supporter of the Administration's foreign policies, who did yeoman service by his speeches and active lobbying during the recent Lend-Lease debate. Was in the Senate from 1915 to 1927. A wealthy Episcopalian squire, sympathetic to Moral Re-Armament. Age 66. An internationalist.

He was a hereditary companion of Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States and was also a member of the United Spanish War Veterans.

Personal life

Photograph of Miss Alice Hay, taken between 1890 and 1920 by Frances Benjamin Johnston. Alice, Wadsworth's wife, served as president of NAOWS

Wadsworth was married to Alice Evelyn Hay (1880–1960). She was the daughter of former United States Secretary of State John Hay under President Theodore Roosevelt. Through her sister Helen Hay Whitney, she was the aunt of John Hay Whitney, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom.[8] Alice, who opposed women's suffrage, served as president of the National Association Opposed to Women Suffrage, which Wadsworth also opposed. Together, they were the parents of:

  • Evelyn Wadsworth (1903–1972),[8] who married Stuart Symington (1901–1988) in 1924.[9] Symington was the first Secretary of the Air Force and a Democratic U.S. Senator from Missouri, who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1960.
  • James Jeremiah Wadsworth (1905–1984), who served as United States Ambassador to the United Nations.[10]
  • Reverdy J. Wadsworth (1914–1970),[11] who married Eleanor Katherine Roosevelt (1915–1995), the daughter of Henry Latrobe Roosevelt, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy.[12]

Wadsworth died on June 21, 1952, in Washington, D.C. He was buried in Temple Hill Cemetery in Geneseo.[1]


Through his daughter Evelyn, he was the grandfather of James Wadsworth Symington (b. 1927), who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from Missouri as a Democrat, from 1969 to 1977.[2]

Through his son James, he was the grandfather of Alice Wadsworth (1928–1998) who was married to Trowbridge Strong (1925–2001) in 1948 at the home of Wadsworth's grandfather, General James Wadsworth.[3]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "WADSWORTH, James Wolcott, Jr. – Biographical Information". 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Mahood, Wayne (2009) (in en). General Wadsworth: The Life And Wars Of Brevet General James S. Wadsworth. Da Capo Press. p. 14. ISBN 9780786748525. Retrieved February 16, 2018. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Baker, Conrad (February 15, 2016). "General James Wadsworth's House Opens for Weddings". Genesee Sun. 
  4. "Obituary Record of Graduates of the Undergraduate Schools Deceased During the Year 1951–1952". Yale University. September 1, 1969. 
  5. James Wolcott Wadsworth Jr. exhibit at Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, Texas
  6. "SENATOR WADSWORTH; JAMES W. WADSWORTH JR.: A Biographical Sketch. By Henry F. Holthusen. Preface by the Hon. Elihu Root. Illustrated. 243 pp. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. $2.50.". The New York Times. October 31, 1926. 
  7. Hachey, Thomas E. (Winter 1973–1974). "American Profiles on Capitol Hill: A Confidential Study for the British Foreign Office in 1943". pp. 141–153. JSTOR 4634869. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Mrs. Stuart Symington Is Dead; Wife of Senator From Missouri". The New York Times. December 25, 1972. 
  9. "EVELYN WADSWORTH WED IN WASHINGTON; President and Mrs. Coolidge Attend Marriage to William Stuart Symington 3d.". The New York Times. March 2, 1924. 
  10. Treaster, Joseph B. (March 15, 1984). "James J. Wadsworth Dies at 78; Headed U.s. Delegation to U.n.". The New York Times. 
  11. Times, Special To the New York (March 23, 1970). "Reverdy J. Wadsworth Dies; Chairman of Geneseo Bank". The New York Times. 
  12. "MISS ROOSEVELT MARRIED UP-STATE; Daughter of Late Assistant Secretary of Navy Wed to Reverdy J. Wadsworth Brother Is Best Man Many Out of Town Guests Miss Eleanor Roosevelt, Kin of President, Married Up-State to Reverdy Wadsworth". The New York Times. September 5, 1937. 

External links

  • Unrecognised parameter
    Preceded by
    William Robinson
    Member of the New York Assembly
    from the Livingston County district

    Succeeded by
    John Winters
    Political offices
    Preceded by
    S. Frederick Nixon
    Speaker of the New York Assembly
    Succeeded by
    Daniel D. Frisbie
    Party political offices
    First Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from New York
    (Class 3)

    1914, 1920, 1926
    Succeeded by
    George Z. Medalie
    New office Senate Republican Whip
    Succeeded by
    Charles Curtis
    Preceded by
    William Kenyon
    Secretary of the Senate Republican Conference
    Succeeded by
    Frederick Hale
    United States Senate
    Preceded by
    Elihu Root
    U.S. Senator (Class 3) from New York
    Served alongside: James Aloysius O'Gorman, William M. Calder, Royal S. Copeland
    Succeeded by
    Robert F. Wagner
    New office Senate Minority Whip
    Succeeded by
    Charles Curtis
    Preceded by
    George Earle Chamberlain
    Chair of the Senate Military Affairs Committee
    Succeeded by
    David A. Reed
    United States House of Representatives
    Preceded by
    Archie D. Sanders
    Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
    from New York's 39th congressional district

    Succeeded by
    W. Sterling Cole
    Preceded by
    Joseph Mruk
    Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
    from New York's 41st congressional district

    Succeeded by
    Harold C. Ostertag

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