John Watson Barr

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John Watson Barr
John Watson Barr cropped.jpg
Justice of the United States District Court for the District of Kentucky

In office
April 16, 1880 – February 21, 1899
Nominated by Rutherford B. Hayes
Preceded by William H. Hays
Succeeded by Walter Evans
Personal details
Born (1826-12-17)December 17, 1826
Versailles, Kentucky
Died December 31, 1907(1907-12-31) (aged 81)
Louisville, Kentucky
Resting place Cave Hill Cemetery
Political party Whig
Spouse(s) Susan P. Rogers
Alma mater Transylvania University
Profession Lawyer
Religion Presbyterian
Signature John Watson Barr sig.jpg
Military service
Allegiance US flag 34 stars.svg Union
Service/branch Home Guard
Rank Adjutant general
Unit Louisville brigade
Battles/wars American Civil War

John Watson Barr (December 17, 1826 – December 31, 1907) was a United States federal judge in Kentucky.

Early life and family

John Watson Barr was born in Versailles, Kentucky on December 17, 1826.[1] He was the son of William and Ann (Watson) Barr.[1] His father was a merchant who worked in both Versailles and Louisville, Kentucky.[1]

Barr received his early education from private tutors and private schools in Woodford County.[1] He then matriculated to Transylvania University to study law.[1] Upon his graduation in 1847 he commenced practice in Versailles.[1] In 1854, he moved to Louisville and formed a law firm with Joseph B. Kinkead.[1] After eight years, the two dissolved the partnership by mutual consent, but remained friends.[2] Barr continued in private practice until 1864, when he formed a new law firm with John Kemp Goodloe.[2]

On November 23, 1859, Barr married Susan P. Rogers.[1] The couple had seven children – John W. Barr, Jr., Anna W. Barr, Caroline H. Barr, Susan R. Barr, Josephine P. Barr, Elise R. Barr, and Jason Rogers Barr.[3] The family attended College Street Presbyterian Church.[3]

Barr had begun advocating the gradual abolition of slavery as early as 1849.[1] When the Civil War commenced, he helped organize the Kentucky Home Guard and served as adjutant general of the Louisville brigade.[1] He was also involved in the organization of several Union regiments in Kentucky.[1] After the war, Barr returned to his law practice.[1] In 1868, Alexander Pope Humphrey joined the firm, which continued until Barr's appointment to a federal judgeship in 1880.[2]

Public career

Like his father, Barr was associated with the Whig Party in his early life.[2] Following the dissolution of the Whig Party, he joined the Democratic Party.[1] After the formation of the Republican Party, he fervently adhered to that party.[3]

From 1868 to 1870, Barr served as president of the Board of Louisville Sinking Fund Commissioners and served several terms on the Louisville City Council.[3] For twenty years, he was director of the Bank of Kentucky.[1]

On April 9, 1880, President Rutherford B. Hayes nominated Barr to the U.S. District Court for the District of Kentucky, replacing William H. Hays.[1] He was confirmed by the United States Senate on April 16, 1880, and received his commission the same day.[1]

Barr retired on February 21, 1899.[1] He died in Louisville at age 81 and was buried in Cave Hill Cemetery.[1]


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 "John Watson Barr". History of the Sixth Circuit
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Biographical Cyclopedia, p. 37
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Biographical Cyclopedia, p. 38


Legal offices
Preceded by
Bland Ballard
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Kentucky
Succeeded by
Walter Evans

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