1883 Trial: Counselors For and Against Frank James

An account published in the Weekly Kansas City Star  on Sept. 4, 1940, offers the following description of legal counsel participating in the 1883 trial of Frank James at Gallatin, MO:

“Rarely has the legal counsel on both sides of a case been composed of such eminent men… not the least, William H. Wallace, the fiery, crusading prosecutor of Jackson County who had already sent one of the James Gang, William Ryan, to the penitentiary. Two notable figures headed the defense, Charles P. Johnson of St. Louis, former lieutenant governor of Missouri, and Judge John F. Philips of Kansas City…

“Curiously, the two leading defense attorneys (Johns and Philips, had been officers in the Union Army. On the other hand the prosecutor, Wallace, was a former Confederate. But the political sympathies of counsel had nothing to do with the injection of the war issue in the trial [that come when cavalry leader, Gen. Jo Shelby, appeared in court to help one of his old comrades facing charges].”

The following about the 1883 trial of Frank James is taken from an address given by General John T. Barker for a meeting of The Boone County Bar Association held at Columbia (MO) on August 7, 1952. He prefaced this summary by stating, “The counsel for both sides were the ablest lawyers in the Midwest”:

Counsel for the State

Prosecutor Wm. Wallace of Jackson County, with statewide political ambitions

WILLIAM H. WALLACE of Jackson County. Prosecuting Attorney four years, judge of Criminal Court, 1907. Great orator.

WILLIAM D. HAMLTON of Gallatin. Able lawyer.

JOHN H. SHANKLIN, president of Missouri Bar, 1882, member of Shanklin, Low & McDougal. Able lawyer.

MARCUS A. LOW of Gallatin, member Shanklin, Low & McDougal. Great lawyer and became General Solicitor of Rock Island Railroad an the delegate to the Republican Convention.

HENRY CLAY McDOUGAL of Gallatin. Went from Virginia to Gallatin in 1867. Became a member of the Low firm. Moved to Kansas City and was head of the firm of McDougal & Sebree; president of the Missouri Bar, 1894.

JOSHUA F. HICKLIN of Gallatin. Able lawyer.

Counsel for the Defense

Chief Defense Attorney John F. Philips, left his Supreme Court post to participate in the trial

JUDGE JOHN F. PHILIPS of Kansas City. Union Colonel and a member of the firm of Vest & Phillips. Member of Congress, Supreme Court Commissioner. Judge, Court of Appeals and United States District Judge. Great orator.

JAMES H. SLOVER of Kansas City. Able lawyer and judge of the Jackson County Circuit Court.

JOHN M. GLOVER of St. Louis. Able lawyer and member of Congress.

CHRISTOPHER T. GARNER of Richmond. Able lawyer and served in legislature.

JOSHUA W. ALEXANDER of Gallatin, Speaker, Missouri House of Representatives, Judge of the Circuit Court, member of Congress, and member of Wilson’s Cabinet.

GOVERNOR CHARLES P. JOHNSON of St. Louis. Great criminal lawyer, great orator, Lieutenant Governor of Missouri.

WILLIAM H. RUSH, able lawyer — made opening statement — mother a daughter of Judge James H. Birch, who sued Benton.