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James McNenny

JAMES McNenny,judge of the circuit court,with jurisdiction over Lawrence,Butte and Meade counties,his home being at Sturgis,has long enjoyed statewide reputation as an able lawyer and jurist. He was born in Chicago, Illinois, December 6, 1874. His paternal grandfather was one of the pioneers of that state,settling in early days upon a homestead near Elgin,where he continued to reside until his life's labors were ended. He was a native of New York and was of Scotch-Irish decent. His son,James McNenny,Sr.,lived in Chicago until his death and was engaged in the dairy business. He married Julia Harrington,a native of Ireland but now a resident of Meade county, South Dakota.

Judge McNenny attended the Chicago public schools until nine years of age,when in 1884 his mother with her four children came to South Dakota,settling upon a farm in Meade county. The entire cash capital of the family at that time was less than one hundred dollars. James McNenny attended the only district school available,walking three miles across the prairies in order to receive instruction therein given. He later had the benefit of two years' study in the schools of Rapid City and in 1889 he began reading law in offices of Mike McMahon.He afterward entered the Highland Park College at Des Moines,Iowa,where he pursued the study of law and special courses,including oratory. He had previously learned stenography and he made his way through college by doing stenographic work for lawyers in the evenings and on Saturdays. He was graduated with the class of 1901 and the took the Iowa state examination,which won him admission to the bar with the remarkable percentage of ninety-nine and one-half. In July of the same year he was admitted to the South Dakota bar and located for practice in Sturgis.The following year he joined Charles C.Polk, under the firm name of Polk & McNenny,which association was continued until 1908. He was elected states attorney of Meade county in 1903 and continued in that office until 1907. In February of the latter year he was appointed county judge by Governor Crawford and was reelected to the office at the following election,continuing upon the bench until January 1,1911. He made an excellent record in that position and "won golden opinions from all sorts of people"by reason of the fairness and impartiality of his decisions. He acted as city attorney for Sturgis for a period of six years and in January, 1914, he was appointed to the circuit bench by Governor Byrne,so that he is now serving as judge of the circuit which embraces the three counties of Lawrence,Butte and Meade. He has the happy faculty of losing personal prejudices and any peculiarities of disposition in the impartiality of the office to which life,liberty and property must look for protection.

Throughout the period of his residence in South Dakota,James McNenny has been an important factor in public life,contributing in large measure to those movements which have worked for the benefit and up building of city,county and state For some years he served as clerk of the board of education of Sturgis. He has been for years much interested in state military affairs. Joining the South Dakota National Guard as a private,he has advanced through successive promotions to the rank of major and is now commanding the Third Battalion of the South Dakota National Guard. He was in 1908 a member of the first rifle team sent to the national encampment at Camp Perry. For one year he served as quartermaster and for a time was judge advocate general of the military organization of the state.

on the 11th of February, 1902 Mr. McNenny was united in marriage to Miss Kate Halbert, a daughter of James B. and Margaret (Moore)Halbert and a niece of the late Judge Joseph B. Moore,of Lead,South Dakota. James B. Halbert was a prominent railway builder residing in Apopka, Florida,and both he and his wife came of old southern colonial families. To Mr. and Mrs. McNenny have been born five children, namely: Kate,Harold,Marion,Mabel and Wilbur.

Judge McNenny is a republican in his political views and does all in his power to further the interests of the party and secure the adoption of the principles which he believes are best adapted to good government. He is a Mason and a member of the Ancient Order of United Workmen and his wife has membership with Daughters of the American Revolution. They occupy an enviable position in the social circles of city and state and Judge McNenny is recognized as an exceptionally able lawyer,with a splendid record as a jurist since his elevation to the bench.



This biography transcribed from pages 823-824 in"History of Dakota Territory" by George W. Kinsbury, Vol. IV (1915)

Transcribed Nov, 28 2008©by Lyle B. Johnson