"One by one, who next?" These were the concluding words of the address by Judge Wright at the funeral of his old and tried friend, the Hon. W. H. Seevers. It was an address filled to the brim with all the pathos of human kindness. It was a most appropriate ending of his words upon that occasion, an appropriate opening upon this. "One by one, who next?" Shall it be you or me? It is sure to be some one, and very soon will be both you and me.
James Gamble Day was born in Jefferson county, Ohio, June 28, 1832, and died at Des Moines, Iowa, May 1, 1898. His ending came without a note of warning, silently and swiftly. That change which all human flesh is heir to, was unheralded. As it were, in the twinkling of an eye, the mortal had put on immortality and the heart which had so often beaten in sympathy for his fellow men, was stilled forever.
His father, George Day, was a native of Maryland, of English descent, and his ancestors were among the early settlers of this country. His mother, Sarah Day, nee Gamble, was a native of Lycoming county, Pennsylvania, and of Irish extraction. The father in early life moved to Ohio and there married. There is nothing in connection with the early life of Judge Day which gave any prophecy of the coming man, over or beyond that which is attached to the boyhood life of the most of our American children. There is nothing in it which calls our attention to any especial mention. He received such an education as was obtainable in an academy located at Richmond and this education was supplemented by attendance upon the Cincinnati Law School, where he graduated in 1857, and immediately thereafter removed to Afton, in Union county, in this State, remaining there three years. In 1860, he removed to Sidney, and in the fall of 1861, entered the military service of the United States as a Lieutenant in Company F, 15th Regiment, Iowa Volunteer Infantry, and was afterwards promoted to a Captaincy of Company I, in the same regiment.
At the battle of Shiloh and in the first day's fight, he was severely wounded and although afterwards he returned to his regiment, he never fully recovered from his wound and was compelled on account of it to resign, which he did in September following.
While at the front, he was nominated as a candidate for District Judge and elected, which office he held until June, 1870, resigning only to accept the appointment of Judge of the Supreme Court to fill a vacancy occasioned by the election of Hon. George G. Wright to the Senate of the United States, and he held the office of Supreme Judge until January 1st, 1884.
At the expiration of the term of office as Supreme Judge, he engaged in the active practice of the law at the Capital of our State, and continued in such practice until the time of his death.
He married Minerva C. Manly at Jefferson county, Ohio. To them were born eight children, seven surviving both father and mother, the mother departing this life exactly six weeks prior to that of her distinguished husband. These seven children have already entered into the activities of a busy life and promise even greater things than were accomplished by their father.
Judge Day for many years had been an acceptable member of the Presbyterian church, and as layman and office-bearer therein, went out and in before the people, commanding from and retaining the respect of all with whom he came in contact, giving to the world through the life he lived, unimpeachable testimony, the verity of the Christian religion and an example worthy of our earnest emulation.
He had a commanding presence, was above the average in height, with a voice made up of deep chest tones and so was able to make himself heard by large audiences. Backed by an impulsive nature and a vigorous intellect, he was a power in any cause which he espoused. His record as a lawyer is made in our reports and in such enduring form as has become, and will continue, a part inseparable from our State's history and, that record will ever stand as the surest commendation of the man and of his life work. It will ever prove not only an incentive to the young lawyer, but a promise to him as well, that a studious life, coupled with an unblemished character, will surely bring to the possessor a fair standing in his profession and reasonable success in any laudable ambition. "One by one, who next?"
SOURCE: Iowa State Bar Association, Report of the Second Annual Meeting of the Iowa State Bar Association Held at Davenport, Iowa July 29 and 30, 1896, p.200-6