JUDGE J. M. DICKINSON, General Solicitor and Counselor Illinois Central Railroad.
Jacob McGavock Dickinson was born in Columbus, Miss., January 30, 1851. His parents were Henry Dickinson, a descendant of Henry Dickinson who came from England to Virginia in 1654, and Anna McGavock, oldest daughter of Jacob McGavock and Louisa McGavock, daughter of Felix Grundy, residents of Nashville, Tenn. Henry Dickinson was an eminent lawyer of the Mississippi bar, a chancellor for many years, presidential elector, and one of the commissioners sent by his State to Delaware on the question of secessionn.
J. M. Dickinson was married April 20, 1876, at Nashville, Tenn., to Martha Maxwell Overton, daughter of John and Harriet Maxwell Overton. They have three children, John Overton, Henry, and J. M. Dickinson, Jr. Judge Dickinson passed his early youth in Columbus, Miss., where near the end of the great war, at the age of fourteen, he volunteered and served under Gen. Ruggles in the operations about Columbus. He is a member of the Isham Harris Bivouac, C. S. A. at Columbus. At the close of the war he moved to Nashville, and remained there until November, 1899, when he went to Chicago. He attended the public schools of Nashville, the Montgomery Bell Academy there, and graduated at the University of Nashville under the chancellorship of Gen. E. Kirby Smith, taking the A.B. degree in 1871 and the degree of A.M. in 1872. In 1871-72 he was assistant professor of Latin in the University of Nashville. During that period he took a night course of physiology and demonstration of anatomy in the medical department. In the fall of 1872 he entered the Columbia Law School, New York, under the teaching of Theodore Dwight, and took both the junior and senior courses. In the summer of 1873 he traveled in Europe, and that October he matriculated in the University of Leipzig for the purpose of studying German and taking a course in Roman law and political economy. In 1874 he took a course of lectures on literature in the Sorbonne and in the Civil Law in L'ecole du Droit at Paris. In the fall of 1874 he was admitted to the bar at Nashville. He was in the years 1890-93 specially appointed by Governors Buchanan, Taylor, and Turney to serve upon the Supreme Bench, and when Chief Justice Horace H. Lurton resigned to accept a position on the Federal Bench, Governor Turney, on March 23, 1893, tendered to Judge Dickinson an appointment to a position on the Supreme Bench. Judge Dickinson, while never a candidate for office, always took an active part in politics. He was specially prominent during the bitter contest in Tennessee growing out of the State debt, and was in 1882 chairman of the State Credit wing of the Democratic party. Twice he was chairman of the Committee of Fifty of the Reform Association of Nashville, which in two bitter and prolonged contests completely overthrew the ring politicians and political bosses. Judge Dickinson, on December 14, 1889, before the Bankers' Association of Chicago, delivered an address upon the “Financial and General Condition of the South” which attracted wide attention from the press generally and was accepted by the press and leading men of the South as an acceptable exposition of the Southern situation. In 1896 he was selected to deliver at the Centennial Exposition at Nashville the address commemorative of the Hundredth Anniversary of the Admission of Tennessee into the Union. On February 6, 1895, he was commissioned Assistant Attorney-General of the United States, and served to the end of Mr. Cleveland's term, when he resigned. He was then made District Attorney for the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company for Tennessee and Northern Alabama, and also engaged in general practice. He also became a professor in the Law School of Vanderbilt University, where he taught until his removal to Chicago. November 1, 1899, he succeeded Judge James Fentress as General Solicitor of the Illinois Central Railroad Company. On November 1, 1801, he succeeded Mr. B. F. Ayer as General Counsel of that company, the duties of both offices then being combined.
In April, 1903, he was selected by the President, in connection with Mr. David T. Watson, of Pittsburg, as Counsel, and Mr. Hannis Taylor, of Mobile, Ala., and Mr. Chandler P. Anderson, of New York City, as Associate Counsel, to represent the Government of the United States before the Alaska Boundary Commission in London in September, 1903.
SOURCE: Confederate Veteran, Volume 11, No. 8, August 1903, p. 372