JAMES B. WALLER

Source: Album of Genealogy and Biography, Cook County, Illinois with Portraits 3rd ed. revised and extended (Chicago: Calumet Book & Engraving Co., 1895), pp. 28-29

JAMES B. WALLER.  Among the noted members of the Waller family in England, were Sir William Waller, a distinguished General and Member of Parliament during Cromwell’s time, and Edmund Waller, the poet.  A member of this family came to Virginia about the time of the Restoration, and settled in Spottsylvania County.  Among his descendants were John and William Edmund Waller, eminent Baptist ministers, who suffered considerable persecution from the Church of England.  Richard, son of Rev. William Edmund Waller, was the father of C. S. Waller, lately Commissioner of Public Works in Chicago, and at one time Assistant State Auditor of Kentucky.  William S., another son of Rev. William Edmund Waller, was for upwards of forty years Cashier of the Bank of Kentucky.  The four sons of William S. Waller, Henry, James B., William and Edward, became prominent citizens of Chicago.

James B. Waller was born in Frankfort, Kentucky, January 20, 1817.  He enjoyed the best educational advantages obtainable at that day, spending four years at Center College, Danville, Kentucky, after which he became a student at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, from which he graduated in 1836.  He then entered the law department of Transylvania University at Lexington, Kentucky, and received his diploma from that institution two years later.  He was admitted to the Bar the same year, and began practice at Bowling Green, in partnership with Warner L. Underwood.  In 1842 he located at Lexington, becoming a partner of Thomas F. Marshall, one of the most celebrated American orators of that time.  They practiced at the same Bar with Henry Clay, Chief-Justice Robertson, and other eminent men.

Being naturally of a retiring and domestic inclination, Mr. Waller became more noted as a counsellor than as an advocate, and for twenty years was one of the leading men of Kentucky in that department of his profession.  He first visited Chicago in 1849, at which time he first began making investments in realty at this place.   Nine years later he became a permanent resident, and entered into partnership with his brother Edward and his brother-in-law, James Lees, in a general commission business.  The firm was known in Chicago as Waller & Company, and in New York as Lees & Waller.  Their transactions in general merchandise grew to large extent, and were terminated in 1863, by the dissolution of the firm, when Mr. Waller retired from active business.  He devoted most of his attention thereafter to the management of the large estate of his brother-in-law, R. S. C. A. Alexander, of which he had been appointed an administrator.

In February, 1847, he was married to Miss Lucy Alexander, daughter of Robert Alexander, of Frankfort, Kentucky.  The last-named was formerly private secretary of Benjamin Franklin at the Court of France, and for many years in later life was President of the Bank of Kentucky.  Mrs. Waller is a niece of Thomas Hankey, for some years Governor of the Bank of England.

Mr. Waller was a Presbyterian in faith, and a leader in church and Sunday-school work.  He was earnest in his convictions, a deep student and independent thinker, and always declined to give his sanction to anything which his mind and conscience did not approve.  In early life he was an ardent Whig, being a friend and supporter of Henry Clay, to whom he was naturally drawn during their intimate association in professional life.  In 1852 he became a supporter of Stephen A. Douglas, and continued to be a conservative Democrat during the balance of his existence.  He believed in a tariff for revenue only, and though tendered some of the most important public positions in the gift of the Nation, he always declined to become a candidate for office.  He was ever a friend to his slaves, to whom he offered their freedom before he decided to leave Kentucky.  None of them accepted this privilege, and all remained upon the plantation as long as their kind master continued to reside there.  Some of them continued to seek his advice and assistance as long as he lived.  He died at his home in Chicago, August 4, 1887.

Among other literary productions, Mr. Waller was the author of several valuable discussions on political economy.  His “True Doctrine of States Rights” and “The Right of Eminent Domain, and the Police Power of the State” attracted wide attention and received many encomiums from public men in all parts of the country.  He also wrote interesting “Reminiscences of Benjamin Franklin as a diplomatist, and many other articles of general interest.

                                                -- Submitted by Sherri Hessick   (thessick@flash.net)