James B. Searcy, chairman of the republican county central committee of Macoupin county and for the past twenty-five years a prominent lawyer of central Illinois, is a native of Columbia, Missouri, born August 15, 1858. He is a son of Benjamin P. and Nancy E. (Ridgway) Searcy, both of whom were also natives of Missouri. Of their children three grew to maturity: James B.; Sarah F., who is the wife of Lincoln H. Chiles, of Ellensburg, Washington; and William N., a lawyer of Silverton, Colorado.
The father of our subject was reared in Boone county, Missouri, and was one of the early students of the State University at Columbia. He was one of the first settlers of Boone Valley, near Watrous, New Mexico, and continued there until his death, in 1868, when he was forty-two years of age. His widow and children came to Illinois and located near Palmyra, in Macoupin county where the children grew to maturity. The mother died in 1897, at the age of fifty-eight years. In 1879 she had married Captain James S. Chiles, who was an officer in the One Hundred and Twenty-second Illinois Volunteer Infantry during the Civil war and died in 1900. She was a member of the Christian church, her husband having been identified with the Baptist denomination.
The paternal grandfather of our subject was Lemuel B. Searcy. He was a native of Kentucky and was of Scotch-Irish and English descent. He moved to Missouri in 1821, but previous to that time served under General Harrison on the Maumee river against the British general, Proctor, in the war of 1812. He was one of one hundred and eighty-seven out of eight hundred in Colonel Dudley's regiment from Kentucky, who escaped ambush through the treachery of a supposed friendly Indian. The maiden name of his wife was Elizabeth Connelly and her father was John Connelly, a soldier under General Washington at the battle of Yorktown and in other battles. Mr. Searcy died in Boone county at the age of sixty-seven years, his wife being called away at the age of seventy-three. They had seven sons and three daughters, all of whom are deceased. The grandfather on the maternal side was John D. Ridgway. He was a native of Kentucky and removed to Missouri in 1823 and engaged in farming in Boone county. He married Sophia Wigginton whose ancestors were Virginians. Mr. Ridgway came to Illinois with his family in 1861 and located near Palmyra. He died in October 1893, at the age of eighty-four years, his wife having passed away in September, 1889, at the age of eighty. Of their children two are now living: Zachariah Clay, of Louisiana, Missouri; and John Taylor, of Palmyra, Illinois. There was another son, William H. H., who was with Grant's army at the battle of Shiloh and died at Corinth shortly after the battle of Shiloh. At the time of the Civil war the family was divided, two uncles of our subject engaging in behalf of the Confederacy and two uncles for the Union cause. Benton Searcy was a soldier in General Price's army and Jasper Searcy was an adjutant on General Price's staff. William H. H. Ridgway, heretofore mentioned, was in the Union army and J. Wesley Butcher, another uncle of our subject, marched with Sherman to the sea.
Upon his mother's farm near Palmyra James B. Searcy passed his boyhood and youth from ten years of age. He attended the district schools and later entered Blackburn University from which he was graduated in 1883. After teaching school for two years near Palmyra he began the study of law in the law department of the Illinois Wesleyan University at Bloomington where he spent one term. He then entered the offices of Rinaker & Rinaker at Carlinville, pursuing his studies for two years, and in 1885 was admitted to the Illinois bar. He at once began practice at Palmyra where he engaged continuously in his profession for fourteen years, during ten years of which he filled the office of village attorney. Since 1900 he has lived in Carlinville. He was elected to the lower house of the state legislature in 1898 and served as chairman of the committee on mines and mining, which committee revised the laws on mines and mining in Illinois. He also was the father of the free employment bill which is no in force in this state and has proved of inestimable value, its principal features having already been adopted by other states of the Union. In 1900 he associated with Charles A. Walker in practice and they continued together until 1908, since which time Mr. Searcy has practiced alone. he still retains an interest in his office at Palmyra.
On November 19, 1879, Mr. Searcy was married to Miss Annie Richie, a daughter of Eli W. Richie. A daughter was born to this marriage in August, 1880, and both mother and daughter died in that year. On the 18th of July, 1886, Mr. Searcy was married to Mrs. Mary E. (Fansler) Duncan, widow of Allen Duncan and a daughter of Endimon and Mary (King) Fansler. The father was a prominent farmer of Barr township and in his earlier life served as a soldier in the Mexican war. Five children have been born to Mr. and Mrs. Searcy: Earl Benjamin, who was graduated from the Blackburn University in 1908 and is now connected with the editorial department of the Illinois State Journal at Springfield; William Endimon, who is now in charge of the farm belonging to his father in this county; Evan Lemuel, who is attending Blackburn University and is a student in the senior class; Lynn Dooley, now attending high school at Carlinville; and Helen Frances, a student in the public schools. Mrs. Mary E. Searcy was born in Barr Township. Her parents were natives of Tennessee and came to Macoupin county in 1851. The father died at the age of sixty-seven and the mother at the age of forty-two. They had nine children: William A., deceased; Thomas L., a resident of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Henry G., of Barr township; Mary E., now Mrs. James B. Searcy; James E., who makes his home at Brookings, South Dakota; Hallie, who married R. M. Fearno and is now deceased; Joseph A., of East St. Louis, Illinois; Jennie Fansler, who married Luther Ross, of Barr township; and Carroll Fansler, also of Barr Township.
Mr. Searcy and his family are members of the Christian church of which he is an elder. Fraternally he is identified with Mount Nebo Lodge No. 76, A.F. & A.M., Castle Lodge No. 95, K. P., of Carlinville, and Carlinville Camp No. 125, M.W.A., having been a member of the latter organization since December, 1885. He takes a great interest in education and was a member of the school board at Palmyra nine years and also served as president of the board at Carlinville one year. He has been very active in behalf of the republican party and is now serving as chairman of the republican county central committee. He is the owner of a well cultivated farm of eighty acres in Carlinville township, three-quarters of a mile from the city limits, and is deeply interested in agriculture and the great advances made in all departments of farming during recent years. As a representative citizen of the county he takes just pride in its continued advancement. He has throughout his entire professional career been a stanch advocate of justice and fair play, either in the courts or elsewhere, and by his influence and example has assisted in inculcating respect for those in authority and reverence for justice and truth. He is a natural leader and commands the entire confidence of his associates and of all with whom he is brought into contact.