After leaving college, Mr. Riggs chose the law as his profession, and after studying the required length of time he was admitted to the bar, and has since practiced with successful results, except when holding the office of Sheriff, which position he occupied for two years, having been elected in November, 1864. In 1872-72 he was chosen to represent Scott County in the House of the Twenty-Seventh General Assembly of Illinois. For four years he served the people faithfully and well as States-Attorney for Scott County, having been chosen to that office in November, 1872. He was elected to the Forty-Eight Congress and then re-elected, as a Democrat, receiving 22,046 votes, against 15,177 for Black, Republican; 820 for Parker, Greenbacker; 161 for Wallace, Prohibitionist, and forty votes scattering.
James M. Riggs is a son of John Adams Riggs and Orpha (Campbell) Riggs, who were natives of Tennessee. Grandfather Riggs came to Illinois during the territorial days, and was a member of the first Illinois Legislature. His name was Scott Riggs. Edward Riggs, the head of the family in this country, emigrated from England and settled at Roxbury, Mass., early in the summer of 1633. He brought his wife and family of two sons and four daughters with him. His son Edward married Elizabeth Roosa, in 1635. He was a Sergeant in the Pequot War, and greatly distinguished himself in rescuing his commander and twelve of his companions from an ambuscade, and he was ever after known as "Sergeant Riggs." In 1646 he settled at Milford, Conn. In 1655 he was a leading man in the purchase of a district north of Milford, and in making a new plantation there. His location is known as "Riggs Hill", and is still in possession of his descendants. His family consisted of Edward, Samuel, Joseph and Mary. Thus is shown a synopsis of the history of the head of the family in America, and to carry this genealogy down to the succeeding generations would be altogether beyond the compass of this biography.
James M. Riggs married Lilly Berry Dec. 31, 1868. She is the daughter of Dr. L. Berry, who was at that time a resident of Winchester. Mr. and Mrs. Riggs are the parents of the following children: Lecie, Ralph, Roy, Berry, Cecil, Kent, Lilly Belle, Max, and Lillie Belle (deceased). Mr. Riggs is an only son of his parents, and had two sisters who died in infancy, and two now living, one in Winchester and another in Wichita, Kan.
Scott Riggs, the grandfather mentioned before, was born in Oaks County, N.C. His wife's maiden name was Hannah Berry. The maternal grandfather was James Campbell and the grandmother Margaret Berry. The ancestors of the subject of this sketch were distinguished for their high character, and for the part they have taken in the early history of this country. During the Revolutionary War the Riggs family was brave and patriotic, and the descendants have inherited many of their characteristics. The Hon. James M. Riggs, of whom we write, is a man of great natural ability, and one who has acquitted himself well in all of the high and responsible positions he has held. He is extremely popular with all classes, and is held in high esteem as a neighbor.