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James Lewis Malcolm

From The Capital Region of New York State, Crossroads of Empire, 1942
Francis P. Kimball

Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin

James Lewis Malcolm---The late James Lewis Malcolm was trained to the profession of law and for a quarter of a century was a distinguished member of the Greene County bar.  His professional attainments, however, and his success as a practicing attorney constituted only one phase of his career.  In the sphere of public service and the realm of civic affairs, he had important responsibilities for many years in the Republican party of Greene County he was long an influential figure. Throughout the closing period of his life, he was also editor and publisher of the “Greene County Examiner.”  Able, public-spirited and widely loved, he was one of the best known citizens of Catskill, and there were few phases of its life which did not benefit by the constructive force of his leadership.

Mr. Malcolm was born in Catskill on June 18, 1887, son of Joseph and Jeannie (Lewis) Malcolm and a descendant of a Scottish family. His father, who was born in New York, operated a woolen mill in Catskill for many years under the firm name of  Malcolm & Pettingill.

James Lewis Malcolm received his preliminary education in the Catskill public schools and later was a student at Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts, and at Yale University, where he prepared for his professional career.  After taking the degree of Bachelor of Laws at Yale Law School in 1910, he was admitted to the bar and entered the office of the law firm of Kneeland, Harrison and Hewitt, in New York City. During two years of service there he became managing clerk of the office. In 1912,  Mr. Malcolm returned to Catskill and established the law practice to which he devoted himself without interruption until the time of his death. In 1920 he formed a partnership with R. H. McQuistion of New York City, under the firm name of McQuistion and Malcolm.  Offices of this firm were maintained in New York City and Mr. Malcolm continued the connection until the close of his career. At Catskill he subsequently formed a law partnership with Percy W. Decker and after this firm was dissolved he practiced alone with offices in the Masonic Temple.  During the course of his career Mr. Malcolm appeared successfully in a wide variety of cases and frequently represented important interests. His professional standing was acknowledged by his colleagues and the public alike and by virtue of his attainments and record he became one of the leading members of the Greene County bar.

Shortly after his return to Catskill from New York City, Mr. Malcolm’s legal talents were publicly recognized in his appointment to the post of corporation counsel of the village of Catskill. This office he held for sixteen years, from 1914 to 1930, during which he handled all legal details connected with the many public improvements undertaken by the village board of trustees, including, notably, the acquisition of the present Catskill water system, the Potic Dam and Reservoir, extensive paving projects and others. All bond issues and similar details involved in these projects were also under his full charge. In March 1937, shortly before his death, Mr. Malcolm was again appointed corporation counsel at Catskill. Meanwhile, for nine years, beginning in 1919 and continuing through the years to 1927, he served as county attorney of Greene County, an office whose many responsibilities he also discharged with efficiency and zeal. In addition, he was town attorney for many years, serving at the time of his death, and for fifteen years, terminating with his resignation in 1930, acted as United States Referee in Bankruptcy. In 1934 he undertook and completed a revision of the village ordinances of Catskill, and his work in this connection was highly praised. The World War period brought him further responsibilities which he assumed as a duty of patriotic citizenship. Following the entry of the United States into the war, Mr. Malcolm acted as director of the military census of Greene County and chairman of the Red Cross drive in this county.  He was also legal adviser of the local draft board, secretary of the Home Defense Committee and was afterward appointed supervisor of the Bureau of Imports of the War Trade Board, with headquarters in Washington, District of Columbia. Subsequently he became supervisor of the Bureau of Aircraft Production, in which capacity he had two thousand persons under his direction. Preferring military status to civilian service, he applied for and received a commission as second lieutenant and was assigned to duty in the legal department of the Aviation Corps.  At this time he spent a year and a half in the national capital on active war service.

In addition to his professional connections, Mr. Malcolm had a number of business interests. He was both a director of the Tanners National Bank of Catskill and a trustee of the Catskill Savings Bank, long established and widely known financial institutions of this community. When the old “Catskill Daily Examiner” met financial difficulties and was forced into bankruptcy, Mr. Malcolm purchased this historic organ of news and opinion, renamed it the “Greene County Examiner,” revitalized it and served as its editor and a president of the publishing company, Catskill Publications, Inc., until his death.  This was a highly congenial interest, to which he devoted much of his time.  Since his school days, when he was editor of the school paper of Phillips Academy and member of the staff of the Yale University paper, as well as New England sports correspondent for one of the large press associations, he had  had a strong leaning toward journalism. That he was able to gratify this taste through his work with the “Greene County Examiner” was a source of great satisfaction to him.

Mr. Malcolm was long a power in Republican politics and served for many years as chairman of the Republican Village Committee and as chairman of the  Republican Town Committee, which latter office he occupied at this death.  He was also a member of the Republican County Committee during the greater part of his career and brought to its councils a whole-hearted allegiance to party interests, as well as the enterprising leadership and acute judgment which always distinguished him. His civic interest were innumerable, embracing all movements designed to promote the progress and welfare of Catskill and the county and the principal institutions of the area.  Mr. Malcolm was president of the Greene Tuberculosis Committee for several years and was a trustee of the Chase Memorial Library. He was a charter member and past president of the Catskill Rotary Club and a leader in the Catskill Chamber of Commerce, on many of whose committees he served.  Among these was the Bridge Committee, which played a useful role in bringing to consummation the project for construction of the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, spanning the Hudson at Catskill. For many years he actively manifested his deep interest in the Catskill Fire Department. In addition to his other connections, Mr. Malcolm was a member of the American Bar Association, the New York Bard Association, the Greene County Bar Association, the Yale Club of New York City, the Linage Club, the Rip Van Winkle Club, and the Greene County Fish and Game Club, Inc.  He was affiliated fraternally with Athabasca Tribe, No. 251, Improved Order of Red Men; and with the Masonic Order, in which he was a member of Catskill Lodge, No. 468, Free and Accepted Masons, and Catskill Chapter, No. 285, Royal Arch Masons. Mr. Malcolm was also affiliated with the Phi Delta Phi fraternity and in its early years was active in the American Legion, becoming a charter member of Catskill Post, No. 110, and helping to organize all the Legion posts of Greene County. A Presbyterian in religious faith, he served as trustee of Christ’s Presbyterian Church in Catskill.

On October 22, 1913, James Lewis Malcolm married Jessie Churchill Chase, daughter of Emory A. Chase (q.v.), distinguished jurist and late associate justice of the Court of Appeals of New York State, and Mary Elizabeth (Churchill) Chase.

Mr. Malcolm died at Catskill on April 7, 1937. He had many claims upon the regard of his fellow-townsmen and the unexpected and relatively early termination of his career was widely mourned.  Not the least of his gifts was his happy capacity for friendship. “Of a genial, friendly nature,” it was written of him, “courteous and always ready to confer favors, Mr. Malcolm was popular in a wide circle. He was a man of high integrity and held the esteem and confidence of his fellow-citizens.” 

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