Susan Harber, Daily News Journal, March 29, 2015
James Daniel Richardson, a distinguished Democratic congressman from Tennessee, was born on March 10, 1843 in Rutherford County to Dr. James Watkins and Augusta Starnes Richardson.
His grandfather, John, arrived to Old Jefferson in 1815 from Virginia. James Daniel’s maternal ancestors arrived in America with Gov. John Winthrop on the ship Arabella in 1630.
James Sr. was a physician and a member of the Tennessee Legislature in 1843, 1845, 1847, 1849, 1851 and 1857; and he was member of state senate in 1853 and 1859.
Dr. Richardson was also president of the Tennessee State Medical Society. His children included James Daniel, Susan, Mary Harriet, William, and John. Susan was wed to Col. John Batey of the 43rd Alabama Regiment; and his son William was a distinguished Murfreesboro physician, who died in the Confederate Army in 1862.
James Daniel of Scottish heritage attended local schools in Murfreesboro, as well as Franklin College.
Before he graduated, he enlisted at age 18 in the 45th Regiment, Tennessee Infantry, of the Confederate Army and remained from 1861-1865 as adjutant. He was engaged in large military encounters, including Shiloh, Corinth, Vicksburg, Stones River, Lookout Mountain and Chickamauga.
He attained the rank of major and was wounded in the battle of Atlanta in 1864, returning home with a crippled hand.
In 1865, James wed Alabama Pippen from Eutaw, Alabama. They had five children: Annie, Ida Lee, James Daniel (attorney), Allie Sue and John Watkins. The family lived in a fine home at 302 East Main Street in 1868. James was admitted to the bar in 1867 in Murfreesboro and practiced law with Col. Joseph Palmer for 12 years. In 1878, he partnered with his brother John Richardson.
In 1867, Richardson was admitted to the Scottish Rite Masons and served as grand master in Tennessee. He began as a Mason in 1867 with the Mt. Moriah Lodge in Murfreesboro. He was sovereign grand commander from 1901 until his death in 1914. He approved design plans for a Masonic temple in Washington, D.C.
At home in Murfreesboro, he was president of the Fair Association and director of Stones River National Bank. In 1872, he was commissioner of Evergreen Cemetery, and in 1908, he founded Central Christian Church on East Main, where he served as deacon. Yet, James held burgeoning plans to enter the political realm, and he pursued these efforts intently.
In 1870, James was elected to the state legislature from Rutherford County (1871-1873) and was speaker of House. In 1873, he ambitiously sought a role as state senator and won a two-year term, serving on the Judiciary Committee. By 1876, he was a delegate to the national Democratic convention and was a master communicator with the new nickname “Tall Cedar of Rutherford.” He was chairman of the convention in 1900.
James had lofty aspirations and ran for Congress in 1884. He was elected same year as U.S. congressman from the Fifth District and served from 1885-1905. He was U.S. House minority leader from 1899-1903; and he was chairman of the National Democratic Congressional Committee in 1900. His legacy is a bill introduced to purchase land for a military park and cemetery at Stones River. James also brought the Confederate monument to the Murfreesboro Square still ever-present today.
In 1894, James, a brilliant man, entered into a new realm as author, editor and historian. He compiled “Messages and Papers of the Presidents,” an 11-volume work covering the years of 1792-1902.
He began with George Washington and ended with papers of William McKinley. This book can be purchased on Amazon today. James also published “Tennessee Templars, Women of the Confederacy, The Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, and Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite.”
James died on July 25, 1914 at age 71 as a man of many talents. Over 1,000 attended his funeral at Central Christian Church. He is buried at Evergreen Cemetery today and remembered as a giant in Rutherford County history.