A Narrative History
The People of Iowa
SPECIAL TREATMENT OF THEIR CHIEF ENTERPRISES IN
EDUCATION, RELIGION, VALOR, INDUSTRY,
EDGAR RUBEY HARLAN, LL. B., A. M.
Curator of the
Historical, Memorial and Art Department of Iowa
THE AMERICAN HISTORICAL SOCIETY, Inc.
Chicago and New York
JAMES ARTHUR DEVITT, a former president of the Iowa State Bar Association,
has been in practice for over thirty years at Oskaloosa, and the success of his
work and his intellectual attainments and public services were all included
in the recognition given him by his fellow members of the state bar when they
made him president of their association.
He was born at DeWitt in Clinton County, Iowa, June 1, 1872. His parents,
John and Mary (Laurent) Devitt, were natives of Ireland and settled in Clinton
County about 1852, being pioneers of this great state, and by their sturdy
character and industry won the respect and esteem of many friends. John Devitt
was a teacher and educator. Both parents did when their son James Arthur
was only two years of age.
The latter in consequence grew up in the house of relatives, spent his
boyhood in rural districts and attended country schools. Before going to the
university he taught school in Hardin County. At the University of Iowa at Iowa
City he attended the literary department and then enrolled in the law school,
from which he was graduated in June, 1897, with the degree LL. B. Mr. Devitt
put himself through college by his own efforts, having the necessary grit
and ability to grasp each opportunity for advancement as it came to him.
After his graduation he and his classmates, Walter C. Burrell, opened a law
office in Oskaloosa. Both were young men of unusual promise, and they made
rapid progress in accumulating a volume of business, becoming known as lawyers able to give their clientage sound advice and the benefit of resourceful legal minds. They became attorneys for many leading corporations, including the Minneapolis & Saint Louis Railroad Company, the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company, the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad Company and
also counsel for several Oskaloosa companies, such as the Oskaloosa Traction & Light Company, Light & Fuel Company, People's Water Company. This firms partnership was maintained for over twenty years, finally being dissolved in 1920 when Mr. Walter C. Burrell retired. Mr. Burrell died December 8, 1921.
In addition to his law practice Mr. Devitt from time to time has assumed
public responsibilities and many interesting relationships with social and civic
affairs. He was county attorney from Mahaska County from 1900 to 1904, and
in 1913 was appointed by the Supreme Court of the State of Iowa as a member
of the Iowa State Board of Law Examiners and has served continuously on that
board for over fifteen years. Mr. Devitt is a Republican and represented the
sixth Congressional District as a member of the Republican State Central
Committee for a number of years and on different occasions has represented the
Republican party as a delegate to its national conventions. He is a
thirty-second Scottish Rite Mason, being a member of the Des Moines Consistory and also is affiliated with the Knights of Pythias and B. P. O. Elks.
Mr. Devitt is a member of the American Bar Association and for a number of
years has been active in its affairs, serving as the Iowa member of the
General Council of the Association. He has been a member of the Iowa State Bar
Association since his appointment to the bar, and it was in 1923 that he was
given the honor of being elected president of the state association. He has
served that body in many capacities and for a number of years has been chairman of the American Citizenship Committee. Since locating at Oskaloosa he has been a member of the Mahaska County Bar Association and is a past president. Mr. Devitt had to make his own early opportunities, and the creditable position he has attained is a real measure of his abilities and his worthy ambition.
Mr. Devitt married, August 20, 1902, Pauline Lewelling, a daughter of former
Governor Lorenzo D. Lewelling of Kansas. To this marriage three children
have been born. The son James Lewelling Devitt recently graduated from the
University of Iowa and was admitted to the bar in June, 1929, and is now
associated with his father in practice at Oskaloosa. The daughter, Pauline Devitt,
in 1926 graduated from the Finch School for Girls in New York City, and since
leaving school has been engaged in teh theatrical and literary work in New
York City. The younger son, John Branson Devitt, is a senior in the Oskaloosa
High School. Mrs. Pauline Lewelling Devitt has been active in public work
for a number of years, having served as president of the Iowa Suffrage
Association and in 1921 was appointed by Governor N. E. Kendall as a member of the Iowa State Board of Education. Mrs. Devitt and Anne Lawther of Dubuque were the first women who ever served on this board. After a term of six years Mrs. Devitt was reappointed a member of the board in 1927.
*Don't know how accurate this bio. is, check your facts.