An AHGP Project

Bertie County North Carolina

John Henry Rogers

1845 ~ 1911

John Henry Rogers, soldier, lawyer, Congressman, and jurist, was born on a plantation near Roxobel, Bertie County, N. C., October 9, 1845, the third child of Absalom and Harriet Rogers, and grandson of William Rogers, a farmer and mechanic, who lived and reared a family of twelve children in Pitt County, N. C. His father was a wealthy planter before the war, but, being deprived of his slaves and everything but his lands, was reduced to poverty by that disaster. In 1852 the family, consisting of his parents, brothers, and two sisters, removed to a cotton plantation in Madison County. Miss. He attended schools near his home until 1861, and. in addition to the ordinary branches and a little Latin and Greek, he acquired some proficiency in military drill.

This accomplishment he made useful at the outbreak of the war, when he was chosen drillmaster of those of his schoolmates who were over fifteen years of age: and in the following fall he acted as instructor of a company of home guards, although most of its members were between forty and sixty years of age. In March, 1862, he was mustered into the Ninth Regiment, Mississippi Infantry, at Canton, Miss., as a private. In the battle of Munfordville (Green River), Ky., he was wounded while charging the enemy's breastworks. He was subsequently in the battles of Murfreesboro (Stone River), Tenn., Chickamauga, Ga., Mission Ridge, near Chattanooga, Tenn., and Resaca, Ga. He was in the engagements before Atlanta, July 26 and 28, 1864, and was wounded at Jonesboro, Ga., in September, 1864. He fought at Franklin, Tenn., November 30, 1864, and at Nashville, Tenn., December 15, 1864. In April, 1865, although but nineteen years of age, he was promoted by special order of Gen. Johnston to the rank of first lieutenant, and he commanded Company F of the Ninth Mississippi Regiment until the capitulation of Johnston's army.

Returning home by foot, about one thousand miles, he began reviewing his studies, and entered Center College, Danville, in September, 1865, and the University of Mississippi in 1867, where he was graduated in 1868. He was admitted to the bar at Canton, Miss. After teaching a short time, he began his legal practice at Fort Smith, Ark., in February, 1869, and shortly after his arrival at that place entered the office of Judge William Walker. From 1871 to 1874 he was in partnership with that eminent lawyer; for the following three years he practiced alone, and then for five years served as first circuit judge of the Twelfth Judicial Circuit. This office he resigned, on account of impaired health, in May, 1882, and in the following November was elected a member of Congress, where he served in the forty-eighth, forty-ninth, fiftieth, and fifty-first Congresses. Throughout his public career he made few set speeches, but worked laboriously on committees, and took an active part in the daily proceedings. During the last six years he was a member of the Judiciary Committee, and especially devoted his energies to securing legislation amending the criminal laws of the United States, and reorganizing the Federal judiciary system. He was successful in securing the writ of error to persons convicted of felony, and witnessed the creation of the United States Circuit Court of Appeals, largely the outcome of his own persistent efforts to have them established as a remedy for the congested condition of the business of the Supreme Court. The bill passed was, however, only a modification of his own plan of abolishing the Circuit Courts, and making the District Courts the great repository of original jurisdiction, civil and criminal, while the Circuit Courts of Appeal should be composed of the circuit judges then in office and two others to be appointed. Thus a stable court of three judges would be secured, and the supreme judges relieved of all Circuit Court duty. The Supreme Court of the United States would be a great constitutional court, but would retain limited supervisory control, as before, over the United States Circuit Court of Appeals, to the end that harmony of decision on questions of general law might be secured. Such an arrangement Judge Rogers still hopes to see established, and is encouraged by the fact that it has already been partially adopted in the Eighth Circuit, where four circuit judges now constitute the court. In the fifty-first Congress Judge Rogers came prominently before the public as the opponent of the Speaker, his speeches assailing what he believed to be the arbitrary and oppressive conduct on the part of that official being published by the press throughout the country. Many of these speeches, in their biting satire and argument, were considered masterpieces of their kind. In the interest of his constituents he secured, while in Congress, the passage of a bill donating the abandoned United States military reservation adjoining the city of Fort Smith to that city in trust for the public schools, which have since realized a munificent trust fund from this source. He also secured the construction of a handsome public building for use as a post office and by the United States courts, and of a commodious prison, while through his efforts a United States Circuit Court was established at Fort Smith in place of a United States District Court formerly held there, which had Circuit Court powers, and exercised jurisdiction over a part of the State of Arkansas, and criminal jurisdiction over all the Indian Territory. Retiring from public life, after the fifty-first Congress. Judge Rogers practiced law at Fort Smith, in partnership with James F. Read, until November, 1896, when he was appointed by President Cleveland successor of Hon. I. C. Parker, late United States District Judge for the Western District of Arkansas. He is President of the Board of Education of Fort Smith. In 1S95, on the occasion of his delivery of the annual address to the alumni of Center College at Danville, Ky., that institution conferred upon him the honorary degree of LL.D.

Judge Rogers was married October 9, 1873, to Mary Gray, only daughter of Dr. Theodore Dunlap and Elizabeth Gray, of Danville, Ky. Four sons and one daughter are living, their first child, Theodora, having died at the age of two years.

Source: Confederate Veteran, Volume XI, S. A. Cunningham, Editor & Proprietor, Nashville, Tenn., 1903

Have a biography you are willing to share with other researchers? Email it to us and we will get it online. We will also list you as the copyright holder/owner. Please contribute and help this site grow.

 This site is a member of The American History and Genealogy Project (AHGP), an unincorporated not-for-profit network of independent sites devoted to History & Genealogy, and covering North American Countries and Territories. For more information about our group, including how you can join us, please see our About page.

This page was last updated Wednesday, 05-Aug-2015 22:37:13 EDT.
Copyright © 2014~2021 by Bertie County AHGP.