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James Kerr Kelly (1819-1903) was an Americanmarker politician born in Pennsylvaniamarker. He was a United States Senator for Oregonmarker from 1871 to 1877, and later Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Courtmarker. Prior to his election to the Senate he had been elected to both houses of the local legislature, serving in the Territorial House and State Senate, and was a member of the Oregon Constitutional Convention in 1857.

Early life

Kelly was born in Centre Countymarker, Pennsylvaniamarker in 1819. There he attended the school at Milton, and later the Lewisburg Academies. For his higher education, the future Congressman graduated from the College of New Jerseymarker in 1839. James Kelly then studied law in Carlisle, Pennsylvaniamarker and was admitted to practice law in Pennsylvania in 1842.


Upon entering the legal profession, Mr. Kelly began private practice in Lewistown, Pennsylvaniamarker, then was the deputy attorney general for Mifflin County, Pennsylvaniamarker. In 1849 he left for Californiamarker and the newly discovered gold fields, then moved on to the Oregon Territorymarker in 1851. In Oregonmarker he set up a law practice in Portlandmarker and was one of three people selected to help re-write the laws of the territory.

Political career

While living in Oregon, Kelly became active in politics and was elected as a Democrat to the territorial legislature serving from 1853 to 1857, and was selected as president of the legislature twice. In 1857 he was a member of the constitutional convention formed to prepare for Oregon's admission into the Union in 1859. Upon statehood, Kelly was elected to the Oregon State Senate and served from 1860 to 1864. In 1864, he ran for a seat in the U. S. House of Representatives, but lost to Republican James H. D. Henderson. He was also unsuccessful in running for governor in 1866. Then in 1870, he was elected to the U.S. Senate as a Democrat and served from March 4, 1871 to March 3, 1877. He did not run for re-election.

From 1878-1880 Kelly was a justice on the Oregon Supreme Courtmarker. He also served as Chief Justice of the court during that time. Kelly was appointed to the position by Governor W. W. Thayer, (along with Justices Reuben P. Boise and Paine Page Prim) as a temporary justice until elections could be held following a reorganization of the Oregon court system. Kelly was not elected to a full term after his partial term expired.

Later life

After retiring from the bench, Kelly went back into private practice in Portland. In 1890 he returned to the east coast, settling in Washington, DCmarker, where he practiced law. James Kerr Kelly died on September 15 1903 with burial at Rock Creek Cemetery.


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