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James Robert Williams (December 27, 1850 – November 8, 1923) was a U.S. Representative from Illinois.

James Robert Williams
James R. Williams.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 19th district
In office
December 2, 1889 – March 3, 1895
Preceded byRichard W. Townshend
Succeeded byBenson Wood
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 20th district
In office
March 4, 1899 – March 3, 1903
Preceded byJames R. Campbell
Succeeded byHenry T. Rainey
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 24th district
In office
March 4, 1903 – March 3, 1905
Preceded byDistrict created
Succeeded byPleasant T. Chapman
Personal details
Born(1850-12-27)December 27, 1850
Carmi, Illinois, United States
DiedNovember 8, 1923(1923-11-08) (aged 72)
Loma Linda, California, United States
Resting placeMaple Ridge Cemetery, Carmi, Illinois, United States
Political partyDemocratic
Alma materUnion College of Law

Born in Carmi, Illinois, Williams attended the common schools. He graduated from Indiana University in 1875, where he was a member of Phi Kappa Psi,[1] and from the Union College of Law, Chicago, Illinois, in 1876. He was admitted to the bar in 1876 and returned home to practice in Carmi. He served as master in chancery from 1880-1882, and was a county judge of White County from 1882-1886.

Williams was elected as a Democrat to the Fifty-first Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Richard W. Townshend. He was reelected to the Fifty-second and Fifty-third Congresses and served from December 2, 1889, to March 3, 1895.

Williams was a friend of William Jennings Bryan. Because of their friendship, Bryan made a whistle-stop visit to Carmi in 1896 to give a presidential campaign speech.

Williams was elected to the Fifty-sixth, Fifty-seventh, and Fifty-eighth Congresses (March 4, 1899 – March 3, 1905).

In 1902, the Chicago Chronicle said he was being groomed for president. "Bob Williams for President" headlined the Chicago Evening Post on November 9, 1903. In 1903, Illinois Democrats nominated Williams for the United States Senate. He did not win but received a letter from Williams Jennings Bryan, who expressed an interest in talking with him about plans for 1904. In 1904, his name was presented to the National Convention at St. Louis, Missouri, as a candidate for vice-president. Williams came in second place for the Democratic Vice Presidential nomination.

In 1904, Williams was defeated in his bid for reelection by Pleasant T. Chapman. After his term in the House of Representatives, he resumed the practice of his profession. He died in Loma Linda, California on November 8, 1923. He was interred in Maple Ridge Cemetery, Carmi, Illinois.


  • United States Congress. "James R. Williams (id: W000508)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.


U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Richard W. Townshend
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 19th congressional district

December 2, 1889 – March 3, 1895
Succeeded by
Benson Wood
Preceded by
James R. Campbell
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 20th congressional district

March 4, 1899 – March 3, 1903
Succeeded by
Henry T. Rainey
Preceded by
District created
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 24th congressional district

March 4, 1903 – March 3, 1905
Succeeded by
Pleasant T. Chapman