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James Wilson

James Wilson (20 February 1787 – 17 October 1850) was a journalist and politician who was the paternal grandfather of US president Woodrow Wilson.

Life and careerEdit

Born in Ulster, Ireland in 1787, Wilson emigrated in his youth to the United States. He settled in Philadelphia, where he found work as a printer in the office of the Aurora, a Jeffersonian newspaper edited by William Duane. He rose to the position of foreman, publisher, and then editor.[1] Continuing his journalistic career in Steubenville, Ohio, he purchased the Western Herald, changing its name to Western Herald & Steubenville Gazette.[2] He became involved in state politics, representing Jefferson County in the Ohio House of Representatives in 1816–1817 and 1820–1822.[3] In 1832, he founded the Pennsylvania Advocate, a Pittsburgh newspaper which he owned and edited for a year before turning it over to his oldest son William Duane Wilson.[4] Though not a lawyer, James Wilson served for several years as an associate judge for the Jefferson County common pleas court.[5] Wilson died in Steubenville on 17 October 1850 from an attack of cholera.[6] He was elected to the Ohio Journalism Hall of Fame in 1933.[7]


Wilson married Ann Adams in Philadelphia in 1808. Both were of Scotch-Irish origin.[1] They had seven sons and three daughters. The youngest son, Joseph Ruggles Wilson, born in Steubenville in 1822, was the father of Woodrow Wilson.[8]


  1. ^ a b Guffey, p. 53.
  2. ^ Guffey, p. 54.
  3. ^ Ohio Journalism Hall of Fame, p. 10.
  4. ^ Guffey, pp. 55–56.
  5. ^ Walworth, p. 4–5.
  6. ^ Guffey, p. 57.
  7. ^ Ohio Journalism Hall of Fame, p. 7.
  8. ^ Weisenburger, pp. 385, 387


  • Guffey, Alexander S. (1941). "James Wilson". Colonel Edward Cook and Other Historical Papers. Pittsburgh. pp. 53–57.
  • Ohio Journalism Hall of Fame: Proceedings of the Sixth and Seventh Annual Dinner Meetings of Judges, Newspapermen, and Others to Honor the Journalists Elected (PDF). Journalism Series. 12. Ohio State University Press. 1935.
  • Walworth, Arthur (1965). Woodrow Wilson (Second Revised ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  • Weisenburger, Francis P. (December 1936). "The Middle Western Antecedents of Woodrow Wilson". The Mississippi Valley Historical Review. 23 (3): 375–390.