Nye, James W.

Born: 1814-06-10 DeRuyter, New York

Died: 1876-12-25 White Plains, New York

James W. Nye was a lawyer, district attorney, judge, city government official, territorial governor, and U.S. senator. Born into a family of limited financial resources, Nye attended local common schools before matriculating to the Homer Academy, Homer, New York. He read law and earned admission to the bar in Madison County, New York. In addition to his law practice, Nye became a fixture in the local Democratic Party. In 1839, he became district attorney, and in 1844, he became surrogate of Morgan County, a position he held until 1847, when he became judge of the county court. In 1848, Nye left the Democratic Party to run for Congress representing the Free Soil Party. After his unsuccessful bid for Congress, he resumed his work in the county court, remaining judge until 1851. After his tenure ended, he moved to Syracuse, New York, living there until 1860, when New York City appointed him the first president of the Metropolitan Police Commission. Having joined the Republican Party in 1856, Nye supported Abraham Lincoln’s presidential campaign in 1860, and Lincoln reward him with a commission as a brigadier general and an appointment as the governor of the Nevada Territory. Arriving in Nevada in July 1861, Nye immediately organized the territorial government. Throughout the next three years, he worked against a conservative territorial legislature to set a Republican agenda. Nye also worked closely with President Lincoln to make Nevada a state in 1864. In December 1864, the Nevada Legislature chose Nye as one of its two U.S. Senators. Nye supported the Thirteenth Amendment and served in the U.S. Senate until 1873.

Nye married Elsie Benson, with whom he had two children.

Margaret Horsnell, “Nye, James Warren,” American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 16:567-68; Gravestone, Bronx Cemetery, Bronx, NY.