Born: 1812-03-11 Louisville, Kentucky
Died: 1887-06-25 Louisville, Kentucky
Speed was the brother of Abraham Lincoln's close friend Joshua F. Speed. Speed was raised on his family's plantation called "Farmington," near Louisville. Speed was educated in public schools and later graduated from St. Joseph's College in Bardstown and the Transylvania College law school in Lexington. Lincoln first met James Speed while visiting the Speed family's Kentucky plantation during the summer of 1841, when Speed was an attorney in Louisville. The following year, Speed married Jane Cochran. James Speed owned slaves from 1844 to 1846, but afterward he did not. In 1847, Speed was elected to the Kentucky General Assembly as a Whig, and by 1848, he had become committed to an antislavery platform. Following the death of the Whig Party, Speed considered himself a Democrat during the 1850s, but he was a staunch Unionist. During the Civil War, Speed worked hard to ensure Kentucky stayed in the Union. In 1864, Speed was appointed attorney general by President Lincoln and he continued to serve under President Andrew Johnson as well.
Robert L. Kincaid, Joshua Fry Speed: Lincoln's Most Intimate Friend (Harrogate, TN: Lincoln Memorial University, 1943), 16; Gary Lee Williams, James and Joshua Speed: Lincoln's Kentucky Friends (Ph.D. diss., Duke University, 1971), 9-10, 42, 43, 44, 55-56, 64-65, 108, 119, 140-42, 152; James Speed to Abraham Lincoln; Appointment of James Speed as Attorney General; Gravestone, Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, KY.