James Beck
Chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus
In office
March 4, 1885 – May 3, 1890
Preceded byGeorge H. Pendleton
Succeeded byArthur Pue Gorman
United States Senator
from Kentucky
In office
March 4, 1877 – May 3, 1890
Preceded byJohn W. Stevenson
Succeeded byJohn G. Carlisle
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Kentucky's 7th district
In office
March 4, 1867 – March 3, 1875
Preceded byGeorge S. Shanklin
Succeeded byJoseph Blackburn
Personal details
James Burnie Beck

(1822-02-13)February 13, 1822
Dumfriesshire, Scotland, UK
DiedMay 3, 1890(1890-05-03) (aged 68)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Resting placeLexington Cemetery
Lexington, Kentucky
Political partyDemocratic
EducationTransylvania University (BA)

James Burnie Beck (February 13, 1822 – May 3, 1890) was a Scottish-American United States Representative and Senator from Kentucky.


Born in Dumfriesshire, Scotland, Beck migrated to the United States in 1838 and settled in Wyoming County, New York. He moved to Lexington, Kentucky in 1843 and graduated from Transylvania University in 1846. Beck was admitted to the bar and commenced the practice of law in Lexington. Until shortly before the Civil War, he was a law partner of John C. Breckinridge, the U.S. Vice President who became a Confederate general; during the Civil War, Beck was interrogated by a military commission about his knowledge of his former partner's activities.

After the war, Beck was elected as a Democrat to the United States House of Representatives serving Kentucky's 7th congressional district. He was appointed to the Select Committee on Reconstruction where it was expected that as a newcomer and an immigrant he would be no obstacle to Republican intentions, but he immediately became a tenacious advocate of the rights of the defeated states. A White supremacist, he opposed civil rights for African Americans.[1] He was reelected three times as a Representative, serving from March 4, 1867, to March 3, 1875.

In 1876, Beck was appointed a member of the commission to define the boundary line between Maryland and Virginia. He was then elected to the United States Senate in 1876, being reelected twice, serving from March 4, 1877, until his death in Washington, D.C. on May 3, 1890. Long-time Washington journalist Benjamin Perley Poore described Beck during his time in the Senate as "a stalwart, farmer-like looking man, with that overcharged brain which made his tongue at times falter because he could not utter what his furious, fiery eloquence prompted."[2] While in the Senate, Beck was the Democratic Conference Chairman from 1885 to 1890, and the chairman of the Committee on Transportation Routes to the Seaboard. He was prominent in the discussion of tariff and currency questions.

He is interred at Lexington Cemetery. His son, George T. Beck, was a noted politician and entrepreneur in the state of Wyoming.

See also


This article includes a list of general references, but it lacks sufficient corresponding inline citations. Please help to improve this article by introducing more precise citations. (July 2014) (Learn how and when to remove this message)
  1. ^ Friedlander, Alan; Gerber, Richard Allan (November 22, 2018). Welcoming Ruin: The Civil Rights Act of 1875. BRILL. ISBN 9789004384071.
  2. ^ Poore, Ben. Perley, Perley's Reminiscences of Sixty Years in the National Metropolis, Vol.2, p.360 (1886).