James S. Sherman
Sherman in 1909
27th Vice President of the United States
In office
March 4, 1909 – October 30, 1912
PresidentWilliam Howard Taft
Preceded byCharles W. Fairbanks
Succeeded byThomas R. Marshall
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from New York
In office
March 4, 1893 – March 3, 1909
Preceded byJames J. Belden
Succeeded byCharles S. Millington
Constituency25th district (1893–1903)
27th district (1903–09)
In office
March 4, 1887 – March 3, 1891
Preceded byJohn T. Spriggs
Succeeded byHenry Wilbur Bentley
Constituency23rd district
Mayor of Utica, New York
In office
March 1884 – March 1885
Preceded byJohn T. Spriggs
Succeeded byThomas E. Kinney
Personal details
James Schoolcraft Sherman

(1855-10-24)October 24, 1855
Utica, New York U.S.
DiedOctober 30, 1912(1912-10-30) (aged 57)
Utica, New York, U.S.
Resting placeForest Hill Cemetery
Utica, New York, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
(m. 1881)
EducationHamilton College (BA)
  • Attorney
  • politician
SignatureCursive signature in ink
NicknameSunny Jim

James Schoolcraft Sherman (October 24, 1855 – October 30, 1912) was an American politician who was a United States representative from New York from 1887 to 1891 and 1893 to 1909, and the 27th vice president of the United States under President William Howard Taft from 1909 until his death in 1912. He was a member of the interrelated Baldwin, Hoar, and Sherman families, prominent lawyers and politicians of New England and New York.

Although not a high-powered administrator, he made a natural congressional committee chairman, and his genial personality eased the workings of the House, so that he was known as 'Sunny Jim'. He was the first vice president to fly in a plane (1911),[1] and also the first to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at a baseball game.

Sherman was the seventh and most recent vice president to have died in office.

Early life

Sherman was born in Utica, New York, the son of Richard Updike Sherman and Mary Frances Sherman. According to Facts on File, "Sherman was of the ninth generation of descendants from Henry Sherman, a line also connected to Roger Sherman, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and William Tecumseh Sherman, the Union general during the Civil War".[2] He was educated at Whitestown Seminary, then attended Hamilton College, from which he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1878.[3][a] At Hamilton, he was noted for his skills in oratory and debate.

After graduation, he remained at Hamilton for a year to study law, then continued his studies at the Utica office of Beardsley, Cookingham and Burdick, which included his brother in law Henry J. Cookingham as a partner. He was admitted to the bar in 1880, and practiced with Cookingham in the firm of Cookingham & Martin. Sherman was also president of the Utica Trust & Deposit Co. and the New Hartford Canning Company. Sherman became active in politics as a Republican and was elected chairman of the party in Oneida County.[4] He became mayor of Utica at age twenty-nine.[5] In 1881, he married Carrie Babcock of East Orange, New Jersey, and they had three sons; Sherrill B. Sherman, Richard Updyke Sherman, and Thomas Moore Sherman.

Old-guard conservative in Congress

Sherman in life and death
Undated photo by George Grantham Bain
Sherman during his vice presidency
Mourners attend Sherman's funeral in Utica, 1912
Bust of Sherman by Bessie Potter Vonnoh, 1911

In 1886, Sherman was elected U.S. Representative from New York's 23rd congressional district as a Republican, and he served 20 years in the House (four years, followed by a two-year break and 16 more years).[6] At a time when the Republican Party was divided over protective tariffs, Sherman sided with William McKinley and the conservative branch, defending the gold standard against the potentially inflationary 'free silver'.

During his House career, Sherman served as chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs from the 54th through the 60th Congresses (1895 to 1909).

As Sherman had never held a party leadership post or been a chairman of a major committee such as Ways and Means or Appropriations, he was considered sufficiently neutral to frequently be appointed chairman of the Committee of the Whole— a crucial device for speeding up the passage of bills by suspending certain rules at the discretion of the chairman. Henry Cabot Lodge recognized this job as a major test of integrity and judgment, and declared that Sherman was supremely fitted for it.[7] Through Sherman's efforts in 1900, the Sherman Indian High School in Riverside, California was built and named after him.[8]

Vice presidency (1909–1912)

At the suggestion of Senator Charles Curtis at the 1908 Republican National Convention, Sherman was nominated as the Republican candidate for vice president on the ticket with William Howard Taft.[9] Although not an obvious front-runner, he balanced the progressive Taft's profile, by being both an Easterner and a conservative (it was said that the two wings of the GOP 'flapped together'), and the New York delegates pressed hard for his nomination. The Republicans won by a comfortable margin. At first, Sherman and Taft found themselves at odds over both tariff policy and the role of the Vice President. But as Taft became embattled with parts of the progressive faction of the Republican party, the two of them worked together more harmoniously – a relationship eased further by the First Lady's enjoyment of the company of Sherman and his wife. The President declared that Sherman accomplished much on Capitol Hill by his "charm of speech and manner, and his spirit of conciliation and compromise", backed by a "stubborn adherence" to his principles.

During the beginning of his term, Taft, who had been associated with progressives, had to deal with Speaker Joseph Gurney Cannon who was a part of the conservatives. Sherman, who had more experience in Congress, was expected to be a liaison for Taft with Cannon. “I am going to rely on you, Jim, to take care of Cannon for me. Whatever I have to do there will be done through you,” proposed Taft. Sherman replied, “Not through me. You will have to act on your own account. I am to be Vice President, and acting as a messenger boy is not part of the duties as Vice President.”

Re-nomination, illness, and death

From 1910, Taft had experienced several disagreements with ex-President Theodore Roosevelt, who presently walked out and formed his own Bull Moose party. This made re-election for the Republicans almost impossible, but they campaigned on the same ticket in the 1912 contest, with New Yorkers once again supporting Sherman's nomination – the first time that a sitting vice president had been re-nominated since John C. Calhoun in 1828.

Diagnosed with Bright's disease in 1904, Sherman's health was failing by the time of the 1912 campaign. Less than a week before the election, he died at home in Utica on October 30, six days after his 57th birthday, and President Taft was left with no running mate, although Nicholas Murray Butler was designated to receive the electoral votes that Sherman would have received. Taft and Butler came in third place in the election, carrying only eight electoral votes from Utah and Vermont. Democratic candidate Woodrow Wilson and his running mate Thomas R. Marshall won the election while Progressive candidate Theodore Roosevelt and his running mate Hiram Johnson came in second place. The vice presidency remained vacant until Marshall's inauguration on March 4, 1913.

Sherman was buried at Forest Hill Cemetery in Utica.[10]

See also


  1. ^ Sherman was a recipient of several honorary degrees, including LL.D.s from Hamilton College (1903), Wesleyan University (1909), and the University of Pittsburgh (1909).


  1. ^ Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 12, 1911
  2. ^ "Sherman, James". Vice Presidents: A Biographical Dictionary. Facts On File. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved September 27, 2020.
  3. ^ L. Edward Purcell (2010). Vice Presidents: A Biographical Dictionary. Facts on File, Inc. pp. 260. ISBN 978-0-8160-7707-6.
  4. ^ "Arranging for a Convention". The New York Times. New York, NY. February 24, 1884. p. 1 – via Newspapers.com.
  5. ^ Arnold, Peri. "James S. Sherman". American President: An Online Reference Resource. University of Virginia. Archived from the original on December 17, 2010. Retrieved December 13, 2010.
  6. ^ Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, Inc. 1984. pp. 812, 816, 820, 825. ISBN 0-87187-339-7.
  7. ^ James S. Sherman U.S. Senate.
  8. ^ "Sherman Indian Museum.org: Sherman Indian High School History". shermanindianmuseum.org appraisal. Archived from the original on November 15, 2013.
  9. ^ Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, Inc. 1984. p. 73. ISBN 0-87187-339-7.
  10. ^ "Thousands Paying Final Respects to Sherman". Buffalo Enquirer. November 1, 1912. p. 1. Retrieved October 6, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.Open access icon
U.S. House of Representatives Preceded byJohn T. Spriggs Member from New York's 23rd congressional district 1887–1891 Succeeded byHenry Wilbur Bentley Preceded byJames J. Belden Member from New York's 25th congressional district 1893–1903 Succeeded byLucius Littauer Preceded byMichael E. Driscoll Member from New York's 27th congressional district 1903–1909 Succeeded byCharles S. Millington Party political offices Preceded byCharles W. Fairbanks Republican nominee for Vice President of the United States 1908, 1912 (Deceased) Succeeded byNicholas M. Butler Political offices Preceded byCharles W. Fairbanks Vice President of the United States 1909–1912 Succeeded byThomas R. Marshall