James Edward Shepherd Sr. was born 1847 in Mintonville, Nansemond, Suffolk Co, VA, the 5th of 7 known surviving children (2 boys/5 girls) born to Thomas Swepson Shepherd (1811-1860) and his (1st) wife Anne Eliza Browne (1813-1851).
He was the paternal grandson of Dr. William Shepherd (1770-1860) and Frances Henop Swepson (1793-<1850); and maternal grandson Dr. Samuel Browne and Elizabeth Minton (1793-1822) of Mintoville, VA.
James was about 3 years old when his mother died in 1851, and his father married (2nd) Maria Frances Fanny Allen, by whom 1 child was born. Maternal nurturing was brief, as his stepmother died in 1856, again leaving his father a widower. Then in 1860 his father died, leaving him an orphan at age 13. Upon the death of his father, young Shepherd appears to have been put in the care of his 22-year old brother, William Samuel Shepherd William Samuel Shepherd (1838-1862), who had married and moved to Murfreesboro, Hertford Co, NC.
When Civil War erupted between the states, William S. Shepherd sent his younger brother James back to Suffolk to work as a clerk while he sought and obtained a commission as 1st Lieutenant in Company F., 1st Regiment, North Carolina Infantry.
At Suffolk, hating the job of clerk, the not quite 14-year old James claimed to be aged eighteen and joined Company A (composed of Suffolk men), 16th Regiment, Virginia Infantry, as a private. At the end of summer in 1862, Lee's Army of Northern Virginia moved into Maryland during its first invasion of the North. During this campaign young Shepherd revealed the fact that he was aged only 15 and was discharged from military service near Frederick, Maryland, on September 8. Nine days later his brother, William, was killed at the Battle of Sharpsburg, Maryland. Shepherd saw no further service as a soldier. Instead he spent the remainder of the war as a telegraph operator under contract with the C.S.A. War Department, first at the Narrows of New River in Giles County, Virginia, then at Wilson, N.C. In the meanwhile his sisters, Elizabeth "Betty" Minton Shepherd and Frances "Fannie" Swepson Shepherd who had been living with family members in the Suffolk area, moved to Forest Hill in the mountains of Virginia. The elder of the two, Elizabeth, earned an income by teaching school in both places.
At the war's end Shepherd visited his sisters and kinsmen in Virginia then returned to Wilson, NC, where he sought employment as a telegrapher in the late summer of 1865. After studying law at the University of North Carolina in 1867 and 1868, Shepherd was admitted to the bar and opened a practice in Wilson in 1869.
In 1872 Shepherd married Elizabeth Bowen Brown (1853-1929), daughter of Sylvester T. Brown, a lawyer of Washington, NC, who had refugeed during the civil war years in Wilson, but who had returned home shortly after 1870. They would become parents to two known children:
* James E. Shepherd, Jr. (1875-1891)
* Sylvester Brown Shepherd (1876-1946)
Upon his marriage Shepherd moved to Washington and joined his legal practice in partnership with that of an established local lawyer, Thomas Sparrow.
In 1875 Shepherd was elected delegate from Beaufort County to the Constitutional Convention of that year. The following year, 1876, he was elected judge of the Beaufort County Inferior Court, an office he held until 1882 when he was elected judge of the Superior Court. After six years on that bench Judge Shepherd was elected one of the justices of the North Carolina Supreme Court in 1888 and was appointed chief justice in 1892. Shepherd served as Chief Justice until 1895 when he was defeated for re-election to the high court. Having taught law at the University of North Carolina for eight summer terms, he was awarded an honorary LL.D. degree by the university in 1889.
Upon his departure from the bench Shepherd was free to resume his practice of law and did so, entering into partnership with Charles M. Busbee of Raleigh. Having moved his family from Washington to Raleigh upon his election to the Supreme Court, Shepherd resided in the capital until his death.
Judge Shepherd died at a hospital in Baltimore, where he had gone for treatment, in February of 1910. He was 63 years old. His wife of 38 years survived him 19 years, passing in 1929 at age 75.
Sponsored by Ancestry