James Wilson (journalist)

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James Wilson

James Wilson (20 February 1787 – 17 October 1850) was a journalist and politician who was the paternal grandfather of US president Woodrow Wilson.

Life and career[edit]

Born in Ulster, Ireland in 1787, Wilson emigrated in his youth to the United States. He settled in Philadelphia, where he found work as a printer in the office of the Aurora, a Jeffersonian newspaper edited by William Duane. He rose to the position of foreman, publisher, and then editor.[1] Continuing his journalistic career in Steubenville, Ohio, he purchased the Western Herald, which name he changed to Western Herald & Steubenville Gazette.[2] He became involved in state politics, representing Jefferson County in the Ohio House of Representatives in 1816–1817 and 1820–1822.[3] In 1832, he founded the Pennsylvania Advocate, a Pittsburgh newspaper which he owned and edited for a year before turning it over to his oldest son William Duane Wilson.[4] Though not a lawyer, James Wilson served for several years as an associate judge for the Jefferson County common pleas court.[5] Wilson died in Steubenville on 17 October 1850 from an attack of cholera.[6] He was elected to the Ohio Journalism Hall of Fame in 1933.[7]


Wilson married Ann Adams in Philadelphia in 1808. Both were of Scotch-Irish origin.[1] They had seven sons and three daughters. The youngest son, Joseph Ruggles Wilson, born in Steubenville in 1822, was the father of Woodrow Wilson.[8]


  1. ^ a b Guffey, p. 53.
  2. ^ Guffey, p. 54.
  3. ^ Ohio Journalism Hall of Fame, p. 10.
  4. ^ Guffey, pp. 55–56.
  5. ^ Walworth, p. 4–5.
  6. ^ Guffey, p. 57.
  7. ^ Ohio Journalism Hall of Fame, p. 7.
  8. ^ Weisenburger, pp. 385, 387


  • Guffey, Alexander S. (1941). "James Wilson". Colonel Edward Cook and Other Historical Papers. Pittsburgh. pp. 53–57.
  • Ohio Journalism Hall of Fame: Proceedings of the Sixth and Seventh Annual Dinner Meetings of Judges, Newspapermen, and Others to Honor the Journalists Elected (PDF). Journalism Series. 12. Ohio State University Press. 1935.
  • Walworth, Arthur (1965). Woodrow Wilson (Second Revised ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  • Weisenburger, Francis P. (December 1936). "The Middle Western Antecedents of Woodrow Wilson". The Mississippi Valley Historical Review. 23 (3): 375–390.