James Millander Hanks (1833–1909)

James M. Hanks was a Helena (Phillips County) lawyer who served as a circuit judge and U.S. congressman during Reconstruction.

James Millander Hanks was born in Helena on February 12, 1833, to the farming family of Fleetwood Hanks and Francis Elizabeth Sanford Hanks. He grew up living in Helena’s Estevan Hall, located on land acquired in the late 1820s by his father and his uncle, Millander Hanks. He attended public schools before going to college in New Albany, Indiana, and Jackson College in Columbia, Tennessee, ultimately earning a law degree from the University of Louisville in Kentucky in 1855.

Hanks returned to Helena after graduation and, after passing the bar, established a law practice in partnership with Charles W. Adams. He married Helena Thompson on February 3, 1859; the couple had two sons, both of whom died young.

Hanks did not serve during the Civil War, but after hostilities ended he was either elected or appointed as judge in the First Judicial District in Arkansas on September 17, 1865. He served in that role, hearing both law and equity cases, until late July 1868.

He was elected to represent Arkansas’s First District in the Forty-second U.S. Congress, serving from March 4, 1871, to March 3, 1873. Hanks was not a candidate for renomination in 1872.

Following his single term as a congressman, Hanks retired from public life and spent most of his time working on his farm, though the 1900 U.S. Census indicates that he also had an insurance business. He was walking to his stables on the morning of May 24, 1909, when he “dropped dead while crossing his yard.” Hanks is buried in Helena’s Maple Hill Cemetery.

The Special Collections Department at the University of Arkansas Libraries in Fayetteville (Washington County) and the Arkansas State Archives in Little Rock (Pulaski County) both have copies of his collected diaries from 1865 to 1909 among their holdings.

For additional information:
“Hanks, James Millander.” History, Art & Archives, United States House of Representatives. https://history.house.gov/People/Listing/H/HANKS,-James-Millander-(H000157)/ (accessed April 12, 2023).

“History of District.” First Judicial District of the State of Arkansas. https://www.arcourts.gov/circuit/?q=history (accessed April 12, 2023).

James M. Hanks Diaries, 1865–1909. Arkansas State Archives, Little Rock, Arkansas. Finding aid online at https://digitalheritage.arkansas.gov/finding-aids/505/ (accessed April 12, 2023).

“James Millander Hanks.” Find a Grave. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/13812721/james-millander-hanks (accessed April 12, 2023).

James Millander Hanks Diaries. Special Collections. University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville, Arkansas. Finding aid online at https://uark.as.atlas-sys.com/repositories/2/resources/977 (accessed April 12, 2023).

“Judge J. M. Hanks Drops Dead.” Arkansas Gazette, May 25, 1909, p. 9.

Kirk, Diana, and Anthony S. Riddle. “Estevan Hall.” National Register of Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at https://www.arkansasheritage.com/arkansas-historic-preservation-program (accessed April 12, 2023).

Treece, Joel D., ed. Biographical Directory of the American Congress, 1774–1996. Alexandria, VA: QC Staff Directory, 1997.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


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