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This article is from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 6 volumes, edited by William S. Powell. Copyright ©1979-1996 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Boyd, James Edmund

by Horace Alexander Hester, 1979

14 Feb. 1845–21 Aug. 1935

James Edmund Boyd. Image courtesy of "Prominent people of North Carolina: brief biographies of leading people for ready reference purposes".James Edmund Boyd, lawyer and judge, was born in that part of Orange County which is now Alamance County, the son of Archibald Hill and Mary Weatherly Boyd.

He attended Graham Academy and studied at Davidson College for two years (1862–64). At the age of sixteen, he enrolled in the Thirteenth North Carolina Infantry; later he joined the First North Carolina Cavalry and fought with Lee and Jackson in Virginia. He was a courier at Appomattox and carried a message from General Lee to General Grant requesting a meeting to arrange for the surrender.

The years of 1866 and 1867 were spent reading law under Judge Thomas L. Ruffin, and Boyd was admitted to the North Carolina bar in 1868. He began the practice of law in Graham and was elected a member of the General Assembly (1874–75). He was also a delegate to the convention of 1875. After removing his residence to Greensboro, he served as the U.S. attorney for the Western District of North Carolina from 1880 to 1885 under appointment of President Hayes. He was also elected mayor of Greensboro in 1894. The office of second assistant attorney general of the United States was given to him in 1897 by President McKinley. He was appointed judge of the federal district courts in the Western District of North Carolina in 1901 and served for twenty-three years with distinction. He was also a delegate to the 1904 Universal Congress of Lawyers and Jurists.

Boyd married Sallie Holt, member of a prominent and well-known family of Alamance County, on 12 Sept. 1868. One son, Thomas, died soon after he finished his law course. Sallie Boyd died in 1928, and Boyd died in Greensboro at the age of ninety.


R. D. W. Connor, North Carolina: Rebuilding an Ancient Commonwealth, vol. 2 (1929).

Data Files, Alumni Office, Davidson College, Davidson.

Greensboro Daily News, 22 Aug. 1935.

Additional Resources:

Prominent people of North Carolina: brief biographies of leading people for ready reference purposes. Asheville, N.C. [N.C.]: Evening News Pub. Co., 1906. 1906. (accessed June 3, 2013).

Image Credits:

Prominent people of North Carolina: brief biographies of leading people for ready reference purposes. Asheville, N.C. [N.C.]: Evening News Pub. Co., 1906. 1906. (accessed June 3, 2013).

Origin - location: 


I believe this entry should be updated. James E. Boyd was a member of the Reconstruction Era Ku Klux Klan, and he testified regarding his activities during the impeachment trial of William Holden. He specifically testified to what he heard about the murders of Wyatt Outlaw and John Stephens. This entry makes no mention of that at all, skipping most of Reconstruction. Including details about his Reconstruction experience seems quite relevant to a biography of Boyd as well as the state's history.. You can find Boyd's testimony online here:

I agree wholeheartedly. Anyone from this time period with ties to the Klan should be pointed out as such. Someone like Boyd, who is confirmed to have been involved in the KKK from 1866 until 1870, and then actively turned on them and testified to their methods, traditions, and operations... that seems like a pretty big omission. For a state that has so many people in it who scream about "erasing history," I think that pointing all of this out would go a long way toward acknowledging our history... even(especially!) the distasteful parts.

Hello Steven and Jonathan.

Thank you for your comments.

Please note this was not written by the library; it is from a published source that our library has permission to digitize. The title is listed in the paragraph above the title, Dictionary of North Carolina Biography in volume 1, published in 1979 There is another article that does touch on his involvement in the KKK and the federal government published in 1991 and in volume 4 of the same series, which is at

I am not sure why the author of this article neglected to include the information. I will send your comments to NCpedia staff, and they will look into making corrections. 

Thank you, 

Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library

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