Judge James P. Mooneyham, of Benton, Illinois, belongs to one of the oldest pioneer families in this section of the state, his grandfather, Shadrach Mooneyham, having come here with his family in 1838. One of the members of the household was the son John, who became the father of James P. John Mooneyham was born in Alabama, on December 23, 1825, and was therefore a lad of thirteen years when his parents moved to Illinois. When a young man he purchased a farm in Franklin county and was a well known and highly respected resident here throughout the remainder of his life. Although he naturally favored the principles of the Democratic party in a political way, he was not wedded to their precepts and exercised commendable independence in his thoughts and actions. He at one time received the nomination for sheriff of Franklin county at the hands of an independent aggregation and, although he met with defeat, gave his opponents a hard run. His ability to fill that character of office did not remain unrecognized, however, and he served as deputy sheriff for some time under Carroll Moore.
In the war of the rebellion John Mooneyham, father of the subject, championed the cause of the North and served in the army with honor and distinction. He was a member of Company I, Thirty-first Regiment, for a time and was first lieutenant under General (then Colonel) John A. Logan. Resigning from the Thirty-first Regiment, he later enlisted with the Fifteenth Illinois Cavalry, in which he served first
as first sergeant but was promoted and when his company was mustered out he was a first lieutenant. The total length of his service in the army was three years and eleven months.
On his mother's side of the house also Judge James P. Mooneyham traces his ancestry to early pioneers. His mother was Minerva Manering, a native of Greene county, Illinois, where she was born on August 4, 1841, the daughter of James Manering, one of Virginia's sturdy sons. Mr. Manering moved to Greene county at a time when the whole country was very sparsely settled. He was engaged in agriculture in Greene county for several years, but later moved to Franklin county, transporting his family and possessions by ox team. In Franklin county, near Six Mile Prairie, he secured a fine tract of land from the Government, which he cleared and put under cultivation, retaining the ownership of this farm throughout his life. The death of Mrs. Mooneyham, the mother of James P., occurred on February 20, 1893, but little over a month after the demise of her husband, on January 10, 1893. They were both members of the Town Mount Prairie Missionary Baptist church and were held in the highest esteem by a large circle of friends.
Judge James P. Mooneyham was born near Benton, Franklin county, Illinois, December 12, 1871. His early education was such as the common schools afforded, but this was later supplemented by the better advantages of the town schools and college. He attended at different times a select school at Benton, the State Normal at Carbondale and finally took a two term course at Ewing College, Ewing, Illinois. This gave him a good foundation for success at teaching and for five years he engaged in that profession. During those years he devoted what time he could spare from his regnlar duties to the study of law, reciting under a relative's tuition, and was admitted to the bar in November, 1896.
Judge Mooneyham has filled a number of public offices, both elective and appointive, performing state and county service in various capacities. His political proclivities are Republican and he has been one of that party`s most zealous workers in this section of the state. In 1896, immediately after his admittance to practice, he became a candidate for the nomination for state`s attorney of Franklin county and received the honor without opposition at the hands of his party constituents. The election, however, resulted in his defeat.
On March 4, 1897, he was offered and accepted the appointment of chief clerk at the Hospital for the Insane at Anna, Illinois, at the hands of Governor John R. Tanner. He proved himself well fitted for the duties of that important position and remained in it until September 21, 1901, when he handed in his resignation and upon its acceptance returned to Benton and took up actively the practice of his profession.
Judge Mooneyham formed a partnership with W. P. Seeber and pursued law work until 1902, when he was elected county judge, running on the Republican ticket. During the subsequent four years Judge Mooneyham devoted his time assiduously to the faithful discharge of his judicial position, then wishing to engage again in private practice declined to become a candidate for re-election to the judgeship. He re-opened a law office at Benton, conducting it individually for a time, but in December, 1908, his old partner, W. P. Seeber, joined him in the formation of a firm and the business has since been conducted by these two gentlemen. Judge Mooneyham is eligible to plead in all of the courts in Illinois and enjoys a splendid practice, not only serving clients in Franklin county, but in other parts of the state as well. While he devotes his entire time to his large and growing practice he retains an
enthusiastic interest in civic and political matters and is a valued adviser of the leaders in the Republican party.
On November 15, 1899, occurred the marriage of Mr. Mooneyham to Miss Anna Spangler, daughter of Jacob Spangler, and a native of Union county, Illinois.
In social matters as well as business and professional affairs Mr. Mooneyham is recognized as a leader and one whose influence is always found on the side of right and justice. He is a member of Benton Lodge, No. 64, A. F. & A. M., also of W. R. Ward Royal Arch Chapter, No. 223, and he likewise is affiliated with the Knights of Pythias order. He is a man of broad gauge, liberal and progressive in his ideas and methods, and is held in the highest esteem by all who know him.