History: Major James Fleming Waddell was more than Seale’s first mayor

History: Major James Fleming Waddell was more than Seale’s first mayor

Editor’s Note: Russell County has a long history that is important to the State of Alabama and its evolvement from an area described in the book “Russell County in Retrospect” by Anne Kendrick Walker as a “barbaric land” to what it is today. Many of the people who set their roots in the county in its early days including the state’s first Territorial Delegate to the United States Congress, important Native Americans who paid with their lives to cede land that created the county, a family that started a place of higher learning in south Russell County that later led to the establishment of one of the state’s most known institutions of education today and a former slave who placed a monument to honor his former owner, are very much important to the formation of Alabama. The story that follows is another of a series to inform you – our readers – about the history of Russell County. 

Exactly 128 years ago – April 30, 1892 – Major James Fleming Waddell’s obituary appeared in a newspaper in the town of Seale. But, no words in a newspaper are enough to honor the legacy left behind by this remarkable man who helped direct the early history of Russell County. However, the words of Waddell’s obituary in the April 30, 1892 Russell Record are all we have to tell the story of a war hero, a public servant, friend, and family member. The following is a portion of that obituary:

“A gloom was cast over our town last Saturday evening by the reception of a telegram from Columbus announcing the death at that place of Major James Fleming Waddell, who was not only one of the oldest inhabitants of Seale, but one of the landmarks of the county. He had been in feeble health for some time, and his death was not unexpected to his family and friends, nevertheless, it was very sad.

“Major Waddell was born at Hillsboro, North Carolina, October 2, 1825, and at the time of his death was 66 years, 6 months and 21 days of age.

“When 19 years old, he was authorized to raise a company to serve in the Mexican war, and he succeeded so well that in January, 1846, he left for Mexico as lieutenant of the company he had formed. He served through the entire war, receiving one serious wound, and when he returned home he was brevetted as captain for his distinguished service.

“When Fillmore became president, he appointed Major Waddell Consul to Matamoras. When he returned, he removed to Galveston, Texas, where he studied law and was admitted to the bar. Instead of practicing his profession, however, he devoted his talents to journalism, and became editor of the leading Whig paper in Texas.

“In 1859 he moved to Russell county and commenced the practice of law. When the war broke out between the States, however, he abandoned his profession, and in 1861 he left for the front as commander of a company in the Sixth Alabama Infantry. In 1862 he formed a battery of artillery, which he commanded until the end of hostilities. He was in numerous battles and always bore himself with a fearlessness that gained for him a high reputation.

“After the surrender Major Waddell returned to this county and again began the practice of law. He became the senior member of the law firm Hooper & Waddell, which was one of the leading law firms in East Alabama. After the death of his partner, the late Col. Geo. W. Hooper, he continued the practice alone, until about a year ago, when he and his son, Boswell deG. Waddell, Esq., formed a co-partnership during all of which time he has enjoyed a lucrative practice.

“. . . He represented Russell county in the State Senate (his term not expired) and performed his duty as Senator faithfully, ably and conscientiously, and in a manner highly satisfactory to his constituency.

“In his soldier life he was noted for his courage and bravery;  as a lawyer he was noted for his learning and eloquence and his remarkable success with his cases; as a friend he was true as steel. He was kind and loving father and a model husband. In his death the county and State have lost one of their most distinguished citizens, and the bar one of its ablest practitioners.

“. . . The bereft family has the sympathy of a large circle of friends in this their sad hour of affliction, and may He who tempers the winds to the shorn lambs be with them.”

Major Waddell is buried in Linwood Cemetery in Columbus, Ga.

In 1865, Major Waddell was appointed Judge of the Probate Court in Russell County. He was elected to the position in 1866 and served until 1868. In 1872, he was chosen the first Mayor of Seale. He was an editor of the Russell Examiner newspaper.