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Harkless, James Henry, 3600 Harrison Boulevard

Kansas City, Missouri Its History and Its People 1800-1908 by Carrie Westlake Whitney, vol. III, 1908

James Henry Harkless, senior member of the law firm of Harkless, Crysler & Histed, was born in Belmont county, Ohio, May 15, 1856, and has been a practitioner at the Kansas City bar since May 11, 1886. His father, James Harkless, was a farmer and railroad contractor who, a native of Ohio, removed with his family to Lamar, Missouri, where he arrived November 8, 1865. There he conducted a stage line from Sedalia to Lamar, being the pioneer stage proprietor over that line. When the railroads were built through in 1870 he removed to a farm, whereon he died in 1883. His wife, Mrs. Sarah Jane Harkless, was a native of Virginia and a daughter of Thomas J. McConn, who was state senator of Virginia for many years. Mrs. Harkless died in 1881. The Harkless family were originally from the north of Ireland, while the McConn family were of French lineage but of long residence in Virginia.

James H. Harkless was the eldest of five children, three sons and two daughters, of whom all but one sister are now living, namely: T. W., a merchant of Lamar, Missouri; George A., a cattle dealer and farmer of Lamar; and Ella, the wife of Monroe Billings, superintendent of wood construction for he Kansas City southern Railway and now residing at Pittsburg, Kansas.

James H. Harkless spent his boyhood days at Lamar and acquired his education in the public schools there and in the Janesville Business College at Janesville, Wisconsin. With this as a preparatory step he took up the reading of law under the direction of Judge R. B. Robinson, one of the old-time lawyers of the state, and was admitted to the bar in April, 1877, when twenty years of age. He at once entered into partnership with his preceptor under the firm style of Robinson & Harkless, the partnership continuing until the removal of Mr. Harkless to Kansas City on the 11th of May, 1886. Judge Robinson also came to the city and John OGrady removed from St. Louis to Kansas City, and here the three entered into partnership relations under the firm style of Robinson, OGrady & Harkless, a connection that was maintained until about 1890, when the senior partner withdrew; the two others continuing their association without change until 1893; when Charles S. Crysler entered the firm. Mr. O’Grady died in 1903 and in the following January Clifford Histed, formerly of the firm of Rossington, Smith & Histed, of Topeka, Kansas, was admitted to a partnership and the firm remains Harkless, Crysler & Histed. They have conducted a large general law practice and were attorneys for the consolidation of the Kansas City breweries, the Pennsylvania Railroad and allied companies, also legal representatives of the interests of Charles J. Devlin, the Fidelity & Casualty Insurance Company of New York and other prominent corporations and interests. Their attention has largely been given to companies. The senior partner of the firm has on several occasions acted as special judge and possesses a mind of singular precision and power. He is capable of an impartial view of both sides of a question and his conclusions are always just and equitable. No indirect methods, artifice or concealment constitute elements of his practice but on the contrary he has made it his purpose to aid the court in the administration of justice and has never sought to lead the court astray in a matter of fact or law. He gives to his client the service of great talent, unwearied industry and rare learning, yet he never forgets that there are certain things due to a righteous administration of the law which neither the zeal of an advocate nor the pleasure of success permits him to disregard.

Mr. Harkless is recognized as a leader in republican ranks and has won high honors of this character. He served for years as chairman of the republican state league and in 1892 was chairman of the republican county committee. Since that time he has taken no active part in politics save that he keeps thoroughly informed concerning the questions and issues of the day. He has never consented to be a candidate for office, preferring to concentrate his energies upon his professional duties. The interests and attractions of club life and fraternal organizations have never lured him from his profession and his home. It is in his practice and in his home that his interest centers. The clientage of the firm has increased so rapidly that his professional duties make heavy demand upon his time and energies, the firm now employing four other attorneys. Mr. Harkless belongs to the American Bar Association, the Kansas City Bar Association and the State Bar Association and is a frequent contributor to legal and other publications. He is interested in various financial and commercial corporations, including the Security National Bank, and his real-estate holdings are extensive.

On the 18th of November, 1884, at Lamar, Missouri, Mr. Harkless was married to Miss Carrie M. Kiser, a daughter of Israel Kiser, extensively engaged in agricultural pursuits and sheep raising in Franklin county, Ohio. Mrs. Harkless is prominent in social and club circles of the city. By her marriage she has become the mother of a daughter and son: Fay, now nineteen years of age, who in 1907 was graduated from The Castle, a school at Tarrytown, New York; and James H., Fifteen years of age. The family residence at No. 3600 Harrison boulevard is one of the fine homes of the city and was erected in 1905. A visit to the home indicates a cultured taste there manifest and the love of art, for many fine paintings adorn its walls.

Mr. Harkless is a man who shuns publicity, nor has he ever sought to figure in any public light save that of a successful lawyer. The consensus of opinion on the part of his fellowmen, however, has established his position in the foremost ranks of the legal fraternity and accorded him that social prominence which comes in recognition of the development of literary and artistic tastes and mental powers. While he has been extremely successful in his profession, the mere love of money as such has never found place in his nature, as he values it only that it makes possible the acquirement of those things which minister to the aesthetic taste and enables him to provide bountifully for the welfare and happiness of his family. He is at all times a man of liberal views and broad outlook and if he has risen to a higher position in the world than the majority of his fellows it is because he has fitly used the powers with which nature endowed him.