James, Fleming Wills (1847–1918)

By: Les Gronberg

Type: Biography

Published: February 1, 1995

Fleming Wills James, teacher, soldier, judge, and financier, was born in Richmond, Virginia, on April 11, 1847, the son of Henry and Eliza (Wills) James. He entered Virginia Military Institute in 1862. He was a cadet private in Company A at the battle of New Market on May 15, 1864, after which he reentered VMI and remained until the company was disbanded on April 2, 1865. He returned again to VMI in 1866 and graduated first in the class of 1868 as fourth cadet captain. He then moved to Texas and, with his two brothers, Charles A. and John Garland James, organized Texas Military Institute at Bastrop in 1868. TMI was moved to Austin in 1870. At the institute Fleming James was commandant of cadets and professor of engineering and tactics until 1879. John James was superintendent and professor of philosophy and mathematics. Charles James was professor of modern languages. Texas Military Institute prospered and became one of the leading Texas educational institutions of the time.

During Reconstruction James organized the Texas militia and was commissioned a colonel. He was later promoted to major general and put in charge of the volunteer organization. He had also studied law and practiced in Austin and elsewhere in Texas. He served as a county judge and twice as judge of the Thirty-second District of Texas.

He organized the First National Bank at Baird in 1884 and served as its president. In 1889 he organized the Farmers' and Merchants' National Bank of Abilene, of which he became managing vice president. He organized and built the Roscoe, Snyder and Pacific Railway. He established the Abilene Trust Company, of which he was president and general counsel for many years. He was instrumental in attracting large sums of eastern capital to West Texas. James died in Abilene on September 21, 1918. He was survived by his wife, Isobel May (Porter) of Austin, who died in 1922. The couple had four children.

William Couper, The V.M.I. New Market Cadets (Charlottesville, Virginia: Michie, 1933). Allan Robert Purcell, The History of the Texas Militia (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas at Austin, 1981).


  • Education
  • Educators
  • Military
  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Politics and Government
  • Judges

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Les Gronberg, “James, Fleming Wills,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed December 01, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/james-fleming-wills.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 1, 1995