From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)
James D. Watts.pdf

Watts, James D. "J. D."

(born: April 1871) 

During his prime years, James D. Watts was a middleweight boxer who lived in Louisville, KY. He was also a boxing instructor at the Louisville Pasttime Athletic Club. He fought under the name J. D. Watts.

His boxing career started in 1895 with a win over Tom Lansing. He also fought Roeber about the same time, though that fight and his fight in 1896 with Hutchinson in Hot Springs, AR were not recorded in his record online. In 1900, J. D. Watts was enumerated twice in the U.S. Census, once in Louisville with his family, and once in Cincinnati, OH, where he was renting a room and was enumerated as a prizefighter. 

J. D. Watts was living in South Bend, IN in 1913, when Dr. James Jones, a dentist, stole Watts' gold teeth from his mouth, then disappeared. Watts searched for the man for months, eventually finding him in Chicago, IL. When Watts saw Jones on the street, Watts chased him down on foot, caught him, and turned the dentist over to the police. The case went to court in Hammond, IN. There were several other victims with the same complaint.

In 1914, J. D. Watts was giving exhibition fights in Michigan City, IN. He also claimed to be a wrestler and was looking for any takers. During his career, J. D. Watts fought at least 43 bouts from 1895-1919 with a record of 18 wins, 19 losses, and five  draws, according to his record on the Boxer List website. He was going by the name "Jimmy Watts" at his last fight in 1919 and was referred to in the newspapers as a "veteran boxer" and an "old timer." For that one fight, he was a heavyweight contender said to be 44 years old (though, he may have been older), and he had not had a professional fight since 1905.

Watts had been a trainer since stepping out of the ring. He was upset when his fighter was knocked out in the first round of a fight. So, after a few months of training Watts took to the ring to teach the young opponent a lesson, and to get a bit of revenge for his fighter being knocked out so early in his fight. Watts' upcoming fight in 1919 was billed as the main bout at the Academy Theater in Pittsburgh, PA. Billy Mercer, aka Al Grayber, knocked-out Jimmy Watts in the second round. Prior to the knockout, the score cards had mostly been in Mercer's favor with four wins and two draws.

James D. Watts' death date and death location are not known at this time. His wife and children are enumerated as living in Chicago in the 1910 through 1950 U.S. Censuses. James D. Watts may have been born in Kirksville, though Richmond, KY is given as his birth locaton, as stated on his son's Herman's World War I Draft Registration Card in Ancestry.

James D. Watts was the son of Mollie Watts. His mother was enumerated with James Watts' family in the 1900 U.S. Census. James D. Watts was the husband of Ida Kelley Watts; the couple was married in Louisville on June 18, 1894. A copy of their marriage certificate is available in Ancestry.   

Sources: "Chief of Police Taylor ...," Louisville Courier-Journal, 4/3/1896, p. 5; "Watts and Hutchinson," The Courier-Journal, 2/18/1896, p. 6; Jimmy Watts (J. D. Watts) at the Boxer List website; "Alleges dentist stole his teeth," The Brownstown Banner, 9/17/1913, front page; "Jim "blows in" Michigan City," The Lake County Times, 3/14/1914, p. 5; "Veteran boxer to appear," The Pittsburgh Press, 2/19/1919, p. 24.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Jefferson County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Madison County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Louisville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Richmond, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Kirksville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Item Relations

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: Ancestry (online)
NKAA Source: Courier-Journal [Louisville] (newspaper)
NKAA Source: The Brownstown banner (newspaper)
NKAA Source: The Lake County times (newspaper)
NKAA Source: The Pittsburgh press (newspaper)

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Watts, James D. "J. D.",” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed June 12, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-11-27 04:47:44