From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Chiles, James Alexander [Chiles v. Chesapeake & O R CO]

(born: January 8, 1860  -  died: April 5, 1930) 

J. Alexander Chiles was one of eight children, including his twin brother John R. Chiles. John gave J. Alexander financial assistance while he was a student at Lincoln University (Pennsylvania) and the University of Michigan Law School. J. Alexander Chiles moved to Lexington, KY in 1890 to open a law office at 304 W. Short Street. His business was a success.

Chiles is sometimes referred to as the first African American lawyer in Lexington, but he was actually the second. James W. Schooler was sworn into the Fayette County Bar in 1888, and Chiles became a practicing attorney in Lexington in 1890. He was, however, the first African American attorney to argue a jury case in Lexington. Chiles represented Anthony Duncan, who was accused of the murder of Dr. Gorham. Chiles also became a notary public in 1890.

By 1907, J. Alexander Chiles was one of four African American lawyers in the city. He argued in the Supreme Court case against the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad for the desegregation of railroad coaches after he was removed by force to the Colored coach in spite of his first-class ticket from Washington D.C. to Lexington. Chiles was also an active member of the Colored Seventh Day Adventist congregation in Lexington; he was a trustee, deacon, and treasurer of the first church built in 1906 at the corner of Fifth and Upper Streets. His wife Fannie J. Bates Chiles was the first librarian for the church. Elder Alonzo Barry was pastor.

James A. Chiles was born in Richmond, VA, the son of Richard and Martha Chiles. In 1910, James and Fannie Chiles had planned to move from Lexington to Richmond, VA but decided to remain in Lexington and are enumerated as living in Lexington in the 1930 U.S. Census. At some point after the first of the year, there was a visit to Virginia; James Alexander Chiles died in Richmond in April 1930 [source: "Tribute is paid Negro attorney by local bar," Lexington Leader, 4/9/1930, p. 1].

For more see Biographical Sketches of Prominent Negro Men and Women of Kentucky, by W. D. Johnson; Chiles v. Chesapeake & O R CO, 218 U.S. 71 (1910) [full-text online by Justia]; "The Circuit court," Kentucky Leader, 11/19/1890, p. 5; "County court orders," The Kentucky Leader, 12/24/1890, p. 4; and "Lawyer J. Alex Chiles" in the Colored Notes of the Lexington Leader, 1/2/1910, p. 2.

*Name sometimes spelled Childes.*

*Additional information about James Alexander Chiles was provided by Sarah Hubbard at the Lexington Public Library. Her research was also included in the Tales from the Kentucky Room podcast on J. Alexander Chiles (see external digital object link below).

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Fayette County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

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Outside Kentucky Place Name

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Chiles, James Alexander [Chiles v. Chesapeake & O R CO],” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed June 23, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-01-06 17:37:23