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James William Zevely, one of Muskogee’s leading lawyers and citizens, is well known throughout Oklahoma and beyond its confines, even to the nation’s capital. Since 1903, Mr. Zevely has been associated with Muskogee’s affairs. Though Missouri is his native state and the scene of his early successes, his allegiance and interest are now those of a loyal Oklahoman.
The Zevely family is of Moravian origin and its early history is connected with the development of Salem, North Carolina. Mr. Zevely’s father, Thadeus Zevely, was born in that locality and while still a lad was brought West by his parents, who settled at Linn, in Osage County, Missouri. There Thadeus Zevely grew to manhood, was educated and entered upon a career in law, which was continued throughout his life, save for the interruption incident to his entering the Union army at the time of our sectional differences in the early ’60s. His wife was Mary Miller Zevely, a lady of Scotch lineage and a native of Tennessee.
Mr. Zevely was born at Linn, Missouri. His childhood and early youth were given to the usual educational exercises of the American boy, with the vocational variation of a few years spent in a printing office. As a printer’s “ devil,” he gained his first knowledge of that line of activity and for two or three years edited a newspaper which had been bought by his father and an uncle and which was known by the doughty name of “The Unterrified Democrat.” The studies of James W. Zevely. begun in the Linn public schools, were supplemented first by a course in the German School at Herman, Missouri, and later by a two-years’ collegiate course in the Christian Brothers’ School at St. Louis, Missouri. He was secretary of the Missouri State Labor Bureau at Jefferson City, which position he held for two years. This was followed by an appointment by the Supreme Court of Missouri to the office of state librarian, which position he held for ten years. While serving as state librarian he was admitted to the bar, in 1886, and later he took a course of lectures in the College of Law of the University of Virginia. When Ex-Governor Francis became a member of the President’s cabinet, as secretary of the interior, he appointed J. W. Zevely as special inspector for that department. Mr. Zevely went to Washington and began the duties of his position in 1896, continuing in the service for seven years. In the spring of 1903 he resigned the position and resumed the practice of law.
Mr. Zevely’s first association as a lawyer in Muskogee was with Mr. J. M. Givens, their partnership beginning in 1903. Later Mr. Edgar Smith entered the firm, that connection being cut short by the death of the latter. When Mr. R. W. Stoutz entered the firm, the legal establishment became known as Zevely, Givens and Stoutz. The firm has an excellent reputation among the legal fraternity of Muskogee County and the State of Oklahoma.
The democratic party has long included Mr. Zevely among its faithful sons. Both in Missouri and in Oklahoma he has served as a member of the state central committees. His extensive activities and valuable services in public affairs have won him many staunch friends at the state capitals and also at Washington.
Mrs. Zevely is a daughter of Missouri and before her marriage was Miss Janie Clay of Mexico, Missouri. She and Mr. Zevely have two promising children, Jane Clay Zevely and James William Zevely, Jr. Mr. Zevely’s home was established in 1908 and both he and Mrs. Zevely are counted valuable acquisitions to the life of Muskogee and its environs.