James N. Kelly

AT RED LAKE FALLS.  Home Team Wins a Battle Royal With Crookston.  Special to The Journal.  Red Lake Falls, Minn., Jan. 18. – The debate last night between the Red Lake Falls and Crookston high schools was won by Red Lake Falls.  The judges were Superintendent J. Nelson Kelly of the Grand Forks high school, Professor Chandler of the North Dakota university, and Attorney Thomas Keefe of Fertile.  C. G. Newberry, principal of the Crookston high school, was chairman.  The debaters for Red Lake Falls, which had the affirmative side, were:  Leland Healy, Miss Rachel Taylor and Miss Pauline Neiland.  The debaters for Crookston on the negative side were Clifford Dufour, William Seelleck and Maurice Rosenthal, who defeated the Ada school three weeks ago.

A special train brought a large delegation from Grand Forks, 240 from Crookston, 75 from Fertile, accompanied by the Crookston band.  It is estimated that 1,000 listened to the debate, which was carried out in masterful style by both sides.  The ability of the Red Lake Falls debaters was the admiration of all.  Especially on the rebuttal did the affirmative side outpoint its opponent.  Features were the flaunting of school colors, Crookston’s scarlet and Red Lake Falls’ orange and purple.  Class songs and school yells were given.  The school occupied the left of the gallery and Crookston the right.  Enthusiasm reached high pitch, and when the judges announced the decision, pandemonium broke loose; hats were in the air, handkerchiefs were waved by men and women on chairs.  Superintendent Whiteley was besieged with congratulations.  The event was one of the most inspiring in the history of Red Lake Falls.  (The Minneapolis Journal, Saturday Evening, January 18, 1902, Page 7)

JAMES NELSON KELLY.  James Nelson Kelly is a Virginian by birth and his early education was obtained in public and private schools and at Emory and Henry College in the state of Virginia.  He was born at Emory, Virginia, April 9, 1859, the son of James and Mahala (Helton) Kelly.  His boyhood was spent on the farm and after passing through the public schools he matriculated at the historic old Emory and Henry College, from which he graduated in 1879 and from which he later received the degree of Master of Arts.  After spending some years in Illinois he entered and graduated from Lake Forest University, which school gave him his LL. B. degree.  Before coming to North Dakota Mr. Kelly was superintendent of schools at Brighton, Woodstock and Hillsdale, in the state of Illinois.  For the past twenty-three years he had been superintendent of the Grand Forks city schools.

Mr. Kelly was married July 2, 1896, to Eleanor G. Murphy, daughter of John J. and Elizabeth A. (Donnely) Murphy, of Woodstock, Illinois.  They have five children, Elizabeth Virginia, John J., Eleanor G., James N. and Evelyn C.  Mr. and Mrs. Kelly have a pleasant home in the city of Grand Forks where the latch string is always out to their friends.  Mr. Kelly has always taken a keen interest in the welfare of his city.  He has been interested not only in educational matters but has been anxious to lend a helping hand in every good work.  He is largely interested in agricultural affairs and owns some of the finest farms in the state.  (North Dakota History and People, Volume III, Clement A. Lounsberry, The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago, 1917, Page 8.)

Page 1.  James Nelson Kelly, Former City School Superintendent, Dies.  Democratic Leader Succumbs in Minneapolis After Brief Illness; Was 75.  J. Nelson Kelly, former superintendent of Grand Forks schools and long prominent in the Democratic party of North Dakota, died Sunday (January 14, 1934)  in St. Mary’s hospital at Minneapolis.  He was 75 years old.  Death was due to a cerebral hemorrhage, which occurred the day after Christmas, while he was spending the holidays with members of his family in Minneapolis.  He was taken to the hospital where his condition gradually grew worse.

Came Here in 1894.  Mr. Kelly came to Grand Forks from Hinsdale, Ill., in 1894 and served as superintendent of schools for 26 years.  Upon his retirement he devoted his attention to his farming and other business interests, giving much time to Democratic politics.  He served as president of the state education association, and was a member of the Grand Forks Elks and Masonic lodges.  Funeral services will be at 2 P. M. Tuesday at the residence, 521 South Fifth street, with Rev. M. J. Fletcher officiating.  Burial will be in Calvary cemetery.  Honorary pallbearers will be Joseph Kelly of Devils Lake, George A. Duis, Tracy R. Bangs, Dr. R. D. Campbell, Dean Joseph Kennedy, Sam Torgerson, Charles Garvin, T. Carter Griffith, C. J. Murphy, George Smith, L. M. Carter and John McKinnon.  Active pallbearers will be Adolph Lund, M. W. Murray, Philip Bangs, F. P. Rutherford, Dave G. Kelly and Edgar Kelly of Lakota.

Schools Will Close.  Flags were flown at half staff on all the schools Monday and all city schools will close at 2 P. M. Tuesday in respect to Mr. Kelly, Superintendent Elroy Schroeder announced.  James Nelson Kelly was born April 8, 1859, in southwestern Virginia, near the town of Emory, Washington county.  He was the first of seven children born to Mr. and Mrs. James Kelly, who lived on a plantation which had been occupied by Mr. Kelly’s ancestors since late in the seventeenth century.  After spending his early years on his parents’ estate, Mr. Kelly became a student at Emory and

Page 7.  Henry college and was graduated with A. B. and M. A. degrees in 1879.  His career as an educator began immediately and for six years he taught schools in Yellow Springs and Cedar Bluff, Va., going from there to Brighton, Ill., to become superintendent of schools.

Receives Law Degree.  He was in Brighton for three years before accepting a post as superintendent at Woodstock, Ill.  Remaining there only a year, he went to Hinsdale, Ill., and was head of the Hinsdale school system for three years.  From there he came to Grand Forks.  While in Illinois Mr. Kelly studied law and in 1893 received the degree L. L. B. from the Lake Forest University.  Instead of taking up the practice of law, however, he accepted the superintendency of the Grand Forks schools, a position he was destined to hold for 26 years.  The Grand Forks schools were in their infancy when Mr. Kelly took charge in 1894.  The school system comprised three schools, employing a total of only 25 teachers.  During Mr. Kelly’s 26 years as superintendent, six sizeable school building projects were completed.

Given High Tribute.  In an early edition of the Forx, Central High school, Grand Forks, annual, the following tribute was paid to the superintendent:  “J. Nelson Kelly is a name to conjure with.  To a pupil in the grades it is the embodiment of all that is stern, just, exact and reprimanding.  In the social and business world it is a name to command admiration and respect.  To a high school student it means a kind and sympathetic friend, who is always ready to lend a helping hand in any work that is to be of benefit to the school or community.  “One of the things most noticeable in the Grand Forks schools is the lack of friction.  Everything runs smoothly and there is none of the petty strife which so often exists.  When one asks the cause of this amicable condition of affairs, the answer will be found in the good judgment and absolute justice of the superintendent.  It has been through his efforts that the schools have been brought to their present standard.”  For a year Mr. Kelly was president of the North Dakota Teachers association.  Two years after he came here he was married to Miss Eleanor Murphy in Woodstock, Ill.

Resigns Post in 1919.  The superintendent resigned his position in June, 1919.  From then on he devoted much of his time to looking after farming interests in this vicinity.  He always was active in affairs of the Democratic party.  For many years Mr. Kelly was a member of the state central committee of the party, and in 1927 was elected by the Democrats of North Dakota as a national committeeman.  Four years later he was defeated for the post by H. H. Perry of Ellendale at the state primary.  He had been a North Dakota delegate to the last five national Democratic conventions.  He is survived by his widow; one son, James Nelson Kelly Jr. of New York, and three daughters, Eleanor G., and Evelyn C. Kelly of Minneapolis and Elizabeth B. Kelly, a teacher at Waseca, Minn., and two brothers, Thomas Kelly of Knoxville, Tenn., and Jonas Kelly of Meadowville, Va.  (Grand Forks Herald, Monday, January 15, 1934, Volume 29, Number 12)


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