JAMES M. WELLS was born near Alexandria, Louisiana on January 8, 1808. His education was attained at the Alden Partridge Military Academy in Connecticut, at St. Joseph’s College in Kentucky, and at the Cincinnati Law School. Wells entered public service in 1840, with an appointment as sheriff of Rapides Parish. He also served as the Louisiana lieutenant governor from 1864 to 1865. On March 3, 1865, Governor Michael Hahn resigned from office, and Wells, who was lieutenant governor at the time, assumed the duties of the governorship of parishes in Louisiana that were controlled by federal troops. Wells won election to his own term, in a special election that was held on November 7, 1865. During his tenure, the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment was provisionally approved. Also, black suffrage was advocated for, which caused political unrest and triggered calls for the impeachment of Wells. Commander of the district, General Phillip Sheridan, held Wells accountable for the unstable political conditions, and removed him from office on June 3, 1867. Wells returned to his plantation and retired briefly from public service. He later was appointed surveyor of the port of New Orleans, and served as chairman of the 1876 State Returning Board. Governor James M. Wells passed away on February 28, 1899, and was buried at the Rapides Cemetery in Pineville, Louisiana.
Dawson III, Joseph G. The Louisiana Governors: From Iberville to Edwards. Baton Rouge: Lousiana State University Press, 1990.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 2, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.