Iowa History Daily: August 16 - The Legend of Tama Jim

Iowa History Daily: On August 16, 1835, Iowan and longest ever serving United States Cabinet Member Jim “Tama Jim” Wilson was born. The Secretary of Agriculture for three Presidents (William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft), Tama Jim also taught at Iowa State, served in the Iowa House, and the United States House of Representatives.

Born in Ayrshire, Scotland, Wilson grew up as one of fourteen children before moving to the United States in 1852. Arriving in Iowa in 1855, Wilson started farming near Traer in Tama County. A graduate of the Iowa public school system and Grinnell College (then Iowa College), his neighbors elected him to the Iowa House of Representatives in 1867.

After serving as Speaker of the House from 1870-1871, “Tama Jim” left the Iowa House to teach agriculture at Iowa State (including to notable pupil George Washington Carver). The people of Iowa’s 5th Congressional District elected Wilson to the United States House of Representatives in 1872 where he served for two terms.

In 1897, Wilson returned to Washington when William McKinley appointed him as the country’s fourth Secretary of Agriculture. For sixteen consecutive years “Tama Jim” helped to modernize American agriculture. Focusing on improving food inspection methods, improving transportation of goods to market, and application of new techniques, Wilson left a significant legacy while becoming the longest serving cabinet member in American history. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar


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