James Wickersham (August 24, 1857-1939) was a district judge for Alaska, appointed by President McKinley to the Third Judicial District in 1900. He resigned his post in 1908 and was subsequently elected as Alaska's delegate to Congress, serving until 1917 and then being re-elected in 1930. He was instrumental in the passage of the Organic Act of 1912, which granted Alaska territorial status, introduced the Alaska Railroad Bill, legislation to establish McKinley Park, and the first Alaska Statehood Bill in 1916. He was among those responsible for the creation of the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines, which later became the University of Alaska.
Wickersham was born near Patoka, Illinois and moved in 1883 with his wife, Deborah, to Tacoma, Washington Territory.
The new Third District covered some 300,000 square miles; it had no roads, no public buildings, and almost no U.S. currency. The district court and its officials were the only civilian government, besides town functionaries, in the whole of the interior. In addition to traveling his circuit, the district judge was expected to procure land and materials to construct his own courthouse and jails. It was fortunate that his duties also included the collection of mercantile and saloon license fees, for Congress had provided no other funds for the construction and operation of the court.
James Wickersham wrote the book Old Yukon: Tails, Trails, and Trial, based on his life as a judge and living in Alaska. Wickersham made the first climbing attempt on Mount McKinley in 1903. The Wickersham Wall on McKinley was named after him.
References Tanana-Yukon Historical Society. "James Wickersham". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.