John Thomas Sims, who many years ago secured prestige as one of the most forcible lawyers of the Kansas City, Kansas, bar and is now serving as judge of the Probate Court of Wyandotte County has had his share of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. His early life was one of hard and continuous work, often ill repaid, and again and again overtaken with calamity or disaster. He tried farming in the early days of Kansas, and various other occupations, and again and again when prosperity seemed to smile upon him he was put back at the beginning by drought or some other of the numerous calamities which are so familiar in Kansas history.
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Judge Sims was born at Robinson, Crawford County, Illinois, December 31, 1864. He was one of eleven children, four of whom are still living, and is the only one in Kansas. His parents were Thomas Jefferson and Arminta McComas (Elledge) Sims. His father was born in Virginia, was a blacksmith and wagon-maker by trade, and for a number of years followed merchant milling, having a mill on the banks of the Wabash River on the Illinois side. He lived in Illinois until his death about 1877. Judge Sims’ mother was born in Kentucky in 1828 and died at Robinson, Illinois, in 1884. The father was a democrat until the war, and then joined his allegiance with the republican party. The only public office he ever held was that of tax collector. He was an active member of the Christian or Disciples Church. Several members of the family have attained distinction. Judge Sims’ sister Mrs. Ellen May Firebaugh, wife of a physician, was herself graduated from Rush Medical College at Chicago but did not practice after her marriage. She attained most note as a literary woman, was author of “The Physician’s Wife” and has contributed to various magazines. Stella Sims, a younger sister of Judge Sims, is a graduate dentist and has practiced that profession very successfully.
Judge Sims received his early education in Robinson, Illinois. At the age of seventeen he left school and first aspired to be a farmer. While farming some land he paid another farmer $1.50 a week board, and during all that time lived on flap-jacks and sorghum, corn-dodgers and maple syrup. It was a bad season, but he worked hard while others loafed. Altogether it was an unsuccessful venture, and he then began teaching school. He taught twenty-two days a month and was paid wages of $25 a month.
At the end of the year lie took Horace Greeley’s advice and came west to Kansas. This was in 1884. Locating at Parsons, he worked on a farm for a time, and also taught in Labette and Pratt counties. At Pratt he became interested in land dealing, associated with J. W. Ellis. Continued dry weather brought his efforts in that direction to a failure and he then returned to Pareons and subsequently to Joplin, Missouri. There he was reduced to financial extremities, and as a last resource he came to Kansas City, Kansas, and sought employment with Swift & Company, packers.
Judge Sims has been a resident of Kansas City, Kansas, since 1895. He has studied law while teaching, and in 1895 was admitted to the bar. He has handled some of the most important litigation tried in the local courts. He was the principal attorney in the noted Casper Compensation case and was also legal representative for the Grand Lodge of the Ancient Order of United Workmen in the case against the State Lodge which was compromised.
Besides his private law practice Judge Sims has spent much of his time in public office. He was three times elected to the office of justice of the peace, and served until the office was abolished. In 1905 he was elected judge of the Police Court and was reelected in 1907 and again in 1909. He resigned in December, 1910, during his third term, consequent upon his election in November, 1910, as probate judge of Wyandotte County. He has been kept in that office, which requires so much care and delicacy of administration, to the present time, and in 1916 was made the recipient of the largest majority ever given to any candidate for office in the county. His majority in that election was 8,000. For some time Judge Sims practiced in partnership with Col. L. C. True. Even after he came to Kansas City and became well established as a lawyer, his experience with disaster was not over. In 1903 he lost practically all his property in the flood of that year.
Judge Sims has long been an active worker in the republican party, has been delegate to various conventions, and for two years was secretary of the Republican Central Committee of the Second Congressional District. He is a member of the Wyandotte County and the Kansas State Bar associations. He belongs to numerous fraternal societies, including the Masons, in which he has attained the Knight Templar degree, the Elks, the Knights of Pythias, the Modern Woodmen of America, and the Ancient Order of United Workmen, in which he has served as chairman of the law committee. He and his wife are active members of the Presbyterian Church.
On October 24, 1893, Judge Sims married Miss Cora Anna Petri of Parsons, Kansas. Mrs. Sims was born in Ohio and her people came originally from Alsace-Lorraine. She is of both French and German ancestry. Her parents were prosperous farmers and finally came to Kansas, locating at Parsons. Judge Sims met his wife at Parsons, and their first meeting was during a severe storm. To their marriage were born three children. The only one now living is Elizaboth Arminta, who was born August 1, 1894, and is now a student in the Emporia College.