Judge James M. Keys was born March 25, 1845, son of Louis Keys, who came from the old State in 1828 and settled on the Illinois River near Tahlequah. His mother was Catherine McDaniels, daughter to James McDaniels, of Irish descent. William Keys, the grandfather to James M., was a United States citizen of Scotch-Irish blood. James was educated at the Tahlequah schools, and at sixteen years of age enlisted in Captain Tennent’s company, Fourth Arkansas, serving three months and twenty days, when he joined Stand Watie’s First Cherokee Regiment, and remained with them until the termination of the war. He was present at Pea Ridge, Wilson Creek, Elk Horn, Honey Springs and Cabin Creek, as well as lesser engagements. After the war James Keys went into mercantile business with William Keys at Gibson Station, Indian Territory, and continued it for seven years. He had in the meantime served as deputy sheriff of Coowescoowee for two terms. In 1879 he was elected prosecuting attorney for the same district, and served two years. He was re-elected in 1883 and served until 1885. In 1882 he became town commissioner, and held that office for one year. In 1885 Mr. Keys was elected supreme judge and chief justice of the Cherokee Nation. Serving in this capacity three years, he was re-elected and held the office until November 1891, when he was called to the senate, and is now acquitting himself honorably and admirably in his capacity of senator. He was married March 16, 1869, to Nannie J. Mayes, niece to Chief Mayes and ex-Chief Bushyhead. By this marriage he has three children, Denis Bushyhead, Blueford H. and Lizzie. Judge Keys is a tall, well-built man, of cheerful, pleasant manners, a good conversationalist and an excellent speaker, as he has this year proved himself. Despite his inexperience in the senate, the judge was one of the foremost men in the debatable issues of the season.
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