Bullitt County History

James Robert Zimmerman

The following obituary was printed in The Pioneer News on Friday, November 11, 1932. Following it are two other sketches of his life.

James Robert Zimmerman

Shepherdsville, Bullitt County and a large circle of friends in Kentucky and adjacent States were shocked and deeply grieved to learn of the sudden death of James Robert Zimmerman which occurred at his home in Shepherdsville at 2 A.M. Monday, November 7th. Mr. Zimmerman had been enjoying his usual good health when stricken by a heart attack while speaking at Lebanon Junction on Saturday night before his death. From this attack he never rallied.

Mr. Zimmerman was born in Fincastle, Botetourt County, Virginia, December 8, 1867, and lacked but a month being 65 years of age. His father, Edward O. Zimmerman was a confederate soldier, serving with Ewell's brigade of Longstreet division, and his grandmother, Mildred Henry Zimmerman, was related to the celebrated orator and patriot Patrick Henry. His mother, Mary Custer Zimmerman, was a cousin of General Custer of Indian War fame. Like his parents Mr. Zimmerman was an ardent patriot, a Democrat and a Methodist.

Mr. Zimmerman was educated in the public schools of Botetourt County, Virginia, and Bath Seminary, Owingsville, Kentucky. He read law under Frank B. Straus and J. F. Combs, and was admitted to the bar at the December term of the Bullitt Circuit court in 1893. In his youth he was a stone mason and removed to Kentucky in pursuit of his vocation. He first came to Shepherdsville as the representative of the McDonald Jail Building Company to superintend the building of the Bullitt County Jail. He was a close student of his profession and his legal judgment was highly regarded by fellow members of the bar. He delighted in newspaper correspondence, writing for many newspapers and magazines. The present editor of the Pioneer-News acknowledges a lasting debt of gratitude to him for valuable assistance in editorial work through the years. He was in demand as a writer of obituaries because of his sympathetic understanding of literary ability.

Mr. Zimmerman excelled as a platform orator. He was a life long and ardent Democrat. He represented Bullitt and Spencer Counties in the State legislature in 1910 and later was elected from his district to the State senate where he served with distinction. Few citizens of Bullitt County have been more active or prominent in affairs affecting the public interests. He served the government and his country with zealous devotion and great ability during the period of the World War. He was chairman of the selective draft board, the fuel board, the Red Cross, and was a member of the County Council of defense. He was also chairman of the speakers' bureau for the sale of war bonds and the raising of money for welfare work among the soldiers. He served as County Attorney pro-tempore in place of County Attorney T. C. Carroll while the latter was away in the army.

Mr. Zimmerman was a member and past master of Bullitt Lodge, No. 155 A. F. & A. M. and Star of Hope Chapter, O. E. S. of which he was past worthy patron. He was also a member of the Improved Order of Red Men. When nineteen he professed faith in Christ and united with the Methodist Episcopal Church South at Fincastle, Virginia.

On April 22, 1926 he was married to Miss Josie S. Barrall, daughter of L. M. and Kate "Samuels" Barrall, life long residents of Bullitt County. He is survived by his wife, Mrs. Josie Zimmerman and one son, James Robert Jr. Seven brothers and two sisters also survive him. They reside in Virginia and West Virginia. They are Palmer, Harry, Reuben, Frank, Dan, McDowell and Robinson Zimmerman, Mrs. Mollie S. Huff and Mrs. Fannie M. Bradshaw.

Mr. Zimmerman was at once a man of deep convictions and broad sympathies. He contended earnestly for what he believed to be right. Though partisan and unyielding in his adherence to what he conceived to be correct principles, he was sympathetic and forgiving in his attitudes towards individuals. He was generous almost to a fault in gifts and service to the poor, concerning which he never sounded a trumpet to gain the attention and plaudits of men. One thinks of Browning's lines: 1  

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the presence in the room he said,
"What writest thou?"—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered, "The names of those who love the Lord."
"And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay, not so,"
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still; and said, "I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men."
The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blest,
And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.

Funeral services were conducted by Rev. L. L. Burkhalter assisted by Rev. H. E. Jarboe, Wednesday afternoon at the local Methodist Church with burial in the Hebron Cemetery.

1  The poem was actually written by Leigh Hunt, a prolific poet, essayist, and journalist, who was a central figure of the Romantic movement in England.

The first sketch below is taken from the Legislative History and Capital Souvenir of Kentucky, Volume No. 1, 1910 - Portraits and Sketches of Senators, Representatives and Officials and Attaches of the Various State Departments which was published in Frankfort, Ky., March, 1910 by William E. Bidwell and Ella Hutchison Ellwanger, Publishers. This was prepared as part of the celebration of the new Capitol Building at Frankfort. This excerpt may be found on page 127.

The second sketch that follows is taken from History of Kentucky, Judge Charles Kerr, Editor, Volume IV, 1922, page 554.

Representative Forty-First District in 1910

J. R. Zimmerman

J. R. ZIMMERMAN. Representative Forty-First District: Shepherdsville. District, Bullitt and Spencer counties. Democrat. Lawyer. Born near Fincastle, Va., Dec. 8, 1867, a son of Edward O. and Mary (Custer) Zimmerman. His paternal grandmother was a Henry, and closely related to Patrick Henry. On his mother's side he is related to General Custer. His father was a brave Confederate soldier, a member of Ewell's Brigade, of Longstreet's command, and was an artilleryman. His mother was one of that band of heroic women who for four years toiled and prayed incessantly for the success of the Heroes in Gray, and who, at the close of that great struggle, joined heart and hand with the survivors who devoted their lives to the rehabilitation of the bleeding South. Was reared on a farm and learned to cut and build stone and to construct buildings and bridges. Came to Kentucky in 1889 and became associated with the McDonald Jail Building Co. of Louisville. Cut stone during the day and studied law at night. Licensed to practice law by Judge S. E. Jones. J. W. Croan and W. C. Hays at Shepherdsville, in December 1893, and began to practice at that place immediately. Is loyal and uncompromising Democrat. Served as City Attorney of Shepherdsville two terms, trustee of Shepherdsville Graded School one term, and Town Trustee one term. Elector for Fourth Congressional District on Parker ticket in 1904. County Commissioner for Bullitt county during Kentucky Home-Coming in 1906. Nominated for House in June, 1909, defeating his primary opponent by 924 voles, the largest majority ever given a candidate in Bullitt county in any kind of election. Single.

James Robert Zimmerman. In the profession of law at Shepherdsville one who has made marked progress in his calling and who is rated among the substantial legists of Bullitt County is James Robert Zimmerman. Not alone as an attorney and a citizen has he been a leading figure in the activities of his community, but in public positions of trust and responsibility, where he has contributed generously of his abilities for the furtherance of the welfare of his locality and its people.

Mr. Zimmerman is a product of the agricultural districts of Botetourt County, Virginia, having been born on a farm near Fincastle December 8, 1867, a son of Edward O. and Mary Virginia (Custer) Zimmerman, natives of the same county. George W. Zimmerman, his paternal grandfather, was also born in Botetourt County, Virginia, October 26, 1796, and was the son of a native of Germany, whose first name has been forgotten and who married a Miss Thrasher of Virginia. About 1818 George W. Zimmerman married Mildred Henry, a second cousin of the great patriot Patrick Henry. He died October 3, 1873, at the old Virginia homestead, his widow surviving him until December 2, 1880.

Edward O. Zimmerman was born March 20, 1841, and as a youth followed farming until the outbreak of the war between the states, when he enlisted in Ewell's Brigade, Longstreet's Corps, of the Confederate Army. He saw three years of hard service in the Army of Virginia, and after securing his honorable discharge returned to his duties as an agriculturist and died near the place of his birth April 15, 1908. He was a man of high principles and strict integrity, and in politics was a democrat, while his religious faith was that of the Methodist Church. On September 26, 1865, he was united in marriage with Mary Virginia Custer, who was born August 13, 1846, and died May 25, 1912, in the faith of the Baptist Church, of which she had been a life-long member. They became the parents of thirteen children.

James Robert Zimmerman was reared on the home farm in Botetourt County, Virginia, where he attended the public schools, and remained as his father's assistant until reaching his majority. In 1888 he accepted a position with the McDonald Jail Building Company of Louisville, and Kentucky has been his home since that date. He severed his connections with that concern in February, 1892, at which time he commenced the study of law, to which he had previously given some attention, and in December, 1893, was admitted to the bar and commenced practice at Shepherdsville. He has since been engaged in a general civil and criminal practice and has been connected with much of the important litigation that has been tried in the courts. He is recognized as one of the leaders of the Bullitt County bar and as a man of strong mentality, well grounded in the principles of his calling and possessed of the ability to apply them in a manner successful to the interests of his clients.

A democrat in his political allegiance, Mr. Zimmerman has long been prominent in the ranks of his party. He has served in both the Upper and Lower Houses of the State Legislature, and has held numerous minor offices, including several which have had to do with the cause of education, of which he is a great friend. Mr. Zimmerman was active during the World war period and was a member of the Draft Board of his district. He is a Methodist in his religious belief and as a fraternalist is a Master Mason. He is unmarried.

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The Bullitt County History Museum, a service of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is located in the county courthouse at 300 South Buckman Street (Highway 61) in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. The museum, along with its research room, is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday. Admission is free. The museum, as part of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization and is classified as a 509(a)2 public charity. Contributions and bequests are deductible under section 2055, 2106, or 2522 of the Internal Revenue Code. Page last modified: 16 Nov 2021 . Page URL: bullittcountyhistory.org/bchistory/jrzimmerman.html