Politician. Populist. Born: March 31, 1842, New Brunswick, Canada. Died: October 23, 1905, Wichita Kansas. Served in U.S. House of Representatives, 7th District: March 4, 1891, to March 3, 1895; March 4, 1897, to March 3, 1899.
"Sockless" Jerry Simpson, who became one of the nation's most recognized late 19th century congressmen, was born in New Brunswick, Canada, on March 31, 1842, and moved to New York with his parents when he was six. He received limited formal education and as a teenager began working as a Great Lake's sailor.
Simpson married in 1870, spent a brief time on a farm in Indiana, and moved to Holton, Jackson County, Kansas, in 1878, where he ran a farm and a sawmill. Soon after an accident took the life of their small daughter, the Simpsons moved to a ranch near Medicine Lodge, and shortly he became involved in third party politics. Simpson ran unsuccessfully for Congress on the Greenback ticket in 1886 and the Union Labor Party ticket in 1888 before winning as a Populist in 1890.
His famous moniker originated, according to Simpson himself, during a debate with Colonel James R. "Prince Hal" Hallowell, a Republican. "When my turn came I tried to get hold of the crowd. I referred to the fact that my opponent was known as a 'Prince.' Princes, I said, wear silk socks. I dont wear any." According to historian O. Gene Clanton, Simpson "won the respect and admiration of his colleagues in the House, regardless of party," and his performance in Congress "was, from beginning to end, principled, consistent, and commendable." The congressman won reelection in 1892, lost to Chester Long in 1894, defeated Long in 1896, and lost the seat for the last time, again to Long, in 1898.
Entry: Simpson, Jeremiah
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: June 2011
Date Modified: January 2016
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