Each community has its prominent people, and the legal community of Kootenai County, Idaho has the Hawkins. Join us for a mini-series of articles on the Hawkins family. The Hawkins’ story begins in Nebraska before James V. Hawkins travels west.


It was the Spring of 1874 in Dewitt, Nebraska. Dewitt had only been incorporated as a town just two years before. It is still a little farming community and today it only has a population of 513 people and in 1880 had a population of 305, so you can imagine how small it was in 1874. It was the 17th day of April 1874 when James Viator Hawkins was born to John P. Hawkins, an Irishman, and Hattie C. (Gray) Hawkins, a girl from Iowa. He was their second child. He had an older brother, John, just one-year-old and would later gain two more siblings, Mary and Raymond. 

In the 1885 Nebraska Census, it is recorded that John Hawkins was a druggist. It’s no wonder that his grandson and other descendants would go into the medical field, but James would follow a different path into law. 


James V. Hawkins legal library, which was most certainly used by his son William as an attorney and Judge. Robert R. Romero Jr. eventually came into possession of the entire collection when he was a part of his former firm, Brown, Justh, and Romero.

James spent his childhood preparing for his future. It started at the age of ten when he raised a hog and the proceeds from that began his education fund. He worked hard and prepared for his future. By the time he went off to normal school in Chicago to begin his professional education, he had saved enough money mostly funding his own education. He then took a year and taught in the public schools before returning to Nebraska and entering law school. He was a boxer in college, which was contrary to his personality. His grandson Jimmy said he never liked confrontation or arguing. One must wonder why he chose the area of law if it was so contrary to his personality. Regardless, he did become an attorney.

James would begin his law practice in Nebraska, first in Omaha for a short time and then in Logan County where he served two terms as the county attorney. When he closed his practice in Nebraska around 1905 he moved to Spokane, WA. According to the book The History of Idaho written by Hiram T. Frank, somewhere in the middle of his time as an attorney in Nebraska, he went off to serve in the army in the Spanish American war. Records do exist that a James V. Hawkins from Nebraska did serve in the Spanish American War.

James V. Hawkins would meet the love of his life who would also happen to be an attorney, but she never practiced law. Her name was Ora Betsy Stark and she was from Spokane, WA. Ora was the daughter of John Wesley Stark and Sarah (Brown) Stark. On August 4, 1908, James and Ora would apply for a marriage license in Spokane, WA and on 6 June 1908 they were married.


All census records put the birth of their first child James Hawkins in 1909 in California. This is strange that every census from 1910 to 1940 states that he was born in California because according to William’s son, Jimmy, the family never was in California. Was James then born while they were traveling on vacation? There are no other known family ties to California. The only other tie known to California is a set of California Reporters from the 1800’s today sitting in the law office of attorney Robert R. Romero, Jr., which has the name James V. Hawkins on everyone. However, I wouldn’t think that he brought this set of California Reporters back at that time because the set would not have survived the 1910 fire. So we may never know why they were in California, but when they returned they had their first little bundle of joy. A second child would be born on 4 Aug 1910 in St. Joe, Idaho. His name was William Stark Hawkins.

Tune in next week for Part II of James V. Hawkins