Portrait from the Transactions of the South Carolina Bar Association, 1910.
We continue our stay in South Carolina to highlight the life of another strangely named Palmetto State lawyer and legislator, Stobo James Simpson of Spartanburg County. Descended from a family with extensive roots in South Carolina public life, Stobo James Simpson was born in Laurens County, South Carolina on March 14, 1853, being the son of John Wistar and Anne Patillo Farrow Simpson. John Wistar Simpson (1821-1893) was a lawyer and half-brother of William Dunlap Simpson (1823-1890), a member of the Confederate Congress, North Carolina Governor and Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court.
Bestowed the unusual first name "Stobo" upon his birth, Simpson looks to have been given this name in honor of the Rev. Archibald Stobo (1670-1737), a Scotsman who later migrated to South Carolina and became a "Presbyterian minister of Charleston." Stobo Simpson attended the "village schools" of Laurens and later studied at the Laurens Male Academy. He would enter Princeton University in 1871 but later left that school to begin a teaching career in his home county. He began reading law during this time and in 1876 passed the state bar.
Shortly after being admitted to practice Simpson settled in Greenville, where he would establish a law office. He removed from here a few months later, and after resettling in Spartanburg entered into a law partnership with his famous uncle, William D. Simpson, who would soon be elected as Lieutenant Governor of the state. Their firm continued until 1879 when Simpson joined the firm of Evins and Bomar. That firm would undergo a name change in 1884 to Bomar and Simpson, a name that would continue until Simpson's death in 1910.
In May 1886 Stobo J. Simpson married his cousin Mary Eloise Simpson (1855-1931), a daughter of the aforementioned William Dunlap Simpson. In the same year as his marriage, Stobo Simpson won election as one of Spartanburg County's representatives to the South Carolina General Assembly. A member of the judiciary committee during that session of the legislature, Simpson refused to be a candidate for renomination at the end of his term.
After several years away from politics, Simpson became a candidate for the South Carolina State Senate in 1892, running on the Anti-Tillman (Conservative) platform. He would lose that election, and three years later was again a losing candidate, this time for Spartanburg's delegate to the state Constitutional Convention. Following this loss Simpson would refrain from pursuing elected office, with the Laurens Advertiser noting:
"Although any office in the gift of of the people of the State could have been Mr. Simpson's had he wanted it, he always refrained from politics in later life, being content to remain in his law office and continue the good deeds which made men out of youths, which protected widowed mothers who turned their business interests over to him and whose advice was always heeded"Following his brief time in state government Simpson continued with his law practice and in 1899 was elected to fill a vacancy on the Converse College Board of Trustees, serving here until his death, which occurred on October 28, 1910 after "after an illness of two months." Simpson was survived by his wife Mary, who died in August 1931. Both were later interred at the Oakwood Cemetery in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Simpson's obituary from the Laurens Advertiser, November 2, 1910.