James Van Hoose

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James Alexander Van Hoose (born May 15, 1852 in Tuscaloosa - died 1936) was an Episcopal priest and the 10th Mayor of Birmingham, in office from 1894 to 1896.

He was the son of James M. and Susan Alexander Van Hoose. He was tutored by R. D. Nevins, W. C. Richardson and B. F. Meek in Tuscaloosa before attending the University of the South at Sewanee, Tennessee in 1871. He graduated in 1875 and was ordained at St John's Episcopal Church in Mobile by Reverend T. J. Beard in 1876. While preparing for examinations, Van Hoose developed a vision impairment which limited the time he could spend in reading and study.

He was assigned by Bishop Richard Wilmer in February of that year to serve as deacon and the second pastor of the Church of the Advent in Birmingham, also taking charge of mission churches in Athens, Decatur and Trinity. In August 1877 he returned to Sewanee as general agent of the university's endowment fund and later proctor. He returned to Alabama in 1879 and received permission to enter secular employment due to his poor eyesight. In 1880 he went to work for the J. M. Maxwell and Company wholesale grocers. When Maxwell died a year later Joseph McLester bought a 50% share in the business which was renamed McLester & Van Hoose and became very successful. Van Hoose married the former Virginia Frances (Jennie) McLester, built the James Van Hoose residence on 20th Street South and raised five children there.

Van Hoose remained active in the mission of the Episcopal Church in Birmingham. He served numerous temporary appointments in the pulpit, including St John's Church in Elyton and assisted the Rector of the Advent. He was a key figure in the establishment of new mission churches such as St Mary's-on-the-Highlands Episcopal Church at Five Points South and St Mark's Episcopal Church for African Americans in Southside. He also supported the establishment of St Mark's School in 1892.

Van Hoose was also active in civic projects, helping to establish the Birmingham Board of Trade and helping to organize the 1884 Alabama State Exhibition. He was president and general manager of the Birmingham and Pratt Mines Railway in 1886 and was the originator of the East Lake Land Company which developed the park and residential subdivision of East Lake beginning in 1887. A year later he helped organize the Birmingham Warehouse & Elevator Company. When the Birmingham and Pratt Mines Railway merged into the Birmingham Street Railway Company, Van Hoose remained president and manager of the combined enterprise. In 1907 Van Hoose was one of the organizers of the Mobile Basin and Tennessee River Association which lobbied for improvements to water transport in Alabama.

Mayor of Birmingham

Van Hoose was elected mayor of Birmingham in 1894. He ran as an independent candidate, facing Democratic primary winner Robert Warnock, who enjoyed the support of outgoing mayor David Fox's political machine, with its base among the white working class. Van Hoose had the support of the Municipal Democrat Club and the Citizens Reform Union, who had led boycotts of the Democratic primary. He attracted additional support from the city's professional class and anti-unionists, as well as from Black voters alienated by the overt racism of the Democratic party.

Van Hoose served one two-year term, during which he proposed a canal through Birmingham connecting Lake Guntersville to the Black Warrior River. He also proposed a reformatory and work farm at Red Mountain Park. Van Hoose was succeeded by F. V. Evans as mayor.

Van Hoose's home on Avenue I in Southside was damaged by the 1901 tornado.

Preceded by:
David Fox
Mayor of Birmingham
1894 - 1896
Succeeded by:
F. V. Evans

References

  • Davies, Alexander Van Hoose ( ) Biography of the Reverend and businessman James Alexander Van Hoose, 1852-1936.
  • Smith, Barbara ( ) James Alexander Van Hoose and the Birmingham municipal election of 1894.
  • Dubose, John Witherspoon (1887) Jefferson County and Birmingham, Alabama: Historical and Biographical Birmingham: Teeple & Smith, Publishers; Caldwell Printing Works.
  • McKiven, Henry M. (1995) Iron and Steel: Class, Race, and Community in Birmingham, Alabama, 1875-1920. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press ISBN 0807845248