James Sloan Kuykendall (December 9, 1878 – February 28, 1928) was an American farmer, lawyer, and Democratic politician in the U.S. state of West Virginia. Kuykendall was twice elected as a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates representing Hampshire County (1907–1908 and 1919–1920). Kuykendall also served three terms as the mayor of Romney and later fulfilled the position of city attorney.
Kuykendall was born in 1878 in Hampshire County, West Virginia, into one of the oldest families in the county, which was of Dutch descent. He was raised on his family's farm, where he engaged in agricultural pursuits. Kuykendall was educated in Hampshire County's rural public schools and subsequently completed his post-secondary education at Hampden–Sydney College and Washington and Lee University. In 1901, he graduated from the Cumberland School of Law, then completed a course in jurisprudence at the University of North Carolina School of Law.
Kuykendall first practiced law in Greensboro, North Carolina, before establishing a law practice in Romney, West Virginia. He was elected to represent Hampshire County in the West Virginia House of Delegates for one term in 1906 and another term in 1918, each consisting of two years. He was the mayor of Romney for three terms, and in 1922 he served as Romney's city attorney. Kuykendall was elected to three terms as a member of the Hampshire County Board of Education; he also served as a Chancery Commissioner for the county. During World War I, Kuykendall was a member of the Legal Advisory Board of Hampshire County; he also participated in Liberty bond drives and directed sales to raise American Red Cross funds. Kuykendall was engaged in the management of a commercial peach orchard near Romney known as Sherman Orchard. He died in 1928 and was interred at Indian Mound Cemetery in Romney.
James Sloan Kuykendall was born on December 9, 1878, in the Springfield Magisterial District of Hampshire County, West Virginia. He was the eldest child and son of William Kuykendall and his wife Hannah Pierce Sloan Kuykendall. Kuykendall's family was of Dutch descent and was one of the oldest families residing in Hampshire County. He was probably named for his maternal grandfather, James Sloan. Kuykendall had two younger brothers and one younger sister: Michael Blue Kuykendall, Richard Sloan Kuykendall, and Nellie Frank Kuykendall. For the first 20 years of his life, Kuykendall resided on his family's farm, where he engaged in agricultural pursuits.
Kuykendall was raised in Romney and received his primary education in Hampshire County's rural public schools. He commenced his higher education studies at Hampden–Sydney College in Hampden Sydney, Virginia, and later attended Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. Kuykendall subsequently engaged in the study of jurisprudence at the Cumberland School of Law of Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee, from which he received a diploma in 1901. He then completed a similar course in law at the University of North Carolina School of Law in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Following this course at the University of North Carolina, Kuykendall passed his bar examination before the North Carolina Supreme Court and was admitted to the bar in North Carolina in September 1903.
Following his admission to the North Carolina bar, Kuykendall commenced practicing law in Greensboro, where he practiced for a little over a year before returning to West Virginia. Kuykendall established his law practice in Romney and made his permanent residence there. Kuykendall argued his first case before the Hampshire County Circuit Court in defense of a Mr. Miller, who had been charged with petit larceny. Kuykendall secured the acquittal of his client, which further encouraged the young lawyer. Following this case, Kuykendall continued to perform as a criminal defense lawyer. According to historian James Morton Callahan, Kuykendall "adhered to his rule to take part only on the side of the defense, and he has a merited reputation or skill and ability in that particular field." By 1923, Kuykendall had been a defense attorney in three murder cases: State v. Hetrick, State v. Averell, and State v. Gardner. Kuykendall secured acquittals for his clients in State v. Hetrick and State v. Averell, but in State v. Gardner, his client was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment.
In 1906, Kuykendall was elected to his first term as a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, representing Hampshire County from 1907 through 1908 in the Twenty-eighth West Virginia Legislative Session. During his first term in the West Virginia House of Delegates, Kuykendall was a member of the following standing committees: Education; Counties, Districts, and Municipal Corporations; Private Corporations and Joint Stock Companies; Arts, Science, and General Improvement; and State Boundaries. Kuykendall was elected to a second term in the West Virginia House of Delegates in 1918 and served in the Thirty-fourth West Virginia Legislative Session from 1919 through 1920.
Kuykendall was the mayor of Romney for three terms, and in 1922 he served as Romney's city attorney. Kuykendall took an interest in the Hampshire County Schools and was elected to three terms as a member of the Hampshire County Board of Education. Kuykendall served alongside Robert White and Joshua Soule Zimmerman as a Chancery Commissioner for Hampshire County.
Kuykendall was a lifelong Democrat, and he cast his first vote for Democratic Party presidential nominee William Jennings Bryan in the United States presidential election of 1900. Kuykendall served one term as the chairman of the Executive Committee of West Virginia's 2nd congressional district and was elected to three terms as the chairman of the Hampshire County Democratic Party Central Committee. In 1916, Kuykendall was a delegate to the West Virginia Democratic Party State Convention at Parkersburg that nominated John J. Cornwell as the party's gubernatorial candidate. He was also both a delegate and chairman of the West Virginia Democratic Party's Congressional Convention that nominated William Gay Brown, Jr., as a candidate for the United States House of Representatives. Kuykendall was a strong proponent of Brown, whom he supported in subsequent conventions and elections. He was also a presidential elector in the Electoral College during the reelection of Woodrow Wilson.
During World War I, Kuykendall was a member of the Legal Advisory Board of Hampshire County, during which time he assisted in producing several hundred questionnaires for the county's prospective soldiers. He also participated in Liberty bond drives and directed sales to raise funds for the American Red Cross.
According to The Census of the Peach Crop of 1907 in West Virginia published by the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, Kuykendall was engaged in the management of a commercial peach orchard near Romney known as Sherman Orchard. In 1907, Kuykendall's orchard produced Carman, Champion, Elberta, Salways, Bilyeu, and Heath Cling peach varieties, totaling 5,800 baskets in all.
Kuykendall died on February 28, 1928, and he was interred at Indian Mound Cemetery in Romney. His wife Bertha died on March 4, 1962, and was interred beside Kuykendall.
Kuykendall was married in Hampshire County on April 5, 1905, to Bertha Ray Williams (November 10, 1883 – March 4, 1962), born in Fairfax County, Virginia, and the daughter of Reverend James P. Williams and his wife Mary S. Williams. Williams's father was the presiding elder of the Moorefield District of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Kuykendall and his wife Mary had three children together including two daughters and one son:Alma Elizabeth Kuykendall Sheehan (January 14, 1906 – December 6, 1970), married on June 31, 1928, to William Terrell Sheehan (December 5, 1902 – June 16, 1957)
James Sloan Kuykendall, Jr. (December 11, 1906 – February 17, 1995), married Emily Light (June 29, 1911 – June 19, 1982)
Mary Ray Kuykendall Armstrong (January 5, 1909 – May 15, 1996), married Robert W. Armstrong (April 11, 1905 – June 16, 1958)
While Kuykendall's wife belonged to the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, he was raised as a Presbyterian, and for five years he was superintendent of the Presbyterian Church's Sunday school.