Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Parker, James (1803-1852)

PARKER, Sir JAMES (1803–1852), vice-chancellor, son of Charles Steuart Parker of Blockairn, near Glasgow, was born at Glasgow in 1803, and educated at the grammar school and the college of Glasgow. At Trinity College, Cambridge, he became seventh wrangler, graduating B.A. 1825 and M.A. 1828. He was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn on 6 Feb. 1829, practised as an equity draftsman and conveyancer, and went the northern circuit. He was made a queen's counsel in July 1844, and was named on the chancery commission of 11 Dec. 1850, in the investigation of which he took a very prominent part (Parl. Papers, 1852, Nos. 1437 and 1454).

As a conservative he contested Leicester on 30 July 1847 against two radicals, Sir James Walmsley and Richard Gardner, when, although well supported, he was defeated. Walmsley and Gardner were both unseated for bribery, but Parker did not again come forward. Notwithstanding his political opinions, his character as a lawyer was so well established, and the necessity of a reform in chancery, of which he was a zealous advocate, was so urgent, that when Lord Cranworth was appointed one of the first lord justices of appeal the whig ministry selected him to fill the vacant office of vice-chancellor (8 Oct. 1851). He was knighted at Windsor Castle on 23 Oct. following. He at once proved himself an excellent judge. Patient in hearing, careful in deciding, courteous to all, his judgments gave general satisfaction. In the most important issue which he tried, that of Lumley v. Johanna Wagner, a motion for an injunction, on 10 May 1852, to prevent the defendant from singing for Frederick Gye the younger [q. v.], his judgment was able and strictly impartial, and it set forth with the utmost clearness the state of the law as well as the facts. But his career as a judge was cut short by his death, from angina pectoris, at Rothley Temple, Leicestershire, on 13 Aug. 1852. He was buried in the adjoining chapel on 20 Aug. On 2 June 1829 he married Mary, third daughter of Thomas Babington of Rothley Temple, M.P. for Leicester. She died at Ashley Place, Westminster, on 20 July 1858, leaving several children, among others Mr. Henry Rainy Parker, born 27 June 1837, and Mr. Charles Parker.

[Foss's Judges, 1864, ix. 233–5; Biographia Juridica, 1870, p. 498; Law Mag. 1852, xlviii. 321–2; Illustr. London News, 1852, xxi. 130, 222; Morning Chronicle, 16 Aug. 1852, p. 5; Gent Mag. October 1852, p. 426.]

G. C. B.