DEMPSEY, JAMES HOWARD (29 March 1859-2 May 1920), was a prominent lawyer and founding partner of SQUIRE, SANDERS AND DEMPSEY. Born in Shelby, Ohio, he was the son of John and Martha C. (Davis) Dempsey. After attending the public schools in Shelby, Dempsey completed the preparatory college course at the Milnor Hall Grammar School in Gambier, Ohio. He graduated from Kenyon College in 1882 and went on to study law at Columbia University. During the summer vacation of 1883, Dempsey worked at the Cleveland firm of Estep, Dickey & Squire. Persuaded to stay at the firm rather than return to school, he continued his studies under Judge Charles J. Estep, the senior partner. He was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1884 and became a partner in the firm in 1886. In 1890, Dempsey and ANDREW SQUIRE left Estep, Dickey & Squire to establish the firm of Squire, Sanders & Dempsey with Judge WILLIAM SANDERS. For the next thirty years, Dempsey practiced law in Cleveland for the firm.
Alongside his successful law practice, Dempsey actively engaged in the social and business life of Cleveland. He served as president of the Factory Site Company and as director of GRASSELLI CHEMICAL COMPANY, GLIDDEN VARNISH COMPANY, United States Radiator Corporation, the Bourne-Fuller Company, Union National Bank, and BALL WATCH COMPANY. Devoted to improving education, Dempsey served on the board of trustees of UNIVERSITY SCHOOL, West End School, and his alma mater, Kenyon College, which honored him with an LL.D. degree in 1912. He was also on the board of trustees of LAKE VIEW CEMETERY Association. He was also a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon, the UNION, Country Hunt, Yacht, TAVERN, and UNIVERSITY clubs of Cleveland as well as the University and Bankers clubs of New York.
Dempsey married twice. His first wife, Emma Norris Bourne, whom he married on 24 September 1885, died on 14 March 1893. They had two sons, John Bourne and Ernest Cook. He then married Ada Hunt on 30 October 1915. They had three children, James Howard Jr., Isabelle, and Louise. Dempsey died in Cleveland and was buried in Lake View Cemetery.