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Historical Biography

Ira K. Wells

Ira K. Wells, AAG, Public Lands
Ira K. Wells
6th Assistant Attorney General, Public Lands, -

Early History/Schooling:  Ira Kent Wells was born on June 18, 1871 in Seneca, Kansas to Abijah and Loretta Williams Wells.  He attended the University of Kansas, graduating in 1893 with a Bachelor of Laws degree.

Tenure as AAG:  President Coolidge appointed Wells as AAG in charge of the Lands Division in February 1924.  As AAG, he oversaw eminent domain litigation, including Old Dominion Land Co. v United States and United States v. Forbes, in which the federal government extended its right to maintain ownership of lands condemned during the First World War.

Career:  After graduating from law school, Wells began practicing law at his father’s Seneca, Kansas, law firm.  He then served as a city attorney and as Nemaha County attorney.  During World War I, Wells was a Major in the Office of the Judge-Advocate General, and later served as both Judge Advocate and Provost Marshal of the Panama Canal Department.  In September 1921, Wells became the U.S. Attorney for Puerto Rico, and held that role until his nomination to the AAG position in 1924.  In May 1925, Wells left the Justice Department when he was named a federal district judge for Puerto Rico.  He served in that position until January 1934.

Personal:  Wells married Zula M. Thompson from his hometown of Seneca in 1895.  His wife was a sister of Senator William Thompson (D-KS, 1913-1919). The couple had two daughters, Loretta and Dora.  Wells died April 2, 1934.

This material is based on the review of a variety of historical sources, and its accuracy cannot be guaranteed.  If you have any corrections or additional information about this individual or about the history of the Division, please contact ENRD.

Updated June 8, 2023