On the roster of public officials in Orange County appears the name of James Sleeper, who has filled the position of county assessor by repeated re-election during the past twenty-two years. He was born in Lewisburg, Arkansas, October 5, 1866, his parents being Leander and Sarah (Holyfield) Sleeper. Leander Sleeper, a native of Kentucky, served as a captain of infantry in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. In 1870 he came to California, locating at Los Nietos, Los Angeles County, where he remained for three years. On the expiration of that period he returned east to Arkansas, in which state he continued his residence until 1885, serving as sheriff of Conway County, Arkansas, in the years 1882, 1883 and 1884. He came back to California in 1885 and was successfully engaged in the contracting business in San Bernardino until his retirement some time prior to his death which occurred in 1896. He gave his political allegiance to the Democratic Party, was a Baptist in religious faith and fraternally was affiliated with the Masons and the Knights of Honor. Mrs. Sarah (Holyfield) Sleeper was a native of Alabama who crossed the plains to California in 1851, locating in Stockton. In 1856 she went back east as far as Arkansas, where she formed the acquaintance of her future husband, Leander Sleeper. The couple returned to California in 1870 and in this state Mrs. Sleeper spent the remainder of her life, passing away in the year 1904. She was held in high esteem by all who knew her and had an extensive circle of warm friends. By her marriage she became the mother of four sons and three daughters, but only two members of the family survive, James and Mrs. Alice Woods, the latter a resident of Morrilton, Arkansas.
James Sleeper supplemented his public school education by attendance at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. After leaving college he was employed in a drug store at Morrilton, Arkansas, for a year and next spent two years in Ballinger, Texas, as bookkeeper in the service of a wholesale hardware firm. In April, 1886, when a youth of nineteen years, he made his way to San Bernardino County, California, and became bookkeeper for the Talmadge Lumber Company of Little Bear, now Arrowhead, this state. In the fall of 1886 he obtained the position of bookkeeper with the B. O. Johnson Company at Redlands, California, who conducted one of the first mercantile establishments of that city. Mr. Sleeper remained in Redlands until 1887 and in the following year entered the office of the assessor of San Bernardino County, continuing therein until October, 1888. At that time he came to Santa Ana, then a part of Los Angeles County, and located on the San Joaquin Ranch, where he devoted his attention to the raising of grain and beans for fifteen years. Subsequently he spent a similar period on the Trabuco Ranch in Orange County, being thus successfully engaged in ranching for thirty years altogether. It was in January, 1911, that Mr. Sleeper was appointed county assessor of Orange County to succeed W. M. Scott, who had died shortly after his election. Mr. Sleeper has continued in the office of assessor throughout the intervening period of more than twenty-two years, having been re-elected at the close of each four-year term. His present term will expire in 1935. Though a Democrat in politics, he was twice elected without opposition in a county which has a normal Republican majority, for his ability and his integrity and fairness in the discharge of his important duties are recognized by all.
Mr. Sleeper has been twice married, first in 1891 to Miss Loretta Harlin of Santa Ana, California, who died in 1904 leaving four children as follows: Claude, a veteran of the World War; Ina, Mrs. Kenneth Morrison; Lloyd; and Boyd. In 1905 Mr. Sleeper married Miss Harriett D. Madden of Santa Ana, and they became the parents of a son, James William, who died in 1922 at the age of sixteen years.
A worthy exemplar of the teachings and purposes of the Masonic fraternity, Mr. Sleeper is a member of Santa Ana Lodge, No. 241, F. & A. M.; Santa Ana Chapter, No. 73, R. A. M.; Santa Ana Council, No. 14, R. & S. M.; Santa Ana Commandery, No. 36, K. T.; and Al Malaikah Temple, A. A. O. N. M. S., of Los Angeles. He is likewise affiliated with Santa Ana Lodge, No. 236, I. O. O. F., and with Santa Ana Lodge, No. 794, B. P. O. E. His religious faith is indicated by his membership in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and his life has been an upright and honorable one in every relation.
Transcribed by V. Gerald Iaquinta.
Source: California of the South Vol. IV, by John Steven McGroarty, Pages 249-251, Clarke Publ., Chicago, Los Angeles, Indianapolis. 1933.
© 2012 V. Gerald Iaquinta.