The Honorable James Burnie Beck was a native of Scotland who came to the United States when he was sixteen. As of age twenty-one (1843), he had made Lexington, Kentucky his home. He studied law and was a law partner of John C. Breckenridge, future U.S. vice president and Confederate General. In the fall of 1866 his neighbors in Kentucky chose Beck to represent them in the 40th Congress (March 1867-March 1869). He was immediately chosen to serve as one of two token Democrats on the House’s reconstruction committee. It is suspected the Radicals considered the junior congressman would give them little opposition on the committee.