James Henderson Berry (1841–1913)
Fourteenth Governor of Arkansas (1883–1885)
United States Senator (1885-1907)
United States Senator (1885-1907)
The article says he is buried in Knights of Pythias Cemetery. This Cemetery has now merged with the Bentonville Cemetery in Bentonville, AR.
An Autobiography of JAMES H. BERRY (1841-1913)
Written at the request of his family a few months before his death.
Extracted from http://www.argenweb.net/benton/bios/berryJamesH.htmI was born on a farm in Jackson county, Alabama, on May 15, 1841. My father was James H. Barry and my mother was Isabella Jane Orr. In 1848, when I was seven and a half years old, I moved with my father’s family to Carrollton, Carroll county, Arkansas.
There were ten children of us who lived to be grown: Granville, the oldest; Mary, who married Col. Sam. W. Peel; Fannie, who married Rufus Polk; Dick; and then I came next; then Arkansas, called “Canty,” who married Captain Arch McKennon; Willie, who was killed during the mar; Sophronia, who married Dr. A. N. McKennon. They are all dead except Sophronia Forrest and myself.
I was raised on a small farm adjoining the village of Carrollton. My father for a part of the time sold goods in the town and I attended the village school some time during the winter and learned to read and write a little, and something of arithmetic. When I was 17 years old my father sent me to the Berryville Academy, 18 miles from our home, which was the best school in that locality, and I attended that school for 10 months.
In 1860 my mother died after a. long illness, and the expenses attending her sickness forced my father to sell our home, and I was taken from school and sent to Yellville, Arkansas, to clerk in the store of James H. Berry, who was a cousin of my father. I remained there until the war began, when I came back to our old home in Carrollton and joined the Confederate Army on the 19th of September, 1861. On the same day that I enlisted I was elected Second Lieutenant in what was afterwards Company E, Sixteenth Arkansas Infantry.
We went into winter quarters that winter at Elm Springs Arkansas, and remained there until February, 1862, when we were sent tot meet General Price, who was retreating from Missouri. He continued to retreat to the Boston Mountains in Arkansas, and early in March, 1862, General VanDorn took command and we went from there to Pea Ridge, Arkansas, where on the 7th and 8th of March we fought the battle called by the Union soldiers “Pea Ridge” and called “Elk Horn”by the Confederates. We were defeated, and retreated from Pea Ridge to the Arkansas River, and from there are went by way Memphis to Corinth, Mississippi, where we joined General Beauregard’s army on about April15th, l862. A few days afterwards my regiment, being on outpost duty, became engaged and we lost 17 killed and wounded. The last of May General Beauregard evacuated Corinth and moved to Tupelo, Mississippi, and we remained at Tupelo and Satillo until September, when we went to Luka, Mississippi.
On the 19th of September, 1862, one year from the day when I enlisted we fought the fight at Luka. We went from Luka and joined a portion of the army under VanDorn at Holly Springs, Mississippi, and on the 3rd and 4th of October, 1862, we fought the battle of Corinth, Mississippi. General VanDorn commanded the confederate forces and General Rosecrans the Union forces. We attacked their breastworks in a terrible engagement and the brigade to which I belonged, consisting of about l500 or 1600 men, lost 412 men in less than 30 minutes. I was badly wounded, resulting in the loss of my right leg. I fell in-to the hands of the Federal Army and was sent to the hospital at Luka, Mississippi. I remained in the hospital there for two months and was then taken to Rieuzi, Mississippi, by a relative of mine my father’s aunt. I remained there for several months and it was five months from the time I was wounded until I joined my regiment at Port Hudson, Louisiana.
While I was at a private house some 18 miles from Port Hudson, where I went to await from my brother-in-law, Lieut. McKennon, to try to get a furlough to take me home, Port Hudson became besieged by General Banks, leaving me on the outside. I remained there during the entire siege of 49 days. My younger brother, Willie, was at Port Hudson at the time, although he had been discharged from the army a few days before because he had served out the twelve months for which he had enlisted and, not being 18 years old, was not subject to military duty under the conscript law. Then Banks surrounded the place he was on the inside of Port Hudson and, although not required to do so, he took his gun and went back into the Company.
When Port Hudson surrendered, all the privates, my brother amongst them, were paroled. Lieut. McKennon, with the other officers, was taken to Johnson Island Ohio. Two of the officers of my regiment, Capt. Poyner of my own Company and Lieut. Bailey of Company D, made their escape from Port Hudson after the surrender, and they came to the house where I was staying. My brother came with them and all of us together made our way back to Arkansas, crossing the Mississippi River in skiffs and traveling in various ways. Part of the time I rode a mule while they walked and we finally reached Little Rock Arkansas. Capt. Poyner and Lieut. Bailey went from Little Rock across the mountain on foot to our old home in Carroll county, and my brother and I took stage and came to Ozark, Arkansas, where my sister and father 1ived. We reached there in August 1863, and stayed there for some two months, and from there I went back to our old home in Carroll county, staying with my sister, Mr. Sam. W. Peel, who was still living there. The country was in a very disturbed condition. There were quite a number of Confederate soldiers, some of refugees from Mississippi and some who had been paroled from the army at Port Hudson and at Vicksburg. Many of them were what were called “Independent Companies,” but no regular organized army was in the immediate section. The Federal soldiers came in from time to time and more or less fighting and skirmishing and killing was going on in the county.
I remained there as long as I dared, and then, with my sister, the wife of Lieut. McKennon, crossed the mountain and went back to Ozark. While I was at Ozark the Fourteenth Kansas Calvary, U. S. A., under Col. Brown, occupied the place. He required all the old men left at home to take the oath of allegiance to the Government, and sent for me end asked me to take the oath. I told him that I did not desire to take the oath of allegiance; that I was a Lieutenant in the Confederate Army; that I was a prisoner and that he had the right to send me to prison if he desired to do so, but that he had no right to require me to take the oath. He said that he did not wish to send a man to prison who had but one leg and was on crutches, but that he was under no obligations to protect me from the soldier unless I did take the oath. I told him that I did not think the soldiers would hurt me and that I was not willing to take it. He told me very curtly could retire. A few days after this he moved his regiment to Clarksvllle, Arkansas, 25 miles away, expecting to return, and the day the Federals left, Capt. McDonald of the Confederate Army, with some other Confederates, came into town.
McDonald told me that he and some 30 or 40 others were going south the next morning and. that if I could get across the river that night and join them at daylight that we could ride and could go south with them. I managed to get an old man at 1 o’clock that night to set me across the river ina skiff and I joined the soldiers on the other side and went with them to Monticello, Arkansas, where my old regiment was camped, reaching there in -the fall of 1864. I remained at Monticello until February, 1865, and went from there to Shreveport, Louisiana, and then obtained a furlough from General Kirby Smith in person for 90 days.
I went from there to Texas and stayed with relatives in Tarrant and Ellis counties until the first of May, when the Confederate Army west of the Mississippi disbanded. I was with General Cabell’s command at Corsicana when the soldiers broke up and went to their homes. I gave my watch, which my father had given me before the war, for a horse and rode back to Ozark, reaching there about the l0th of June, 18656. I stayed with my sister and soon after began reaching a school, for three months, of some 30 children.
I had gotten acquainted, while at Ozark during the war, with Lizzie Quaile, whose father and mother lived there. Her father was still in Texas when I reached Ozark and did not get back until about September lst. In the meantime I had seen her almost every day and we had promised each other that sometime in the future we would be married. When her father came home and learned of situation, he informed her that he seriously objected to her marrying me, and that he proposed to send her off to Kentucky to school. She told me about it and I went and talked to him. He told me that he could act consent to the marriage; that I had no way to make a living; that he knew nothing against me, but that he was unwilling for his daughter to marry me because I had no means of support and no prospects. I told him that I was willing to wait a reasonable length of time, but that I would like for him to say that, if I could get along and make a living he would consent. He said there was no use in holding out hope which in all probability could not be realized, and that we would have to give it up, and that he was going to send her to Kentucky to school. He then said he would like to know what course I proposed to pursue in regard to it. I told him that I had never asked her to marry me against his wishes, and that I did not know whether or not she would do so, but that she had told me that she did not wish to go to Kentucky to school, and that, rather than have her sent away against her wishes, I would marry her if I could. He then said the only unkind words to me that he ever did say, and that was that I had better be careful. This was on Monday, and on Tuesday night at my aunt’s house we were married. We stayed with my sister for a few weeks and then went to Carrollton. I will say here that it was seventeen years from the time we married before Mr. Quaile and I spoke to each other.
In 1882, the day after I was nominated for governor, I came from Little Rock to Ozark with Henry Carter who had married my wife’s sister, and Gen. H. B. Arminstead, a prominent man from Franklin county, and they urged me very earnestly that when we stopped of at Ozark that I should go to Mr. Quaile and offer him my hand. I told them that I was afraid he would not accept it, and they both said they were assured that he would do so. I thought the matter over and concluded that the time had come when I could go to him and that he could not very well come to me without having his motives misconstrued. In company with Henry Carter, I walked over to his house, and when he came out on the front porch I spoke to him and offered him my hand. He took my hand and asked me to walk into the house. I went in and we began to talk about the convention and the cotton crop, and never from that time until his death was the marriage mentioned between us. I want to say here that Mr. Quaile was a man of the very highest character, a splendid man in every way and respected wherever he was known. He was devoted to his family, and I never blamed him for objecting to the marriage. It was the most natural thing in the world that he should object, as I had absolutely nothing, not even a law license, and was on crutches. When I had daughters of my own I realized that, under the same conditions I would have done as he did.
After going back to Carrollton we lived for a time in a small house, about eight feet square, which had been built before the war for a milk house over the well. We ate with Col. Peel’s family in a log house that he had built alter the war, his home having been burned.
While I was teaching school at Ozark I had borrowed a law book wherever I could find one and was reading law, and I continued to read after I went back to Carrollton. On the first Monday in August, 1886, I was elected to the Legislature from Carroll county, being the youngest man in the Legislature. I was opposed in the race by four or five older men, but as two were to be elected, I was chosen as one of them. On my way to Little Rock I stopped over for a day in Ozark and there secured my license to practice law. The session of the Legislature was a long one and the pay was six dollars a day, and that, together with the mileage, enabled me to save about three hundred dollars during the session. I went back to Carrollton after the adjournment and built a one room log cabin, and we lived in that for two years. I went to work at such practice as I could get before the justice of the peace and the county court and occasionally in the circuit court. I also assisted the clerk of the court in his office at different times and made some money in that way.
In December, 1869, I sold my property at Carrollton and that, together with the money I had saved, enabled me to build a house at Bentonville, Ark., where we moved and where I have since lived. For a time after moving to Bentonville, Ark., I practiced law in partnership with Col. S. W. Peel. In September, 1872, I was elected to the Legislature from Benton county. During the term for which I was elected, in May, 1874, what was known as the Brooks—Baxter war took place over the governorship of Arkansas and Governor Baxter called and extraordinary session of the Legislature, of which I was a member. The original Legislature was composed of a. majority of Republicans, but numerous vacancies had occurred by reason of appointments to office, and those had been filled by Democrats. When the Legislature met, Mr. Tankersley, speaker of the house, who was a Republican had joined the Brooks side in the war then going on and did not appear in answer to the call of Governor Baxter. The majority of those being Democrats proceeded to remove Mr. Tankersley from the speakership and I was elected Speaker in his place. This extraordinary session of the Legislature while I was Speaker called the constitutional convention and Mr. Garland was elected Governor, and the Democrats have been in control of the state government from that time until the present day.
When I returned to Bentonville the last of May, 1874, I entered into a partnership to practice law with Judge R. W. Ellis. Judge Ellis was one of the most lovable men I ever knew, always good natured and good humored, and disposed to depreciate himself and to somewhat exaggerate the good qualities of his friends. We practiced together continually, having a very good practice, for four years, and then in September, 1878, I was elected judge of the circuit court. There was eight counties in the district and two terms of court each year in all, I think the four years that I served as judge of the court were the most pleasant of all my public life, and I frequently afterwards regretted that I had not remained on the bench.
In June, 1862, 1 was nominated: by the Democratic State Convention for governor of the state, and in the September following was elected over Mr. Slack, the Republican nominee, and Hon. R. K. Garland, who was a brother of United States senator A. H. Garland, and nominee of the Greenback Party, by a majority of 38,000, and entered upon the duties of the office in January, 1883. I served as governor from January, 1883, to January, 1885.
The term of United States Senator J. D. Walker expired on March 4, 1885. I had refused to be a candidate for the second term as governor. I would have had no opposition if I had made the race, but the salary of the office was only $3,000 a year and the demands upon me were such that I simply was unable financially to continue in the office of governor. I had not only spent the salary for the two years I was there, but had spent $890 which I had saved out of my salary as judge, and had to borrow $200 to bring my family home from Little Rock.
Hon. James K. Jones and Poindexter Dunn, both members of Congress, and myself were candidates for the United States Senate to succeed Mr. Walker. After the Legislature had balloted for more than two weeks and no one was elected, our votes being about equal. I became satisfied that I could not become elected and so withdrew from the race while 38 of the members were still voting for me, and the next day Senator Jones was elected. A little more than two months afterwards, Mr. Garland, the other senator from Arkansas, was appointed Attorney General of the United States in Mr. Cleveland’s cabinet, thereby leaving a other vacancy in the Senate from Arkansas. Mr. Dunn, Major Horner, Joe House, Bob Newton and I were candidates for the vacancy before the Legislature, end on the fourth or fifth ballot I was elected to succeed Mr. Garland, whose term still had four years to run.
I was sworn into the Senate March 25th, 1885, and served there continuously for twenty two years. At the expiration of the four years to which I was elected to succeed Mr. Garland I had no Democratic opposition for re-election and was elect ed for six years in January, 1889. At the expiration of that term, in January 1895, I was again elected, over Gov. W. M. Fishback, and in January, 1901, I was elected for another term, over Gov. Dan W. Jones, and in January, 1907, I was defeated by Jess Davis. I had been elected four times by the Legislature, although the first time was for four years only.
I remained out of office until the 17th of October, 1910, when, without Solicitation on my part, and without my having, ever written anyone in regard to it, I was appointed by the Secretary of War, upon the personal request of President Taft, to succeed Gen. William C. Oates of Alabama, who had died in September, and who had been appointed by President Taft, when Secretary of War, as Commissioner to remark the graves of Confederate soldiers who died in the Northern prisons during the war and were buried near the places where they died. The law authorizing these appointments was passed in 1906. Col. Elliott, of South Carolina, had been first appointed, and at his death Gen. Oates was appointed to succeed him. Soon after my appointment the time for the completion of this work extended until the 23rd of December, 1912. The work is now almost completed and I expect to report to the Secretary of War very soon that the work is completed and that my services are no longer needed, and I think there will be left of the original appropriation an unexpended balance of about $40,000.
This is a brief statement of the principal events of my public and private life.
There have been born to my wife and myself six children. My oldest daughter, Nellie Frank Berry, was married to William H. Hyatt. She died the 11th of June, 1900, leaving two children, Berry Hyatt and William H. Hyatt, Jr. At the time of her death they were eight and six years old respectively. We have raised them in our home, and the daughter, Berry, is now married to Mr. Henry Norton. Our daughter, Bert, married Mr. E. O. Lefors and another daughter, Jennie, married Mr. A. P. Smartt. We had still another daughter, Bessie, who lived to be six years old. We have two sons, Elliott and Frederic, both of whom are still living now.
This sketch has been written because I thought it might some day be of interest to my children, and I want to say for their benefit that from the time I was elected to the Legislature in 1872 up to the present 1I have been almost continuously in public life, and during that time I have never practices law, never entered into any kind of speculation, never rode on a free pass or accepted any other benefit, and have made no money in any way except my salary and the mileage attached to the office.
I came out of the Senate about as poor as I went into it, and but for the fact that my wife had inherited some land and some other property from her father, we would have found much difficulty in providing for the necessities of life. I had been so long out of the practice of the law that I could not hope to make any great amount of money at my profession and I was not physically able to do manual labor. I think it would not be egotism if I say that during all the years of public life I have never intentionally wronged the public or -wronged any individual, and that I tried earnestly to serve the people faithfully in every way that I possibly could, and I am deeply indebted to the thousands of friends all over the state of Arkansas who have stood by me in every contest I have ever made. I love the state and her people and it is a gratification to me to know that I have never done a deed that brought shame or dishonor on the people who so often honored me.
Contributed by Nancy Feroe
(Extracted from http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=88#)
James Henderson Berry served as a Civil War officer, lawyer, Arkansas legislator, speaker of the Arkansas house, and circuit judge for the Fourth Judicial District before being elected Arkansas’s fourteenth governor. A staunch Democrat, he was governor for two years and promoted increased taxation for railroads, repudiation of state debt, equal protection for all citizens, reform of the state penal system, and economy in government. Berry followed his stint as governor with twenty-two years of service as a United States senator, from 1885 to 1907.
Berry was born in Jackson County, Alabama, on May 15, 1841. His parents, James M. and Isabelle (Orr) Berry, were farmers, and ten of their children lived to adulthood: Granville, Mary, Fannie, Dick, James, Arkansas, Willie, Sophrona, Albert, and Emma.
In 1848, his family moved to Arkansas, settling on a farm near Carrollton (Carroll County), where Berry’s father opened a store. Berry “learned to read and write a little, and something of arithmetic” during occasional school sessions, but mostly he helped on the farm. When Berry was seventeen, his father enrolled him in the Berryville Academy. Ten months later, his mother died, and Berry’s father sold the farm. Berry went to Yellville (Marion County) to work in the store of a cousin also named James H. Berry.
Berry returned to Carrollton on September 19, 1861, to join the Confederate army. Fellow soldiers elected him second lieutenant of Company E, Sixteenth Arkansas Infantry. They fought in the Battle of Pea Ridge in March 1862 under General Earl Van Dorn and lost. His unit retreated to the Arkansas River, downriver to Memphis, and then to Corinth, Mississippi. There, they joined General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard’s army, fought a skirmish at Corinth in mid-April 1862, and retreated to Tupelo, Mississippi. Berry rejoined General Van Dorn and fought at the battles of Iuka and Corinth in Mississippi. On October 4, 1862, during the Battle of Corinth, he lost his right leg above the knee. He was captured by the Union army, recuperated in the hospital at Iuka, was eventually paroled, and returned home to Arkansas.
Berry’s wartime experiences deeply affected his outlook and activities. It is not clear why he joined the Confederate army, though probably, as a resident of the Ozarks, he was focused more on personal freedom and the rights of states to govern themselves than on slavery. He was proud of his service to the Confederacy. Until his death nearly fifty years later, he retained close ties to his fellow veterans and spoke at many Confederate gatherings and reunions.
After the war, Berry taught school for a while in Ozark (Franklin County). There he met and married Lizzie Quaile, daughter of prominent businessman James F. Quaile. In his autobiography, Berry reflects that Quaile “was unwilling for his daughter to marry me because I had no means of support and no prospects.” Berry’s remarks give a measure of his integrity: “I had absolutely nothing, not even a law license, and was on crutches. When I had daughters of my own I realized that under the same conditions and circumstances, I would have done as he did.” The two men did not speak for seventeen years. Berry’s nomination as governor apparently allowed Quaile to put aside his concerns, and they remained on good terms thereafter.
The young couple moved to Carrollton, where he taught school and studied the law. In 1866, Berry won a seat in the Arkansas House of Representatives on the Democratic-Conservative ticket. He passed the Arkansas Bar on his way to Little Rock (Pulaski County) for his first session. In 1869, Berry moved his family to Bentonville (Benton County) and opened a law practice with his brother-in-law, Colonel Sam W. Peel. They worked together successfully for five years, and later both served in the U.S. Congress.
Berry was elected to the Arkansas General Assembly from Benton County in 1872. During 1874, the Brooks-Baxter War was the focus of Arkansas politics. This conflict, contesting the governorship of the state, led Governor Elisha Baxter to call an extraordinary session of the legislature. A loyal Democrat and backer of Governor Elisha Baxter, Berry led the effort to replace the absent Republican speaker of the house, one Mr. Tankersley, with a Democrat. Tankersley was a Brooks supporter. Berry was selected speaker of the house, and he guided the legislature into calling a constitutional convention. This essentially marked the end of Reconstruction in Arkansas and the beginning of nearly a century of Democratic Party dominance.
At the end of his term, Berry returned to Bentonville and entered private law practice with Judge R. W. Ellis, whom he fondly remembered as “one of the most lovable men I ever knew, always good natured and good humored, always especially considerate of the other man.” Under Ellis’s mentorship, Berry refined his knowledge of the law and the courts. In 1878, he was elected judge of the Fourth Judicial District, which covered eight counties. Berry was efficient, and his decisions were rarely reversed by higher courts. He commented in his autobiography, “[T]he four years that I served as judge of the court were the most pleasant of all my public life and I frequently afterward regretted that I had not remained on the bench.”
Berry resigned as judge in 1882 to run as the Democratic candidate for governor against Republican W. D. Slack. The voters of Arkansas were tired of Radical Reconstruction, engineered by Republicans, and Berry won by a wide margin. He took office on January 13, 1883.
Berry’s legislative agenda included raising taxes on the railroads and passing the Fishback Amendment, which refused the payment of some questionable state bonds. He also sought a review of state officers accused of mishandling their accounts, and he wanted to cut costs by holding both federal and state elections on the same day. His efforts returned mixed results. The legislators created a railroad commission and imposed modest taxes, but they exempted several kinds of railroad property from taxation. The Fishback Amendment made it to the general ballot in 1884, passed by a wide margin, and repudiated, or voided, a portion of the state’s bonded debt. An unintended consequence of this was a bad credit rating that haunted the state for decades. As for the matter of state officers and their accounts, only a few ever reimbursed the state. Finally, the legislature turned down Berry’s request to combine elections, as doing so would have prevented Democrats from using questionable methods to influence the local vote.
Berry’s social agenda was to seek equal justice for all citizens, whatever their race or color. His methods were indirect and paternalistic. He felt that progress for the African Americans of the state would come, eventually, through education and economic progress, not through political activism. His efforts were limited to ensuring that legal process and not mob rule dealt with lawbreakers, black or white. For example, in the summer of 1883, he sent in the militia to Howard County to stop a white mob from lynching a group of African Americans who had lynched a white rapist.
Berry also despised the state prison system, calling the convict-lease system “uncivilized, inhumane, and wrong.” Though he advocated prison reform, he could not persuade the legislature to fund a system to work convicts under state supervision. It was simply more economical to lease convicts out to private contractors who paid for their use. He did, however, support a plan to improve the Arkansas Nervous Hospital.
Berry chose not to run for a second term in 1884. His decision, in part, came down to finances. As governor, his expenses exceeded his salary. Also, he had decided to run for the U.S. Senate. In 1885, senators were chosen by state legislatures, not by direct election. Berry failed in his first senate attempt, but a few months later Senator Augustus Hill Garland accepted a cabinet position as attorney general in President Grover Cleveland’s administration. The Arkansas state legislature chose Berry to take Garland’s place on March 25, 1885. He remained in that office until 1907.
As senator, Berry worked diligently in the background, supporting the Democratic Party and promoting the interests of Arkansas. He served on the Rivers and Harbors, Public Lands, Commerce, and Appropriations Committees. His voting record was balanced and moderate by standards of his time. He favored tariff reductions, effective regulation of business, a graduated income tax, an expansion of the money supply, the building of the Panama Canal, and direct election of U.S. senators. He opposed giving women the vote, extending the civil service, restricting adulteration of food, and annexing Hawaii. He opposed U.S. territorial expansion and imperialism, especially in the Philippines. In a speech before the U.S. Senate on June 3, 1902, he called the Philippine action “an unjust and unholy war,” brought about by greedy U.S. citizens “actuated by wild dreams of commercial prosperity and expansion” and contrary to our republican tradition.
In 1900, Berry faced Arkansas governor Daniel Webster Jones and retained his Senate seat. A young firebrand, Jeff Davis, lent his support to Berry during that campaign largely because he disagreed with Jones over several issues. Jones wanted to build a new state capitol, and he opposed rigorous application of the Rector Anti-Trust Law. Davis’s support for Berry would last just one senate term.
One of the measures Berry supported, direct election of senators, played a role in his defeat during the 1906 senatorial election. His opponent was Jeff Davis, now governor of Arkansas. Berry had never campaigned statewide for office. At age sixty-five, he was slowing down. During this, his first direct election, he was ill-prepared. Berry remarked, in a June 1905 letter to Judge Allen Hughes of Jonesboro (Craighead County), “I do not think it probable that Davis and I will meet in a joint debate…. I do not think we will ever be able to agree on any kind of terms.” Berry lost the election and retired to his home in Bentonville.
Berry remained active in the Arkansas chapter of the United Confederate Veterans and served for a short time as a member of the Arkansas History Commission. In 1910, President Taft asked Berry to serve as commissioner in charge of marking the graves of Confederate soldiers who died in Union prisons. Pleased and honored to take on this last official public service and efficient as usual, he completed the task ahead of schedule and under budget.
In the political spectrum between redeemer and reformer, Berry is positioned somewhere in the middle—perhaps as a conservative reformer. He saw the benefit of change, but he wanted it to be gradual and respectful of tradition. Berry’s last speech as governor, in 1885, summarizes his career and his outlook: “Others have served the state better, but no one can be bound to her by stronger ties or more earnestly desire the happiness of the people.” He died of heart failure on January 30, 1913, and is buried in City Cemetery (Knights of Pythias) in Bentonville.