James Fauntleroy Grinstead, merchant, mayor and county officer, was born at Glasgow, Ky., November 14, 1845, son of William and Lavina (Grinstead) Grinstead, both descendants of William Grinstead, who came to this country from Grinstead, England, and settled in Virginia. He was educated in the schools of his native town, and under the sterling influence of his home life developed those traits of character which in after years earned for him the sobriquet "Honest Jim."
In 1866 he removed to Louisville, and thenceforth big ambitions and interests were intimately associated with the development and progress of that city. He became connected with the wholesale grocery firm of Glazebrook & Grinstead of Louisville, Ky., the partners being respectively big brother-in-law and cousin. He remained with this firm through its change of name to W. E. Grinstead & Co. until 1891, when he organized with John E. Tinsley, the wholesale grocery firm of Grinstead & Tinsley, at the head of which he remained until his retirement in 1910. Notwithstanding the exacting duties of an active business, he was always interested in public affairs, not as a politician but as a citizen with the cause of good government at heart. Identified with the Republican party, he was faithful to its traditions and principles through many discouraging defeats in a state normally Democratic.
In 1897 the General Republican Council sought to elect him mayor of Louisville to fill the unexpired term of Henry S.Tyler, deceased, but the conditions imposed in the offer did not meet with his approval and he declined it. In 1901 he was nominated for mayor, but upon his opponent claiming that the large majority at the primaries had been gained by irregular tactics on the part of the organization which supported him he refused to accept the nomination. In 1907 he was elected mayor to fill the unexpired term of Paul C. Barth, who had been removed by the court of appeals, and enjoyed the distinction of being tile first Republican mayor of Louisville ever elected by the people. During his administration he compelled the Cumberland Telephone Company to reduce its rates from $8.50 to $5.50 per month for a single line, which action was upheld by the United States Supreme Court (see City of Louisville vs. Cumberland Tel. Co., 225 U. S. 430). He vetoed an ordinance of the city council authorizing the Home Telephone Company to increase its rates.
During a street railway strike, he maintained absolute order, a thing no mayor of Louisville before him under similar circumstances had ever succeeded in doing. He employed a genuine merit system for promotions and appointments, retaining in office all employees of ability irrespective of party affiliation. At the expiration of his term he was a candidate for reflection, but the question of his eligibility, under a provision of the city charter prohibiting a mayor from succeeding himself, was raised, and he wag defeated in a most spirited campaign. To the administration of his official duties, Mr. Grinstead supplied the same close scrutiny which he gave to his private business, and he brought to his positions as executive the sturdy honesty, fair dealing and uncompromising integrity, which characterized him as a man.
In public service he was as modest, as unostentatious as in his private life, and his efforts for the good of the community were as incoruptible as they were tireless. An editorial from a Democratic newspaper said: " 'One of the best mayors Louisville ever had' is expressing it so conservatively that it is short of the mark. For if Louisville ever had a better mayor than Grinstead was, this newspaper has no knowledge of him." He was president of the Kentucky Wholesale Grocers' Association during 1895-1901, and was chairman of the executive committee of the National Wholesale Grocers' (1901-06), which committee organized the National Wholesale Grocers' Association. He was vice-president of the Proctor Coal Co. for twenty-five years. Of strong faith and deep religious conviction, he was a member of the Christian church. He was a 32nd degree Mason, having been twice master of Louisville Lodge No. 400 and Past Grand Commander of De Molay Commandery, Knights Templar. He was thrice married: (1) in 1874 to Margaret Perkins of Louisville, Kentucky, who died in 1882, leaving four children: James C., Ida May, Bailey, and Martha, wife of Judge Cliarles T. Ray of Louisville; (2) in 1887 to Katherine Hume of Union City, Ind., who died in 1889, leaving one daughter, Carrie, wife of J. Wallace Vaughan of Louisville; and (3) in 1892 to Annie Wallace, daughter of Barney McHenry and Louisa (Armstrong) Harwood, of Shelbyville, Kentucky, by whom be had one,son, Durward Grinstead. He died in Louisville, Kentucky, Nov. 13, 1921.