Justice James A. Betts was a native of Broadalbin in Fulton County; he was born on March 18, 1853. He was educated in the public schools and at the Albany Normal School. He moved to Kingston in Ulster County in 1875 to act as principal of Public School No. 11. After teaching for a few years, he took up the study of law with the firm of Schoonmaker & Linson. He was admitted to the Bar in November 1880. He served as Secretary of the State Civil Service Commission in 1883. Beginning in 1885, he was elected four times to the Kingston Board of Education. In 1890, he was elected clerk of the Ulster County Board of Supervisors and in 1892 was elected Ulster County Surrogate. In 1898, he was elected a Supreme Court Justice for the Third Judicial District over his opponent, Hon. Alphonso T. Clearwater. He did not run for re-election after serving his 14-year term. Rather, he returned to the practice of law. He served on the Appellate Division for the last two years of his Supreme Court term. Justice Betts was a personal friend of William Jennings Bryan and often entertained him at his home. Justice Betts died on May 6, 1928.