He attended his local school, dedicated to St Frances Xavier, where he proved to be a bright pupil. He quickly moved on to the school’s college, run by the Jesuit Order, from where he won a place to study medicine at the King and Queens University in Dublin. He qualified to practice medicine on 6 February 1879. James Baxter, having returned to his native town, set up a consulting room, along with his cousin Austin Hughes, at 102 Robson Street in Everton.
Six months later, he married the daughter of an Irish born Merchant who was now established as Liverpool Cotton Dealer. The lady of his choice was Eugenie Connelly who lived at Montpellier House in Everton, and the wedding ceremony was conducted on 1 October 1879, at the church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception on St Domingo Road. It was a double celebration that included the wedding of Patrick Connelly, the brother of Eugenie, to Mary Cusker.
James Baxter later moved to larger house at 110 Robson Street because the number of patients, who were now attending his surgery, had increased considerably. The good Doctor soon became an active member of his community, taking on the responsibility for the health of the children at a local orphanage and also a Catholic College. He also looked after health of Everton Players.
In 1906, he stood for the council and was elected as the Liberal member for St Anne’s Ward. He was elected to Everton FC Board of Directors and in 1895, following an administrative difference, he reluctantly became Chairman.
His hard work and benevolent nature was featured in the publication Liverpool Worthies;
….Indeed doctor. I did not know whether to head this “Everton” or “St Anne’s.” You represent the latter on the City Council, but you have been a member of the directorate of Everton FC for nearly twenty years and as such are known to thousands. But I will introduce you to the public as one of the busiest men in Liverpool. At the North End you have an immense practice, and your work is known and appreciated by many thousands.
For many years you have been one of the most prominent men in that part of Liverpool, and the extent of your beneficence amongst the poor is almost unbounded. It is surprising that one so full of his own affairs should find time to enter the City Council. Yet in 1906 you consented to stand for St Anne’s Ward. You were duly elected and you have been returned on every occasion since.
Naturally, you have proved of value. I think that amongst all our members, those who belong to the medical profession could be less easily dispensed with. They see so much of the inner life of the people that they are well qualified to deal with the questions of most closely affect the individual. You are on the tramways and Electric Power and Lighting, and the housing committees, two of our most important committees, without in any way pushing yourself forward you have contrived to do much useful work.
The City Council has a valuable member in you, and the City a good servant, even if you do not believe in public speaking. You are a Justice of the Peace for Liverpool and conscientiously discharge the duties of a lay magistrate, which have been more onerous of late years than before. The honour was conferred up on you in 1906 – the years you were elected to the council. But I have the pleasure of knowing you in other walks of life.
You are keenly interested in football, one of the great sports of the people. Since the inception of the Everton Club in the present form, you have been a director, and you have filled the office of Chairman. In the struggling years of the club you are a stalwart, and in its years of prosperity you have continued as a bulwark. There is nothing of the iconoclast about you, but you have ever been one, who has made progress, and there is no director who has done more for the club than you have. You are the representative on the League Management Committee, and there your sage advice is always welcome.
Every local organization in connection with football comes to you, and you help them in many ways. There is no more sympathetic man in Liverpool than yourself to all that pertains to football. Other sports meet your cordial support, and you are one that in all things deserves the title of sportsman. You are a charming companion, especially on a journey when you are away from the immediate cares of business. You are a personality and you have many tales to tell, which mark you as a raconteur of the first water.
All Everton knows Doctor Baxter and appreciates him. I hope that in days to come you will allow yourself more leisure, and that we may meet once more at the Palace with a Liverpool club yet again in the Final.
James Baxter served both Everton FC and his local community for close on 50 years, until his death in January 1928. Perhaps the most faithful description of his last days on earth are best recorded by Thomas Keates in his book History of Everton Football Club 1878-1928:
…he had slaved in his consulting room for half a century for his crush of patients to the last, insisting upon being helped to it finally, until he was carried to his resting place.
His funeral, at Our Lady’s Immaculate church, was attended by the great mass of people because his dedication to Everton Football Club could not be bettered by any man. A stained glass window was later placed there to honour his life but, sadly, it was lost when the building was demolished. Eugenie Baxter lived at 110 Robson Street until her death on the 6 July 1938.
From the Liverpool Catholic Pictorial, 4 February 1925
His official connection with Everton Football Club dated back to 1890, when he joined the Everton Board. In 1921 he was the recipient of a presentation from his colleagues on the board in celebration of his twenty-one years service as a director.
Dr Baxter’s last resting place, Anfield Cemetery
This article is extracted from a chapter in Tony’s book – click image for more information and how to order