When Kansas was admitted to the Union in 1861, he became secretary of the first state Senate and state senator in 1862. During the Civil War he served as judge advocate in the Kansas militia. As an editor of the Atchison newspaper, Freedom's Champion, for three years, he won a national reputation for a series of magazine articles. Elected to the U.S. Senate in 1873, Ingalls served for 18 years. He supported labor and agriculture against monopolies. He also favored the Interstate Commerce Act and the Civil Service Law.
In 1877 Ingalls was elected president pro tempore of the Senate. Praised throughout his life for his keen sarcasm and quick wit, John James Ingalls died in East Las Vegas, New Mexico, on August 16, 1900.
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