Ollie James


He was sometimes known as the Sage of Bullfrog Hollow. But mostly his thousands of readers called him just plain Ollie.

Ollie M. James wrote a seven-day-a-week column called “Innocent Bystander” for the Cincinnati Enquirer from 1940 to 1970. The column was a collection of humorous stories, anecdotes, and observations, some often downright risqué. But Ollie managed to clean them up just enough to be used in a family newspaper. Friends would sometimes tell him salty yarns, and then watch his column to see how Ollie sanitized them so that they passed muster without losing their humor.
Born in Kuttawa, KY., James was named for his Uncle, Kentucky’s U.S. Senator Ollie James, (external) a power in national politics during the administration of Woodrow Wilson and Senate Majority Leader during WW1.

Ollie James attended the University of Kentucky in Lexington. He worked on the U.K. newspaper and also did a variety of chores for the Lexington Herald. In 1934, he moved to the Louisville Herald-Post. He was the paper’s Washington correspondant and later became an associate editor. Not long afterward the Herald-Post went bankrupt.
In November 1936, James came to Cincinnati and began work as an editorial writer at The Enquirer. He started writing his column in September, 1940.

James often wrote about “Bullfrog Hollow”, the name he gave his home in Fort Wright, KY. When he and his wife, Elizabeth, first moved there, the back yard was pretty much a swamp and odd noises emanated from the yard at night. Someone told James that Bullfrogs were responsible, and James immortalized the creatures.

Although best known for his humor, James was an astute observer of world affairs and commented in a more serious vein on events of his day as The Enquirer’s chief editorial writer. He was also a popular after dinner speaker and radio personality.

James had been plagued for years with ill health (or “Punies”, as he called it), and in 1971 he retired. On January 26th, 1972, he died at the age of 63. The following year, his wife died.

In 1982, the home at “Bullfrog Hollow” was torn down to make way for an office building [at 1881 Dixie Highway, Fort Mitchell].

(Original article by Cincinnati Enquirer writer Jack Cannon)


Courier-Journal, April 12, 1975