Mr. Lamar was born on a plantation in Ruckersville, Georgia, United States, on October 14, 1857, three and a half years before the outbreak of the Civil War. He was the child of an illustrious southern family, both on his mother’s and his father’s side, with near relatives including Mirabeau Lamar, who served as president of the Republic of Texas from 1838 to 1841, and Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar II, congressman, secretary of the interior, and associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1888 to 1893.
Joseph Lamar’s father, James Lamar, studied law and was admitted to practice. But he ultimately became a convert to the Disciples of Christ and instead of practicing law, he became the pastor of the Disciples of Christ Church in Augusta, Georgia. Joseph Lamar’s mother, Mary Rucker Lamar, died before he turned seven years old. Driven for a time from Augusta by General Sherman’s siege, James Lamar eventually remarried and returned to his pastorate in Augusta in 1865. There, next door to the home of the Presbyterian pastor, the young Joseph Lamar became a boyhood friend of that pastor’s son, Woodrow Wilson.