J. K. Ralston (1896-1987)
James Kenneth Ralston was born in Choteau, Montana, on March
31, 1896. His paternal grandparents, left Independence, Missouri, by
ox team for the gold camps of Colorado in 1859. His father was the first
born to Samuel F. and Mary Gregg Ralston. In 1863, they headed for Idaho
and in 1864 they moved to the Alder Gulch area in the Montana Territory.
In the spring of 1878, his father, Will Ralston, moved the Ralston cattle
to the Teton River near Choteau, Montana. In 1885, Will Ralston married
Ellen Mathewson and they had five children of which James Kenneth Ralston
was the fifth child. In 1903, Will Ralston took over as the general
manager of the Flying U Ranch near Choteau, Montana. They then moved
to Helena where James Kenneth Ralston received his first formal art
instruction. In 1905, his father was engaged by B. H. Tatum of Helena
to put together a cow outfit. In 1906, the family moved from Helena
to the Capital P ranch just south of the Missouri River across from
the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. In 1917, he went to Chicago and enrolled
at the Chicago Art Institute for a brief three month tuition. Upon entering
the U. S. Army the following spring, he served with the 62nd Infantry,
Eighth Division. In the fall of 1920, he again went to Chicago and entered
the Chicago Art Institute again. After his marriage in 1923 to his wife,
Willo, they went to the Pacific coast where for seven years he worked
as a commecial artist doing illustrations for books, newspapers, and
advertising agencies. They came back to Montana in 1930 to take over
his father's ranch, the Roman E, near Culbertson, but the Depression
and drought made them leave in 1935. They decided on Billings for his
studio and that began his vocation as a professional artist.
His work is in the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis, Missouri; the Custer Battlefield National Monument; and the Montana Historical Society in Helena, Montana. His murals adorn many fine retail and professional locations throughout the country. James Kenneth Ralston died in 1987.
View high resolution images of works by J. K. Ralston when available.