Joseph M. Devine was born in Wheeling, West Virginia, March 15, 1861, the son of Hugh E. and Jane (McMurray) Devine, the former a native of Ireland, the latter of Virginia. His father was educated in Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, and became a professor of botany. In 1830, the family migrated to the United States with his parents and settled in Virginia. In West Virginia Joseph M. Devine was educated in the common and high schools in Wheeling and afterward graduated in the classical course at the state university. The following year he moved west to LaMoure, North Dakota where he obtained land and began to farm.
In 1886 Devine was elected county superintendent of schools, which he held for over a decade. In 1890, he was appointed as a state lecturer for the schools of North Dakota and selected as the chief clerk of the fourth session of the legislature; in 1896 was elected lieutenant-governor and re-elected in 1898. He filled the office of governor from April, 1898, to January 1, 1899, after the death of Governor Briggs. In 1896 he was elected one of the delegates to the Republican National Convention held at St. Louis, and was made one of the vice-presidents of the convention. In 1897 he was selected as the vice-president of the National Sound-Money League and published and quoted extensively in eastern papers.
It was during this term as North Dakota governor that state Superintendent of Public Instruction, John G. Halland, set in motion many of the educational standards that would later impact the state in regards to the scope of teacher training. Halland and Devine also argued for the funding to complete the only partially constructed normal school at Valley City. Both men looked to the future for the need of more normal schools to produce the number of teacherís necessary in the state.
In 1909, when the bill for the construction of a normal school at Minot was in jeopardy, Joseph Devine led a party of supporters from Minot to the state capital. As an ex-governor and president of the North Dakota Education Associated, Devine testified before the legislation in behalf of Minot. His efforts won the day and despite stiff opposition, the bill was passed. On July 25, 1913, Devine joined normal school president Arthur Crane and other community and state leaders at the cornerstone ceremony of the Main building on the State Normal School at Minot campus. He continued to support the institution the remainder of his life and returned to the campus on various occasions.
Devine was a thirty-second-degree Mason, a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Knights of Pythias. He married May Hanscom in 1900 and had two daughters and a son. He died in Mandan, North Dakota on August 31, 1938.
Biographical information sources:
Compendium of History and Biography of North Dakota 1900 Page 165.