Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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Walter Haven Clark, whose death occurred October 20, 1939, was born January 20, 1872, the son of Mahlon Newcomb and Mary Alice (Haven) Clark. On his father's side he was descended from William Clark, one of the original proprietors of Northampton, Massachusetts, and from the latter's son, William, an early settler of Lebanon, Connecticut; and on his mother's side he was descended from Richard Haven, who settled at Lynn, Massachusetts, about 1644.
Judge Clark received his preliminary education in the public schools of Hartford, graduating from the Arsenal School, and from the Hartford Public High School with the class of 1892. Entering Yale with the class of 1896, one of his principal interests was debating and he was on the first Yale team to win a debate with Harvard. He was also president of the Yale Union and of Phi Beta Kappa. He graduated from the Yale Law School with the class of 1899, having been admitted to the bar in 1898 in his second year at the Law School. During his last year he was also practicing in the office of Bristol, Stoddard and Bristol, of New Haven.
From 1900-1903 he was instructor of economic debate at Yale. In 1900 he was elected to the court of common council of the city of Hartford, becoming it president in 1903. In 1902 he married Julia Ellen, daughter of Judge George S. Gilman. They had two children: Eleanor Mary (Mrs. Osborne Earle), and Dorothy Gilman (Mrs. William O. Thomson). In 1905 he represented Hartford in the General Assembly where he was a member of the judiciary committee. From 1903 to 1908 he was associate judge of the Hartford Police Court and in the succeeding five years was a judge of the court.
Early in 1917 he was a member of the governor's special commission for the military census and became chairman of the registration board, and was chairman of the draft board No. 2 of Hartford from 1917 to 1918. Until 1921 he practiced law with William A. Arnold, Yale '96, his law school roommate and lifelong friend, under the firm name of Clark and Arnold. In 1921 he received the Republican nomination and was elected judge of probate for the district of Hartford after a strenuous contest, an office which he held continuously until his resignation in January, 1939. In 1930 he was appointed by the governor as one of a committee of three to investigate conditions at the state prison. For the ten years preceding 1931 he was a member of the grievance committee of the Hartford County bar and from 1920 to 1936 a commissioner of the state department of public welfare, for the last three years of which term he was president of the board. Judge Clark was a trustee of the State Savings Bank of Hartford, of the Hartford Seminary Foundation, the Hartford Public Library and Long Lane Farm.
Never of a too robust constitution, his life of wide activity was made possible by the devoted care and intellectual sympathy of his wife. Walter Clark was that uncommon combination: a graceful and withal a forceful speaker, and his services before committees of the legislature in public causes were in great demand. He had the attributes of the traditional judge: impartiality, integrity, learning, wisdom and the judicial mind; a command of perfect English combined with homely phrase, and deep sense of humour, having an endless list of stories to illumine the discussions of which he was fond, and when the discussions were in intimate circles the stories were of a homely, earthy quality.
His reputation for compassion and fairness sometimes singled him out for special pressure which brought into relief the firmness underlying that gentle exterior. With no striving for popularity and without any arts of the politician the manifest rectitude of the man and his kindness made him universally beloved, so signally indicated by the great pluralities which he received at every contested election - elections in which he took little part except for the example of his steady devotion to the business of the office. The faculty of making and holding friends he had in the highest degree, and while he enjoyed the loyalty of a wide group extending to all walks of life and beyond the limits of community or state, he had the complete affection of a small group of friends whose only mutual bond was himself, and who otherwise unrelated gave to him and received from him the utmost devotion. The example of his daily life was an ennobling influence in his community and with him passed a vital part of the era in which he lived.[footer.htm]