Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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John Manning Hall was born in Willimantic, Connecticut, October 16, 1841, a son of Horace and Elizabeth J. (Manning) Hall. He prepared for college at Williston Academy, was graduated from Yale in the class of 1866, entered the Columbia Law School and after a two-year course was admitted to the bar of New York. Returning to Connecticut, he was admitted to practice and opened an office in Willimantic. On September 17, 1870, he married Julia White, the daughter of Silas Fuller Loomer. His practice developed steadily and he was soon recognized as a leader of the bar.
A Republican in politics, he represented the town of Windham in the legislature of 1870, 1871, 1872, 1881 and 1882, serving as chairman of many important committees, and was speaker of the House in 1882. In 1889 he represented the seventeenth district in the State Senate, of which he was president pro tempore. He was instrumental in the selection of Willimantic as a county seat for the sittings of the Superior Court. Largely through his efforts a State Normal School was located there. He prepared the charter under which Willimantic became a city and inaugurated water and sewer systems.
In July of 1889 he was appointed a judge of the Superior Court. As a trial judge he administered his high office with distinction, commanding the respect of lawyers and laymen alike. One of the most difficult cases that came before him arose out of the contested election of state officers in 1890. His findings in that case occupy twenty-two printed pages in Phelan v. Walsh, 62 Conn. 260. During his five years of service as judge of the Superior Court he sat with the Supreme Court of Errors in thirty-seven cases, reported in volumes 58-63 of the Connecticut Reports.
In 1893, Judge Hall was offered the position of executive vice president of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Company, which he accepted. Upon the resignation of Charles P. Clark in 1899, he became president of the railroad, which, largely as a result of his management, enjoyed a period of real prosperity. He resigned from the presidency because of ill health in June, 1903. His illness was the debt that nature claimed from the heavy strain of a strenuous life, filled with burdens conscientiously carried.
He sought recuperation in California, but the end came on January 27, 1905. His widow, a son, John L. Hall, a leading member of the Boston bar, and two daughters, Mrs. William E. Day and Mrs. John E. Owsley, both of New Haven, survived him.
The Windham County Bar by resolution paid him the following tribute:
"The Windham County Bar, of which Judge Hall was a member, recognizes that in his untiring loyalty to a client, in his faithfulness and integrity to the various important state officers, both legislative and judicial, to which he was called, in his capable and conservative, diligent and aggressive efforts and in his grasp of details in the important business position which he filled, in his unblemished private life, his personal courage, untiring and ceaseless endeavor and charming, attractive personality, he was a distinguished lawyer, a successful and thorough master of vast business interests and a clear, active, influential and companionable man."
Thus did these comrades at the bar in Judge Hall's years of active practice accurately express the estimate of his character held by those who knew him in the flood tide of his career as a judge and, later, as the head of a great railroad system.