Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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Elbert Bacon Hamlin was born in Troy, New York, on November 21st, 1874, and died at his home in Litchfield on March 5th, 1936. Although Judge Hamlin was born in the State of New York, four generations of his family had resided in Litchfield County. His earliest paternal ancestor, James Hamlin (1630-1690) of London, England, landed in America in 1639 and settled in Barnstable, Massachusetts. Nine generations of his family have lived in this country since that time. He was the son of Reverend Teunis S. Hamlin and Frances Bacon Hamlin and his father was the first pastor of the Church of the Covenant in Washington, D. C., and was president of the Union College Alumni. Judge Hamlin's mother, Frances Bacon, dated her ancestry back to the time of the Revolution and she was the first Chaplain General of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
He prepared for college at Westminster School, which was then located in Dobbs Ferry, New York, from which he was graduated in 1892 and received his A. B. degree at Yale in 1896 and his L. L. B. degree at New York Law School in 1898. He was admitted to the bar of New York State in 1898 and was admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States in 1903. His clerkship was served in the office of Manice and Perry in New York City. In 1906 he formed a partnership with his classmate, Lewis R. Conklin, under the firm name of Hamlin and Conklin with offices at 59 Wall Street, New York City. He was a general practitioner giving special attention to estate natters. For a time he was a lecturer on commercial law in the Y. M. C. A. schools in New York. He moved to Litchfield in 1910 and was admitted to the Connecticut Bar in 1913 and continued general practice in Litchfield until 1925 when he was appointed judge of the Court of Common Pleas for Litchfield County. He acted as food administrator in Litchfield during the world war.
Judge Hamlin was affiliated with many organizations which evidence the esteem in which he was held and his usefulness. While at Yale he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, later became a member of the advisory board at Westminster School, belonged to the Litchfield County University Club, Litchfield Country Club, Sons of American Revolution, Yale Club of New York. He was first vice-president of the Yale Club of Naugatuck Valley during 1928-1930, member of executive committee of Yale Club of Naugatuck Valley from 1926 through 1929 and again in 1932 to 1936, a member of the American Bar Association, State Bar Association of Connecticut and Litchfield County Bar Association. He was a member of the Presbyterian Church until he moved to Litchfield, when he became a member of the Congregational Church in Litchfield and was chairman of the First Ecclesiastical Society in Litchfield from June, 1930, to the time of his death.
He was married December 9th, 1908, to Elizabeth Shields, who survives him with two children, Mrs. Frederic P. Humphreys and Elbert B. Hamlin, the latter being a student at Yale.
Judge Hamlin was a keen and continuous student of the law, and took great interest in writing on various legal subjects. Many of his articles were published, some of the principal ones, appearing in the Connecticut Bar Journal, being: "Intoxication - How Proven and Defined," Vol. 1, No. 4, p. 294, Oct. 1927 (incidentally this article was widely publicized and used in a Manual by the State Police of Connecticut); "the Jury," Vol. 2, No. 4, p. 256, Oct. 1928; "Nolle on Payment of Costs," Vol. 5, No. 4, p. 265, Oct. 1931; "The Court of Common Pleas," Vol. 9, No. 3, p. 202, July, 1935. He also contributed to the Yale Law Review.
His writings were not confined alone to the law; as a lover of children and animals he wrote a number of articles for John Martin's Magazine for Children. His understanding of human beings and animals is well shown in the following excerpt from one of his stories: "I think dogs often love us more than we love them, but of course they can't tell us about it in words. They can tell us about it only with their gentle eyes and loving actions. This should teach us that our actions toward those whom we love often say more about our real feelings than words do." Those who were so fortunate as to know Judge Hamlin most intimately could see that his thoughts thus expressed were carried out in his life, as his actions toward mankind always manifested thoughtfulness of others, not only of his family and friends but also of those who served under him in any capacity.
His love of his work as a lawyer and judge is shown by the loyal and faithful, indeed enthusiastic, performance of his duties. especially all those that pertained to the courts. He was ever zealous to place the Court of Common Pleas on a higher plane and worked enthusiastically to build up the usefulness of his own court, the business of which increased materially from the time that he became judge. Largely through his efforts the Legislature, in 1927, passed an amendment to the General Statutes whereby the Criminal Court of Common Pleas, in Litchfield County, was established and thus added Litchfield County to the counties having such courts. Further criminal jurisdiction, concurrent with the Superior Court, was given to the Litchfield Court of Common Pleas of offenses in violation of the statutes relating to motor vehicles, to automobile homicide, and to enforcement of the liquor law. He was ever alert to improve and extend the usefulness of the Courts of Common Pleas and was very active in the association of the judges of the Courts of Common Pleas in Connecticut and was the first secretary of such association.
The tribute paid to Judge Hamlin by his successor, Judge Seymour, at Litchfield at the opening of the Court of Common Pleas in March, 1936, was the most appropriate and deserved:
"The same thought must be in your mind that is so strongly in mine: That an able, conscientious and just judge has passed to his final reward. This is a serious loss to the Litchfield County Bar and its Court of Common Pleas. Judge Hamlin was a jurist of marked ability, a sound lawyer, indefatigable in labor, proud of his court, and loved to combine mercy with justice.
"He was a good citizen, respected by everyone who knew him, and loved by his friends."