Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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The death of Harrison Hewitt, at his home in New Haven, on February 23d, 1938, was a great loss not only to his family and the firm of which he was a member, but to his profession and to the whole State, for his influence and activities extended far beyond his native city. He was stricken with a cerebral hemorrhage on Sunday, and died on the following Wednesday. His funeral was held at the United Church, of which he was a member, and which be often served in an advisory capacity.
On October 2d, 1901, he married Miss Helen L. Sanford, of New Haven. They had two children: Sanford, a graduate of Yale in 1925, now of North Hollywood, California, and Catharine, a graduate of Vassar in 1925, now the wife of Robert M. Russell, of South Manchester, Connecticut. Mr. Hewitt also left a sister, Mrs. Sydney K. Mitchell, of New Haven.
He was born in New Haven on February 15th, 1877, the son of William H. H. Hewitt and Catharine (Harrison) Hewitt. Nearly all of his earliest ancestors in this country, on both sides of the family, came from England prior to 1650. He attended Hopkins Grammar School, at New Haven, and was graduated from Yale College in 1897. He was graduated from the Yale Law School in 1899. At college he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and was secretary of his class in the Law School. Soon after graduation he was admitted to the bar. He first became a member of the firm of Newton, Church & Hewitt, and later the firm of Hewitt & Clark. On January 1st, 1918, he became a member of the firm of Watrous & Day, and continued in its successive firms. At his death the firm name was Watrous, Hewitt, Gumbart and Corbin.
In co-operation with the late Livingston W. Cleaveland and Charles E. Clark, now dean of the Yale Law School, Mr. Hewitt rendered a great service to the bar of this State in publishing "Probate Law and Practice in Connecticut" - a second volume of which was put out by him in 1929, with the assistance of Miss Mary E. Manchester, now a member of this firm. Of late years he had been but little in the courts; then mainly in cases involving probate law and estates, upon which subjects he had come to be recognized as an authority. In earlier years, he tried many cases, preparing them thoroughly and intelligently, and with a generous measure of success. With Mr. Henry G. Newton, he was counsel for William J. Bryan in the celebrated Bennett will case. As administrator of the much involved Beattie estate he was a party in several cases in the Superior and Supreme Court. Whether as advocate or counsel, he displayed an unusual keenness of mind, and resourcefulness of ideas.
In connection with the professional side of his life, he had lectured at the Yale Law School for several years on legal ethics; had been a member of the New Haven bar library committee; president of the New Haven County Bar Association; president of the State Bar Association of Connecticut; member of the Yale Law School Association, American Bar Association and the American Law Institute. He was a member of two law clubs, the Benchers and the Lawyers' Club. He had held but few public offices; he had twice been corporation counsel for the city of New Haven, and had served as a member of the board of education, the board of councilmen, and of the city sinking fund commission.
In politics he was classed as a Democrat, though not a strong partisan. He was at one time a candidate for the office of attorney general of Connecticut, on the Democratic ticket, but was not elected. He was at one time tendered an appointment to be a judge of the Superior Court, by a Republican Governor, but he preferred to remain in the practice of law. He was a director of the Union & New Haven Trust Company, a corporator of the New Haven Savings Bank, and director or advisor of various charitable organizations. He had been president of the Graduates Club, vice-president of the Quinnipiack Club and a director of the New Haven Colony Historical Society.
He had the tastes of an antiquarian and a historian, and read and wrote much upon these subjects. For the "History of Connecticut," edited by Col. Norris G. Osborn, he wrote what was really an exhaustive and valuable treatise on "The Administration of Justice in Connecticut," 252 pages in length. He also wrote many articles for the Yale Law Journal and other legal publications. He was a member of the General Humphreys Branch of the Sons of the American Revolution, the Society of Colonial Wars, Historical Museum of Richmond, Staten Island, New York, the Antiquarian and Landmark Society, Inc., and the Acorn Club.
He was a veteran of the Spanish War, having served in the United States Naval Militia. As counsel for the trustees of "The Anna Fuller Fund" for research into the cause and cure of cancer, he became deeply interested in the subject, and read much in current journals and publications. His advice to the trustees was deemed by them of great value. With Mrs. Hewitt he traveled extensively in the last few years; often by airplane, which he much enjoyed. He was fond of walking, fishing and golf, and was a member of the New Haven Country Club.
Notwithstanding his many accomplishments, positions of honor and trust, it will be as a man that Harrison Hewitt will be best and most affectionately remembered by those who knew him. His very countenance bespoke an open-minded, kindly and generous nature. These good qualities he had, and many more. He had a strong love of justice and for the ethics of his profession. No man's judgment on a question of ethics was more sound than his.
During the twenty years of the writer's association with him, never an unkind word passed between us. If sometimes we at first disagreed upon a question of law or ethics, after full discussion that disagreement disappeared. He had a large fund of stories and anecdotes. Often during a tense discussion, it was enlivened by an anecdote, so fitting that the tension relaxed. He was conscientious in the extreme. He was often solicitous lest an ethical conclusion which he had reached might not be sound. One of his favorite expressions was: "I may be seeing ghosts, but I am not sure that I am right." The ghosts were never there.
Of Harrison Hewitt it may well be said, as was said of another by Governor Ingersoll, many years ago: "He was emphatically a strong man, intellectually and morally a very strong man."