Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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Frank LeRoy Holt, who died at Bridgeport on January 14th, 1890, was born at Rockville, in this state, on July 12th, 1852.
He was graduated from the Sheffield Scientific School of Yale University in 1874, and in the fall of the same year carne to Bridgeport, and pursued the study of the law in the office of the late Israel M. Bullock.
After his admission to the Fairfield County bar in January, 1877, he entered the office of Henry T. Blake, Esq., who was at the time clerk of the Superior Court, and remained therein for a number of years, during a portion of the time assisting Mr. Blake in the performance of his official duties. With robust health and vigor, with a capacity for work excelled by few, with a charming personality, and with absolute honesty and integrity in all dealings with his clients and complete devotion to their interests, he was not long in attaining a creditable position in his profession. Careful and painstaking in the preparation of his cases, and with a certain magnetism and earnestness in their presentation, his efforts at the bar were frequently so brilliant as to surprise even those who best knew his powers. In the argument of questions of fact or of law he rarely indulged in rhetorical flights, his language was always fair, argumentative and convincing, and his thoughts flowed in a clear and undefiled stream.
During his brief career he held several honorable and responsible public offices. From 1877 to 1879 he was deputy judge of the City Court, and in 1879 the prosecuting attorney of the city of Bridgeport. He was afterwards assistant state's attorney, and also held for one year the office of town attorney. In 1883, he was appointed coroner of Fairfield County, and continued in this office until his death. He was appointed under a new statute which completely changed the former methods of holding inquests. Many of the coroner's forms now in general use in the state were originated by him, and his skill in investigating the numerous cases of homicide arising in the county was well and widely known.
Not alone in the performance of official duties, or in the practice of his chosen profession, was his active mind absorbed. Municipal, state and national politics aroused his earnest attention and enthusiastic labor. Among men of his own age and experience he was an acknowledged political leader, and men of maturer years and greater experience in politics, ofttimes sought his counsel and aid.
He was a bold and courageous man. He had the courage of his convictions, and a frank and manly manner of declaring them, which won the respect even of those opposed to him. He had keen perceptions and a power of penetrating into the hidden motives of others to a remarkable degree. He was an excellent judge of human nature. He despised shams; he hated hypocrisy. He was a man of force, of energy, of tireless endurance, one not discouraged by difficulties or obstacles, but aroused by them to the fullest exercise of his physical and intellectual powers.
The successful lawyer, the masterly politician, the faithful and competent official, all of these qualities were well known and recognized in him by the community in which he lived, but to those whose privilege it was to know him intimately were revealed the inner life, the poetry, the sentiment, the lovable traits of character. In the sharp political and professional contests in which he was often engaged these finer qualities may have found little place, but no one can estimate the feelings of relief and comfort, and positive delight, with which he turned from these contentious scenes to the peaceful paths of literature or to mingle in the congenial society of chosen friends.
He was a loyal and steadfast friend, having a full appreciation of friendly acts, and was never content until he had more than reciprocated for favors rendered.
With a fund of anecdote, with remarkable gifts of mimicry, added to a decided oratorical ability, he was the life of every social gathering of the bar. He had a vein of originality, and a sparkling wit which possessed the quality of arousing mirth, but left no poison in the breasts of those against whom the shafts were aimed.
He was, as has been well said by Judge DeForest, "possessed of a nature and constitution that specially delighted in the mirthful, joyous, and robust features of our existence, and, until his last illness, was among the very foremost in our ranks in physical strength, activity, and vigor." He was apparently an ideal of physical development, and his chances for a long and useful life seemed to be of the best.
It had been his hope that when the call of death came it should find him in possession of every physical and mental faculty, and that he might be spared the agony of a long and painful dissolution. Nothing however seemed sufficient to stay the progress of a lingering and most distressing malady.
To this active, self-reliant man this experience was dreadful to endure, but he bore his great affliction with wonderful fortitude, and when fully conscious of the immediate approach of death, met it with characteristic calmness and serenity.
The esteem in which he was held by his brethren of the bar appears by the following brief quotations from their remarks made at a meeting held after his death, at which appropriate obituary resolutions were adopted.
Mr. CURTIS THOMPSON said: - "We have lost in the death of Brother Holt one of the most promising of the younger members of the bar. He had evinced ability to conduct important and difficult suits, and a successful career in his chosen profession seemed certainly before him. In many respects our brother was unique and original. He was one of the brightest and most genial of our number. His nature was warm and generous, full indeed of sentiment and tenderness. Whether at work or at play he was full of life and enthusiasm, and was noted for his quick wit, pointed anecdotes, and perfect characterizations. We loved and respected him for his admirable qualities of mind and heart, and the recollection of his words and deeds will ever abide with us."
Mr. C. S. CANFIELD said: - "Brother Holt had many qualities of mind and heart that endeared him not only to myself but to the bar as well. He had a noble and generous disposition, and a strong and rugged loyalty to his friends. I look back with great pleasure upon his steadfastness and true devotion to those who were fortunate enough to be numbered among his friends. He was possessed of a temperament that fairly bubbled over with good humor and native wit. Nowhere shall we miss him more that at our annual bar dinner. The merriment he always occasioned as an after-dinner speaker, still lingers in my mind, and I still hear the tumultuous applause which greeted him as he concluded his remarks. In his practice at this bar he has left nothing but pleasant reminiscences. He was honest, upright, and capable, a manly opponent and a generous friend."
Mr. FRANK L. ROGERS said: - "Brother Holt was my senior at the bar by several years. He was always ready to extend a helping hand to me and to every brother with whom he was acquainted, and while ready to be helpful to all, he was never weary of rendering offices of special kindness to his friends. He loved his profession and devoted himself to it, yet withal had a taste for political life, and he had that force of character, that knowledge of the hearts of the people, that intuitive perception of the plans of his opponents, which would have made him a leader of men in his party had he lived. He detested small things, and was true to all principles of honesty, integrity and candor. He could not bear trick or chicanery in politics or in his profession, and was loud in denouncing disreputable practices in either."
Judge D. B. LOCKWOOD spoke as follows: - "I became acquainted with Brother Holt before his admission to the bar. He had a genial way about him that made him very companionable. His career at the bar was brief but brilliant. I often met him in the practice of our profession, and we were almost always on opposite sides. I thus had a good opportunity to observe his skill and adroitness in the management of a case. He prepared his cases with a good deal of care and marshaled his witnesses with all the tactics of a general. In all my intercourse with him I cannot recall an unpleasant circumstance. He was fast forging his way to the front rank of the profession when disease overtook him and carried him away. His memory will be cherished by all who knew him."
Mr. W. H. O'HARA spoke as follows: - "I cannot refrain upon this occasion from paying a passing tribute of esteem to the memory of our deceased brother. My acquaintance with him extended over a period of ten years and during all this time it was my pleasure to have found in him a friend, faithful and just. About thirteen years ago he began the practice of the law in this city. The honor of professional supremacy which was then enjoyed by five or six, now belongs to twice or three times that number, and among those to whom that honor is due is the name of our departed friend. Yet not alone in the law were his acquirements such as the ambitious could well be proud of, but in literature, in art, and in science, his attainments were of a high order. He passed away in the morning of his growth, while the mist and the dew of dawn still faintly obscured the certain brilliancy of his meridian. It is true that the qualities of his mind had not been tested and were not disciplined in the struggle of many years, yet it was apparent to those of us who knew him best that they were of the temper which make great men. A lofty manhood, a self reliance tempered with wisdom, a loyalty to friends that was not shaken by adversity, were virtues which made him conspicuous among his fellows."
Judge L. M. SLADE said: - "Brother Holt was a man of more than ordinary method, which was always made manifest in his official records which were executed with exquisite taste and skill. He was faithful in his profession, true to his clients, and untiring in his efforts to further their interests. No one was ever heard to utter a word of suspicion as to his integrity in all his public career."
Mr. JAMES H. OLMSTEAD spoke as follows: - "During a portion of the time that I held the office of state's attorney, Brother Holt was the prosecuting attorney of the city of Bridgeport, and I was brought into very close relations with him. I soon perceived that he was a young main of promise, and always perfectly reliable. He was energetic and thorough in all his professional engagements. Wherever and whenever duty called, he obeyed. All state cases from Bridgeport entrusted by me to his care were thoroughly prepared, and when the day assigned for trial arrived, he was sure to be present with the witnesses, ready for the conflict. His recommendations to me regarding cases that came from the City Court of Bridgeport demonstrated a maturity of judgment rarely exhibited by a man so young in our profession as he then was. He was inflexible in determination to rigorously punish the guilty and hardened criminal, and yet his heart was so tender and his disposition so forgiving that he pressed earnestly for gentle dealing toward young offenders, who had committed their first offence, especially if their youth had been spent among those who cared for neither body nor soul. He was truly one who urged justice tempered with mercy."
Mr. HENRY T. BLAKE said: - "Mr. Holt was in my office for several years while I was clerk of the Superior Court, partly as an assistant in my official duties, and I had a good opportunity to see all sides of his character, and I can truly say that the result was on my part an ever increasing confidence and esteem. He was one of those noble, manly men who know no fear and wear no disguises. He was, as such men are apt to be, generous in spirit, noble in his ambitions, and steadfast in his friendships. He never wore a double face; he never deserted those who trusted in him, nor failed in their support from motives of timidity or policy. With his fine abilities, his high purposes, and his general popularity, all combined with an apparently robust and vigorous health, he had every prospect of a successful and brilliant future. The fortitude with which he struggled against the progress and the terrible sufferings of his long malady, the patience with which he met the disappointment of all his hopes, and the resignation with which he at last succumbed and passed away, illustrate his strength of mind and character, and awaken our deepest and tenderest sympathy. In his professional and official career his impulsive and fearless nature doubtless brought him into collision with many individuals, but I cannot believe that there is a person living who retains any other impression of him than that of kindness and esteem, or who could look with any feeling but that of sadness on his grave."