Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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JOHN HOOKER - late reporter for this court - died at his residence in Hartford, February 12th, 1901. He was born in Farmington, April 19th, 1816. His father was Edward Hooker, the fifth in direct descent from Thomas Hooker, founder of Hartford and first minister of its first church. His mother was Elisa Daggett, first cousin of the mother of Roger S. Baldwin.
At the age of sixteen he entered Yale College, but within two years his health failed and he never completed his course. The college, however, afterwards granted him a degree and recorded him graduate in the class of 1837.
To recover his health he shipped twice before the mast, first for Spain and afterwards for China - the two voyages occupying fourteen months. After his return he studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1841, and opened an office in Farmington. The same year he married Isabella, daughter of Dr. Lyman Beecher and sister of Rev. Henry Ward Beecher. In 1851 he removed to Hartford and practiced law till 1858, when he entered on his life work as reporter for this court, which office he held 36 years, a period only surpassed by the marvellous service of Thomas Day, who reported from 1802 to 1853, being 51 years, but he reported only 26 volumes, while Mr. Hooker reported 38. These reports will remain a proud and lasting monument to his memory. Possessing "that last infirmity of noble mind," the love of distinction, he often spoke of his lifelong ambition to be a judge of the Supreme Court of Errors, which he regarded a higher honor than that of reporter.
It is doubtful if his estimate was correct. The office of reporter requires special and extraordinary gifts. He must have not only the faculty of lucid statement, which is very rare, but a quick, acute, logical and analytical mind, giving an intuitive perception of the real merits of the case, and furnishing a solvent that will extract the little particles of gold concealed in the incumbering verbiage. Mr. Hooker had these qualities and they have given him lasting fame.
It would be unjust to him, however, not to recall his zeal in behalf of the abolition of slavery when that cause was by no means popular, and later, his advocacy of the civil and political rights of women. Upon these questions his convictions were clear and deep.
His personal and private character had many attractive traits. His hospitality was delightful. His friendship was not mere partiality or any form of selfishness, but absolute devotion.
All who knew him well will long remember his cheery and cordial greeting, his pleasant reminiscence, his amusing anecdote, his incorruptible character, his moral courage and his ministries of love and sympathy to the poor and suffering.
Mr. Hooker was religious from early life. In later life he discarded much of the orthodox creed, but the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man grew more vivid and precious, and he ever exalted and endeavored to follow the precepts and example of Christ as a divine teacher. In short he believed:
"It is the deed and
not the creed
That serves us in the hour of need."