Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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FRANK LOUIS HUNGERFORD, one of the leaders of the Connecticut bar, was born in Torrington, November 6th, 1843, and died in New Britain, June 22d, 1909. He was a descendant of Thomas Hungerford, who settled in Hartford about 1639. His father was John Hungerford, a leading manufacturer in Torrington, and a man of high character. His mother, Charlotte Austin (Hungerford) belonged to the family of Samuel Mills, who was one of the founders of the American Board of Foreign Missions. Mr. Hungerford's preparation for college was principally under private tutors. He continued his studies at the University of Vermont and at the Harvard Law School. He studied also with that eminent jurist, Judge George F. Edmunds of Vermont, and was admitted to the bar in that State in 1865. Having declined a flattering invitation from Senator Edmunds to remain with him in Vermont, he returned to Connecticut and opened an office in Torrington in 1866. In 1869 he came to New Britain and with the writer of this sketch established a partnership which lasted nearly thirty years. In 1897 he became the senior partner of the Hartford firm of Hungerford, Hyde, Joslyn & Gilman, retaining however his New Britain offices and residence. At the head of that firm he met all the demands of an exacting business which closely confined him to his profession, and added greatly to his reputation, especially as a trial lawyer.
Mr. Hungerford served as Judge of Probate, first in Torrington and afterward in New Britain, acquitting himself in these positions with his customary judgment and integrity.
From the first, Mr. Hungerford exhibited great aptitude for all kinds of legal business, especially those which brought into requisition the exercise of sound judgment and the faculty of presenting causes in such a way as to be thoroughly understood by ordinary men. His personal appearance was winning, his style of delivery attractive, his method of presenting causes orderly and consecutive, and from the first his professional efforts were crowned with success.
For a number of years he was City Attorney of New Britain, and in 1897 he became its Corporation Counsel. The city had then entered upon a period of rapid growth and change. The old charter had served its day. The town and city governments were to be amalgamated. The sewer problem presented unending perplexities. The public water system called for enlargement. Change and growth in all directions presented problems which called for commanding ability and a legal leader. Mr. Hungerford was Corporation Counsel during nearly the whole of this period of development. His advice was followed without misgiving, and such was the public confidence in his legal knowledge, his wisdom and personal disinterestedness, that practically all of his decisions and directions were accepted as final by political opponents as well as political adherents. If any exception existed, it was so rare as to prove the rule, and no one entertained the thought that he could be diverted from his devotion to the public good. By his long connection with the affairs of the city Mr. Hungerford's name became intimately associated with its history, and his well earned reputation as Corporation Counsel will long survive. The desire to master his chosen science was as native to Mr. Hungerford as his breath. Not a slavish follower of precedents, he would know the law in its principles, and he delighted in the mastery of its problems. He would establish peace between would-be litigants if possible, but, when a settlement could not be effected, he delighted in preparation for the contest, he delighted in the give and take of the friendly battle and in the sense of satisfaction which so often came to him as the result of a hard won victory.
Mr. Hungerford was a man of blameless purity of character: sincere and affectionate in the very roots of his nature, his life could not avoid exhibiting, unconsciously of course, the exalted character of the sweet, soul of Frank Hungerford. Dishonesty was not conceivable of him; nor was he ever heard to give utterance to an impure thought. When a lawyer once said that he would give a large sum of money for Mr. Hungerford's face as the means of influencing a jury, he forgot that the face which he coveted simply reflected the sincerity of character which was the secret of his prevailing power. Kindness and courtesy were traits ever observable in Mr. Hungerford. The younger lawyers of New Britain and Hartford stand ready to testify to the assistance which he often afforded them, and to the stimulus which he has always been to them in whatever pertains to the noblest things of our profession.
This sketch would be defective were it not to refer to Mr. Hungerford's religious character. He was for thirty-three years a deacon in the Congregational church. At the time of his death he was at the head of a bible class of sixty adult thinking men. He was for a dozen years president of the Young Men's Christian Association and at the time of his death he was at the head of the New Britain Hospital.
Mr. Hungerford's advice was sought not only in the walks of his profession, but in those of business. Among the companies of which he was a director at the time of his death, were the New Britain National Bank, the Burritt Savings Bank, the Russell & Erwin Manufacturing Company, and the Stanley Rule & Level Company.
In 1869 Mr. Hungerford married Miss Sarah A. Churchill, daughter of William A. Churchill, a leading citizen of New Britain, and she with a son, William C. Hungerford, a member of his father's firm, survive him.