Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
|Skip Navigation Links|
John Hamilton King, of Willimantic, was born in Stafford, Connecticut, April 21, 1900, the only child of William Albert and Jennie Stella (Cady) King. His father was a distinguished member of the Connecticut Bar and Attorney General of the state of Connecticut from 1903 to 1907. When Judge King was only a young child, his parents removed to Willimantic, and it was there that he spent his life. He was graduated from Windham High School and, in 1923, from Yale University. In 1925, he was graduated from the Yale Law School and admitted to the practice of law.
He began the general practice of law immediately in Willimantic in the office of his father. An indefatigable student of the law, he became skilled in all of its many parts, a formidable trial adversary in both civil and criminal matters, and learned in corporate, municipal and, especially, banking law. He was familiar with the courts and councils of the various towns and executive offices throughout Connecticut.
From 1929 to 1931, Judge King was an Assistant Attorney General of the state of Connecticut. He was law clerk for the committee on judiciary of the Connecticut General Assembly from 1927 to 1937 and secretary law clerk for the commission to review the General Statutes of Connecticut from 1927 to 1930.
Judge King was appointed to the Superior Court bench effective May 7, 1940. The trial bar soon came to know that he was generous and courageous, with a Puritan sense of conscience and a no-nonsense attitude about the law and the relentless demands it makes on those who practice it. Although not a martinet, he always maintained strict decorum in his courtroom, and the lawyers who appeared there never ceased to marvel at his ability to cite legal precedent by volume and page from memory, the cases in some instances going back to colonial days.
In 1957, Judge King was appointed to the Supreme Court of Connecticut and in 1963 he became its Chief Justice, serving until his seventieth birthday in 1970. The many opinions he wrote as a Justice during his thirteen years of service on the Supreme Court are printed in volumes 144 through 159 of the Connecticut Reports. They are models of cogent legal reasoning and are eloquent evidence of his knowledge, wisdom, capacity and industry. It could safely be said that he was without peer in the knowledge of Connecticut law.
Judge King never married. He was a man of diverse interests and hobbies. He spent many hours in the Boy Scouts movement, both as a counselor and as an examiner for merit badges. From childhood, photography was a hobby with him. His collection of photographs of mills and factories both active and abandoned has proved to be of historical significance. Probably the most satisfying of his pastimes was that of canoeing in the many lakes and streams of Connecticut, with an occasional arduous trip like the one from the source of the Connecticut River to Long Island Sound, or the one covering the length of the Allagash River in Maine. One typical facet of Judge King was revealed when, while in his sixties, he took up flying. Once he had flown solo and was satisfied that he had mastered the operation of the airplane, he did not fly again except on commercial planes. His interest in old automobiles began in childhood and never diminished. His knowledge of the mechanical workings of old engines was astonishing in view of the fact that he probably never changed a spark plug in his life.
As with all judges who have had considerable experience on the bench, in moments of relaxation he was fond of telling unusual stories and recalling events which occurred during the course of a trial and his reactions to those episodes. Although his manner was deliberate and his language precise and direct, he was a delightful conversationalist in social gatherings or in chambers with attorneys.
He died on August 22, 1977, at the age of seventy-seven. For the previous seven years he had been in ill health, finally having to enter a hospital for the last two years of his life.
Judge King will be long remembered as one of the greatest of Connecticut judges.